snow, spiritual direction, clarity - part two...

As the day ripened, we took a mini-hike in the -5F snow.  Our puppy, Lucie, LOVES to run and romp in the snow and it does our hearts good in many ways to experience this with her, too.  While making a pass through the frozen wetland I found myself thinking: "Is it true that your significant spiritual formation has been shaped by mostly Roman Catholic priests?" 
In an earlier post I noted how Fr. Jim O'Donnell was the key anam cara - spiritual friend - in my formative years of ministry and how he opened me to the spirituality of both Fr. Charles de Foucauld and Fr. Henri Nouwen.  I recalled how Fr. John Little welcomed me as a young man into the ministry of presence back in St. Louis. And upon deeper reflection I should note that my last spiritual director and guide, Adolfo Quesada, was a mystical Roman Catholic lay person in Tucson. (And let's not forget Fr. Richard Rohr in New Mexico.)
(this is a mural based on Fr. Jim's work in Cleveland)

So I thought it wise to note the background of the writers who have touched and helped me the most.  Interestingly enough, this is where the Reformed tradition finds some depth even though many of my "go to" books were penned by Roman Catholic authors.  Here, in no particular order, are the writers who have helped guide me in my quest for soulfulness.

+ Sr. Joan Chittister: her Wisdom Distilled from the Daily changed my life and helped me understand why I sought an ordered prayer life. She also opened me to the Benedictine commitment of "praying the hours" throughout each day.

+ Fr. Thomas Keating: his work on reclaiming "centering prayer" and the way depth psychology interacts with the sacred liturgy helped me fully celebrate a sacramental spirituality.  Of particular value are The Mystery of Christ: the Liturgy as Spiritual Experience and his introduction to practice and wisdom of Centering Prayer.

+ Fr. Ed Hays: I love this guy - everything he writes speaks to me - and I have used his Pray All Ways both to understand how living can be prayer, and, to help people in my congregation comprehend how our tears, our laughter and the rest of our embodied existence is sacred.

+ Gertrud Mueller-Nelson: when I first read her To Dance with God back in Saginaw, MI I knew I had discovered a wise woman mentor. Nearly 30 years later I am still turning on my worship team with the way she helps a congregation come alive in compassion and wisdom by embracing the liturgical seasons.

+ Marilynne Robinson: her fiction - Gilead and Home - are truly magnificent artistic gifts grounded in Scripture and Congregational tradition. Her essays - The Death of Adam and When I Was a Child I Read Books - offer contemporary readers a look into what a modern person of faith brings to the table of competing ideas and values. She is brilliant, demanding and committed to the cause of Christ as a life long member of the Congregational Way. 

+ The Reverend Dr. Howard Rice: the Chaplain Emeritus at San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo, CA has been in the vanguard of reclaiming spiritual practices for the Reformed church. I learned a great deal from both Reformed Spirituality and Reformed Worship.

+ The Reverend Dr. M. Craig Barnes: The Pastor as Minor Poet is solid practical and theological wisdom for contemporary pastors in the Reformed tradition. His writing is clear, his love of the Lord is profound and his insights are ever so helpful doing a job nobody comprehends.

+ The Reverend Dr. Douglas John Hall: a neo-orthodox Reformed theologian who has reclaimed Luther's "theology of the Cross" for 21st century North Americans.  As a theologian, he has been as influential in my life as Tillich. The most important text is the summary of his life's work, The Cross in Our Context: Jesus and the Suffering World. But everything he writes has value.

+ Dr. Dorothy C. Bass: her work at Valparaiso University concerning "spiritual practices" has been critical to my life in the parish. She has brought together some of the finest minds in the wider Reformed tradition and empowered them to explore the classic "spiritual disciplines" from the perspective of the 21st century.  Her introductory text, Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People is a font of inspiration and practical wisdom.

+ Dr. Marva Dawn: is a theologian and church musician who is on fire with the blessings of the Reformed tradition. She doesn't pull any punches, however, and her Reaching Out without Dumbing Down takes no prisoners. She urges those in the local church to stay grounded in the traditional practices of spirituality and forsake the gimmicks in pursuit of grace.
Two other books - Making Room by Dr. Christine Pohl and the Reverend Dr. Stephanie Paulsell's Honoring the Body - come out of Dorothy Bass's consortium at Valparaiso. Pohl writes about recovering the practice of radical Christian hospitality in an age of fear. Paulsell offers a meditation on the personal meaning of "the incarnation" and loving the bodies the Lord has given to us.

Over and over I find myself going back to these books - and spiritual friends - because they are all so rich with grace.  I also find that the liturgical work of the Community of Iona - and the work of Brian Wren - resonate with me and deepen my connection to Reformed spirituality. There are not many United Church of Christ writers or theologians in this list, are there? Clearly I am drawn to the more liturgical and sacramental side of the family in both my worship and prayer practices.  And that, too, is another kernel of clarity in my search for what my soul needs in a spiritual director at this moment in time.
And last but hardly least, is Frederick Buechner who continually pops into my consciousness - especially through using the Listening to Your Life daily meditation readings - as well as his Alphabet of Grace, The Faces of Jesus, Telling Secrets and Whistling in the Dark.  It would seem that my reading world is mostly driven by my Reformed tradition albeit with a healthy mixture of Roman Catholic, Anglican and even some Eastern Orthodox writers (not mentioned.) While my lived formation has been guided by a series of key Roman Catholic mentors.


John said…
May be spirituality in any form can be distinguished from another when you are individually contemplating the effect it has on you.

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