Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Which Way?

May 28, 2008

We went to see Prince Caspian the other day. What a fantastic rendition of the book. I have to admit, the actors that get cast in the roles of my favorite characters are rarely as I imagined them, but when the movie is well made, that little distraction passes, and I end up captivated. I read a review on the movie later which delved deeply into the spiritual issues that C.S. Lewis was dealing with in this book, namely pride. Although much of the reviewer's analysis escaped me, I did grasp certain points of the movie. Namely, that when I try to "do it myself" I frequently fail, sometimes miserably. If we could do Spiritual Direction ourselves, we wouldn't need the Ten Commandments, the Gospels, religious leaders, retreats, pilgrimage or the Church. Like Peter, carrying out an attack on King Miraz' fortress himself, rather than seeking out Aslan and his advice and direction first, I bumble through one misadventure after another, leaving behind a trail of destruction and tears. Without a spiritual guide, it is difficult at times to resist the glamour of evil, as when the White Witch offers power and prestige in exchange for one drop of Peter or Caspian's blood. Edmund, who remembers his humiliation at the hands of the White Witch and Aslan's subsequent mercy and sacrifice, shatters the illusion and saves Narnia from that possible disaster.

Spiritual Direction requires submission. I am a proud, vain person. I like the feeling of being recognized for something "I've done myself". But in truth, anything I've ever done well, I've had lots of help with. In music, I've had years of lessons, encouragement, criticism, and investment by my parents. In running my businesses there has been a network of people, offering advice, experience and assisstance. So in my spiritual life, why is it so hard to figure out who to turn to? Submission requires trust. Our parish priest is busy, yes, with all the administrative details of running a "business". But when approached with spiritual questions and issues, his demeanor changes. He takes on a new enthusiasm, and answers with care and compassion. This is his real vocation. Our local bishop is laden with responsibility in running a large diocese which has been deeply hurt by scandal and in which immigration is a very present issue. Yet when he offers Mass, and preaches on Jesus word and how very applicable it is in our lives right this minute, you feel his holiness, his closeness to Jesus, his sincerity and devotion to us, his people. He is approachable, and very easy to converse with.

Spiritual Direction is not a do-it-yourself project. I have to ask for help, trust in the helper, and do what is suggested. How do I know if it's working? I have to look at my relationships. Am I at peace, or fighting everyone and everything? Am I at peace in my living situation? Am I at peace with my work? Am I in constant communication with my Lord? These are my goals in seeking Spiritual Direction.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Just a Little Bit

May 21, 2008

Spiritual Direction. A friend and I were discussing religious life the other day. Sometimes she thinks about entering a monastery to become a contemplative nun. I encouraged her desire (against my own selfish wish to keep her here as my friend) to take several weeks or months at a Benedictine monastery where she is an oblate to discern this vocation. After arguing with God about why He would give me such a gift in friendship and then take it away, I realized that in this particular case, knowing my friend's devotion to her elderly uncle, her daughter and her grandson, she was probably just experiencing a need for some Spiritual Direction. In days past this was achieved by frequent confession with one's parish priest. Now, with fewer priests, and the ones we have being pulled in so many directions, it is sometimes a challenge to even have the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Confession.

This has also been a theme in my life today. Unlike my friend, I do not have quite as much freedom or finance to travel to the nearest monastery for a few days of personal retreat and guidance from the holy people there. I try to get to confession frequently, which right now is every few months. I try to absorb the message of the homily during Mass. Here in our rural community, we have Mass on Sundays and Thursdays. Our pastor lives 20 miles away and serves 3 churches and helps with a fourth over an 80 mile radius. We have no deacon or assistant pastor at this time. Where to turn for more frequent direction?

Some days it's as simple as reading a few verses from the Gospel of Matthew over breakfast with my son. We read from the parts where Jesus is speaking. Only a few lines, as just keeping a 5 year old's attention to bless the food is a challenge. The words will stay with me for at least a few minutes, and I can contemplate them in between planning the day's work, chasing the dog off the porch where we're enjoying the early morning sun with our meal, and calling the child back from fighting off Captain Hook in Neverland to finish his oatmeal. And sometimes it's just enough to bless the rest of my day.