Anam Cara Challenge
I did not know how desperate I was! I didn't want to know. Life seemed "fine" in 2002. Nurturing a toddler; helping a spouse begin a new career that would truly feed his gentle soul; walking alongside one of the most fascinating ecumenical parishes in the Pacific Northwest. But then I was accepted into a program for women clergy called Women Touched by Grace, coordinated by the wise sisters of Our Lady of Grace in Beech Grove, Indiana, and everything changed.
I discovered a kind of prayer that now I thirst for. I moved in silence, one session, for a week! I made deep, wise friendships. I laughed more than I have laughed in years, and I cried more than I've cried in decades. I felt listened to, honored, pampered and rested every time one session ended.
I found a circle of support, and I discovered "soul friends," or Anam Caras, as it's said in Gaelic in the ancient way of Celtic Spiritual wisdom.
The assistant to the bishop in Oregon, Pr. Susan Kintner, has also drunk from this river in Beech Grove, and this year, at the 2010 Bishop's Convocation for ELCA pastors in Oregon, she challenged us all:
"Do you have an Anam Cara?" she asked us. "Someone who knows your story, knows your 'call story,' the lily-pad launching-points that have taken you to this vocation and place in life? If not, is there anyone in this room, or elsewhere, who might help you hear the whisperings of God's call to you now?"
Secondly, she asked: "Do you have a community of practice, a circle of support, a small group of friends who gather regularly around an urgent, unanswerable question, and who help you live your life with clarity, with depth, with a vibrant, authentic passion?
"If not," she stated, "find them!"
So, I issue this challenge you people of faith to as well. Do you have an Anam Cara? And: Do you have a circle of support -- a group that meets regularly around things that are central in your life: bible, prayer, books of substance, holy listening, or as a few young women are thinking of: "Bras, Bibles and Brews"? You pick. You don't need anything other than yourselves, a few trusted peers and some simmering questions.
I have found, in these years since 2002, that what was lost -- what I didn't even know was dead -- has come alive. Resurrection, dammit all. My sisters from the Women Touched by Grace program have become a circle of support that sustains me. They've encouraged me to learn to play the banjo (a yearning I've had since I first heard American Roots music in sixth grade). They've empowered me to organize an over-thirty women's basketball game every Monday at my gym. They stood beside me when I helped lead a funeral for the teenage daughter of a friend who took her own life -- my knees did not shake nor my voice wobble, because all thirty of them were holding me steady. They have helped me to more fully and more authentically minister to a congregation I love, mother a girlchild I adore, love an incredibly talented, fun and funny man into living out of his gifts and his hope, and to more daringly trust in God and follow Christ.
Please call me at MoTA if you'd like help organizing a group, or thinking of an Anam Cara for yourself.
A closing blessing from John O'Donohue, a wise soul in the ways of Celtic Spirituality and author of the book Anam Cara:
Anam Cara Blessing
"May the light of your soul guide you.
May the light of your soul bless the work you do with the secret love and warmth in your heart.
May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul.
May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light, and renewal to those who work with you and to those who see and receive your work.
May your work never weary you.
May it release within you wellsprings of refreshment, inspiration, and excitement.
May you be present in what you do.
May you never become lost in the bland absences.
May the day never burden.
May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your new day with dreams, possibilities, and promises.
May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.
May you go into the night blessed, sheltered, and protected.
May your soul calm, console, and renew you."