Sunday, 17 February 2013


Well, I promised some more thoughts about spiritual direction... Just what is it we think we're doing in this ministry?  What do we want to receive?

The other day I remembered this poem by Galway Kinnell. I used it in a workshop for spiritual directors on "Beauty and Creativity" - saying that what we do as directors is often no more nor less than seeing and blessing what is good - lovely - in the other; holding the beautiful truth about them when they cannot see it for themselves. It's what they call a "big ask" (I'm really irritated by that phrase, but it popped into my mind just now as rather apt) sometimes, not because of the other person's unloveliness but because of my own prejudices and blinkers..that's where God's grace comes in. Anyway, here's the poem:

The bud
stands for all things,
even those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as St. Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of
the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking
and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

My own spiritual director has two mantras or "words" that he often offers me. When I'm in the grip of sinfulness or inadequacy; or when I'm under attack from my inner critic or the full moon of Deimos or the shadow of the Black Dog (see previous posts), or simply feeling "yuk" about life,  he'll remind me "you are more than this." And he'll also say "at the heart of the universe is consolation": in other words, all that is is moved by Love (he reads Dante too!). God is in charge, and "all shall be well". God is love, God is lovely, and I'm made in God's image.

I'm reading Genesis this Lent. Actually, I suspect I'll still be reading it at Easter because I'm going so slowly. I've got as far as the sea monsters and birds today, with a sneak preview of the beasts and cattle. We humans haven't come on the scene yet to mess things up! Though I looked afresh at the webs between my fingers (we all have them. Don't we?) and marvelled at the long journey we've come from the primeval soup and the sea...

And God saw that it was good. Amen!
Loveliness of pigs at Jimmy's Farm in Suffolk

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