Sunday, August 24, 2008

My Spiritual Journey (Anna)

Monday, August 18, was my birthday, and at 56-years-old I've been wondering how to shorten the story of a long spiritual journey. I'll begin by saying I was raised in a devout Catholic family. My family was unusual because my dad had studied to be a priest. Although he obviously decided not to join the priesthood, he was deeply in love with God. He modeled a life of prayer. He was almost always the first one up in the morning. He would fix coffee, and then he would sit in silence reading and praying. Dad taught at the Catholic school I attended along with all four of my siblings. That intense Catholic experience lasted until I was 13 when our family moved to rural Northwest Florida where the nearest Catholic school was miles away.

In retrospect, I realize I had a rich heritage of liturgy and ritual which I enjoyed. But when I married Rickey he was able to show me the meaningfulness of a personal, affectionate relationship with God. Together we joined a local expression of the Charismatic Movement with all the emotionality you might imagine and, unfortunately, with too much emphasis on exactly how to be spiritual. A controlling spiritual environment was a difficult place to have life struggles, but we survived still in love with each other and God.

When God gave us Catherine, and we discovered she was severely autistic, emotional spiritual experiences were woefully inadequate in helping us cope. We managed by going deep into God.

And, as is often the case in our life, there were books to read. One important discovery was the book Jesus, The Teacher Within, by Fr. Laurence Freeman. When we discovered Freeman was going to be visiting locally, we took advantage of the opportunity to hear him speak. He gave voice to the call of silent prayer, and my spirit said yes! Shortly after that, our local newspaper listed a workshop on centering prayer, and Rickey and I made a point of attending. Not much later, Rickey and then I started going on retreats. My initial retreat experience was the boost I needed to establish me in the regular practice of centering prayer. It is an immense help and an incredible gift to be able to share this prayer with Rickey.

If there is one thing I've learned in my 56 years, it is that there is no perfect place, and there are no perfect people. But there is perfect grace. And right now in this present moment I believe I am experiencing the mystery of that grace by being a member of this non-geographic community where we share God's embrace in the silence.



living stones said...

Thanks so much for sharing. I appreciate hearing your story and I appreciate the part you've played in mine. We are certainly experiencing God's perfect grace in our community.

living stones said...

Thank you for sharing your journey with us! I really appreciated that you said "there is no perfect place," as we continue to adjust to being back in Lakeland. I find that I continue to make excuses and idealize those places (spiritually and physically) that I am not currently in! Thank you for sharing your story~


Mark Wills said...

Happy belated Birthday! We are both August babies. Mine is today, 8/31. Thanks for sharing your life wisdom. I'm grateful that your spiritual path has been able to merge with mine allowing us to share a common experience.

Sarah said...

Anna, I wrote a beautiful and reflective comment on your post last night, but it was eaten by Internet Explorer, so I'm going to try again. I've been blessed to hear your story again, and overwhelmed by God's grace to you, and through you to us, in it. Thank you.

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