Our stories, our experiences. This is all we really have to share, all we really have to build connections and community with each other.
To tell our stories, to share our experiences requires us to reflect, to ponder, to get enough distance from the circling cycles of our own thoughts to see threads and themes, to perhaps find evidence of something Outside, an Other.
Achieving that distance-which-brings-perspective can enable our lives to be woven into the fabric of human community, past and present. Experiencing the distance-which-makes-space-for-the-Other is what the faith journey continues to be for me.
Tonight things are coming together in my brain. For a long time, injustice and shattering and pain and broken relationships and confusion have been unavoidable around me. Seeing what I have seen, I no longer want to intentionally avoid this part of existence; that voluntary blindness itself would seem unjust. When you cannot fix the unfixable, when turning your eyes away seems criminal, what can you do?
While the brain keeps churning over and around, limping through the same rutted paths, sometimes the soul leads somewhere new.
At the deepest “me” part of me, I have not been able to let go of the Divine Other who has found me, the one I easily name as Jesus, as Savior. And in that deepest part, the Spirit has never stopped prompting things. Tonight I’m seeing how the Spirit has been whispering to me to feed my soul with fuel, fuel for the Spirit to kindle fire. The fuel has come from others who also name Jesus. I am connected to them as God brings warmth to my soul and new light to my gaze as I examine the world again. Perhaps in my sharing, you may find fuel for the Spirit to kindle fire in you.
For months, I’ve fed my soul almost daily with the words and prayers of Christian women medieval mystics. There are repeating, deepening layers to how they provide fuel in me. In the first reading, I highlight sections that speak to me. Some days there are no highlights at all, others provide holy moments. Then about once a month, I go back through the highlights, and I pray them, sift them, mull them, asking God’s Spirit to help me put them into my words, into words that make them alive for me. This act is itself another holy moment. I then take the paraphrased prayers and make myself a calendar of daily prayers.
So most days, I’m reading raw material from one of these women for the first time, and I am also praying and meditating on a prayer that I have sat with two times before. On this third time through, I ask Jesus how it can take root in my thoughts, my actions, my day, my soul.
Today’s thrice-examined prayer was from Catherine of Siena. It’s been burning hot, creating longing, helping me see connections that had been hidden in the dark. She’s describing what I’m writing about in this post, describing her own soul so aflame with the power of God that it takes God’s very Self to keep her life itself from extinguishing. She’s giving voice to what it is like to not turn away from sorrow and also how sorrow will not overwhelm.
And, not content to stay there, she beckons us to join her in a purification journey, eyes wide open to both the Divine One and to ourselves, a purification journey that does not separate us from flawed humanity and flawed institutions, but produces a hunger for all to be transformed by God, as we bring our personal and social leprosy intentionally into the purifying fire of God’s very being.
As light and knowledge increased in my soula sweet sorrow grew in me.And at the same time,my sorrow was diminishedby the hope which the Supreme Truth gave me.As fire grows when it is fed with wood,the fire grew in my soul;grew so large and so hotthat it seemed no longer possiblefor the body to endure it.It seemed the soul would have to leave the body.Had I not been surroundedby the strength of Him who is the Supreme Strengthit would not have been possibleto live a moment longer.Then I,purified by the fire of divine love,engulfed in the knowledge of myself and of God,I grew hungryfor the salvation of the whole world,for the reformation of the Holy Church.And as my hope grew,my hope of my salvation and my reformation,I rose with confidence before the Supreme Father,showing Himthe leprosy of the Holy Church,and the misery of the world.Catherine of Siena (1347-1380, my paraphrase)