Saturday, August 29, 2009

Classes Offer Opportunity to Explore Ignatian Spirituality

By Marilyn Kirvin

Over the course of my adult life I have been moved and “formed” by the experiences of two different Catholic spiritual paths: as a student at a Franciscan college, a volunteer at a Franciscan friary, and a member of two Franciscan parishes; and then a student at a Jesuit theology school, a campus minister at a Jesuit university, director of two Jesuit spirituality ministries and member of a Jesuit parish.

I think of these spiritualities as, in a sense, two different keys in which the music of the Gospel can be played . . . each has its own particular emphasis, and yet at the center of each is Christ, calling people to radical trust, to give all, to embrace the Cross, to obedience to the call of God as it comes to each person. Both of these spiritualities are very accessible for lay men and women in the midst of their everyday lives, both speak to, and at times critique, our culture. And both spiritualities appeal to people from a variety of faith traditions who have found their messages to be widely applicable.

Francis of Assisi, in the 12th century, fell ill in battle and was taken home for a long recuperation, which led him to notice a restlessness in his heart that became the opening for God’s presence and call. Ignatius of Loyola, in the 16th century, was injured in battle and spent many months recuperating, during which his reading of spiritual texts led him to realize that his own deepest desires could only be met by God. Each of their journeys started with great enthusiasm, both made some false turns as they became more knowledgeable about the way the Spirit’s voice was guiding them, and each found their ways to lives of service, poverty, and obedience. There are many similarities in their storie . . . as well as differences that remind us that God comes to each of us as the people we are, with great respect for our individual personalities, cultures, strengths and weaknesses . . . calling us each to our own particular way of service in the world.

On September 15 the Franciscan Spiritual Center will begin a four-week series designed to introduce participants to Ignatian spirituality – the spirituality that says that God may be found in all things, all places, all relationships, if we learn how to see. Each session explores different Ignatian prayer forms, and gives participants an opportunity to share their faith journeys with others.

Then, on the five Monday evenings in November, we will also offer a series entitled, Prayerful Discernment for Life Choices, in which participants will gather with a small group to learn and practice a prayerful process of listening for God’s presence in making life decisions, large and small. Using the guidelines for discernment from the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, this will be an experiential process, with time for quiet and prayer, to learn by bringing this method to our real questions and decisions.

The life stories of both Francis and Ignatius remind us that we have a God who desires to be part of our lives and our daily choices, and who speaks to each one of us in our prayer and service. They offer all of us the opportunity to come to know more deeply some of the many facets of our loving God.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Preserving Spirituality

By Michelle Dority Kroll

You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them. Genesis 6:21

Time for more of crafting as a spiritual practice. This time we will explore the craft of food preservation. Food preservation is another practice that has been passed down through the generations. I most definitely got the knack of it from my mother. She and I would often seek out the berries of the season and make them into jam. For most people, picking berries is worse than having to pick the seeds out of your teeth! For us, picking berries is meditative. (We had an opportunity to experience this together again recently.) We can and have picked berries for hours until our fingers were stained that bluey-purple-ish red that can only be achieved by berry picking. The most recent time it ended up with about 2.5 pounds of blueberries. Blueberries are small folks, that was a lot of picking! There is only one thing to do with that many berries…JAM! These in particular were made into a Spiced Blueberry Jam and Blue Blue Strawberry Jam (2 parts blueberry and one part strawberry). Both superbly delicious!

Since then, this wonderfully meditative preserving has turned into six batches of jam and a large batch of pickled goodies (beans, cukes and garlic). One of the best things about the items being preserved is that they are wonderful treasures to share with family and friends.

To me, each jar is like a handmade gem. I loved to mix and match flavors. To create something new and exciting, that you won’t find on the grocery store shelf. I love the process of stirring and seeing it transform into its own gem. Some “gems” are purple, some are pinkish-red, some are orangey-red. To me it is the equivalent to having jars of amethyst and rubies in my pantry. Better still because I made them. Each made them with the wonderful fruits of the season. And what a blessing that we can live in an area so abundant with this goodness!

Some years ago now, I signed up for the Master Food Preserving program. Should any of you have questions about canning, feel free to leave a comment, I’ll do my best to answer them. Happy canning!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

New Program Offers Creative Inspiration for Artists, Writers

Artists throughout the centuries have spoken of ‘inspiration,’ confiding that God spoke to them or angels did. In our age, such notions of art as a spiritual experience are seldom mentioned. And yet, the central experience of creativity is mystical. Opening our souls to what must be made, we meet our Maker. Julia Cameron, from The Artist’s Way

When I was growing up, I aspired to be an artist. I took classes in oil painting and drawing, tried pottery and sculpture… I even became quite a maker of macramé wall hangings (yes, this was the ‘70’s). I also took guitar and recorder classes, and spent three years playing (badly) a French horn in our high school band. I wrote poems and essays and dreamed of being a writer. But, by the time I got to college, none of these were a part of my life.

In the past ten years I have returned to writing in a sense, in the talks I’ve done for retreats and liturgies, yet I still feel that same desire to create that drew me to try all those different avenues when I was young. I know I’m not alone in this; over the years, in spiritual direction sessions, groups and retreats I’ve heard many others voice a similar yearning. All of us, I believe, have an inborn ability and desire for creativity. Creation is the activity of God, and each of us shares in that creative energy that is God’s energy.

In September one of the offerings here at the Center will be an Artist’s Way Cluster Group. The book The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, has been a tool of transformation for many, many people over the 17 years since it was first published. It offers a 12-week process designed to help people recover their creativity, and in doing so, to open themselves up to the Divine in a new and deeper way. The process is for artists, writers, musicians… but also for people who, like me, are struggling to find the time and the form for their creative desires. Each week there are exercises to complete, and free-form writing is to be done every day. The author has developed an explicitly spiritual process; among her basic principals are such things as, “Creativity is God’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God,” and “Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move toward our dreams, we move toward our divinity.”

The Artist’s Way can certainly be done individually, but for some people, having a group gives them both support and a sense of accountability, which is why Julia Cameron developed some guidelines for what she calls “cluster groups.” Participants are asked to make a commitment to attend all 8 weeks and to doing the exercises, which will take 30 – 60 minutes per day. Conversation in the group meetings will be around those experiences.

I look forward to being a companion on this journey with others who are interested. The group will meet Wednesday mornings, beginning September 9. I invite you to consider registering by contacting the Center or through the web page: I don’t expect that my particular gift for macramé will reappear again, but I do believe Cameron’s words: As we open our creative channel to the creator, many gentle but powerful changes are to be expected.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Understanding Your Dreams Can Bring Healing, Connection to God

by Marilyn Kirvin

All dreams come in the service of health and wholeness.
Jeremy Taylor, Dream Work

“I never dream at night.” “My dreams are so strange… I would never talk about them to other people!” “Dreams are just the leftovers from all the things that happened today – why would anyone try to pay attention to them?”

All of these are common misconceptions, I believe, about night-time dreams and their meaning and importance. We know that everyone has probably five to seven dreams per night. Most of our dreams seem “strange,” because they are so creative -- they use a language of symbol and image with which we’re unfamiliar; but when we start to share our dreams with others, we find out everyone’s dreams are that way. And, while one of the purposes of dreaming is probably to sift through a day’s experiences, those who work with their own dreams find that they are also a rich source of guidance, healing, and connection with God.

A number of people throughout history, including authors, musicians, and scientists, have found inspiration or even answers to questions in their dreams. Even Albert Einstein told a journalist that his first inkling of the idea of the theory of relativity came from a dream he had of riding a sled that was approaching the speed of light. In the Jewish and Christian scriptures (as well as those of many faith traditions) there are many stories of divine wisdom coming to people in their dreams.

This summer I had the real pleasure of facilitating a dream work group of five women who met weekly for six weeks, two hours at a time. We each made a commitment to record our dreams, and during our gatherings each of us shared a dream, and then helped each other to explore the meaning of the dream for the dreamer. We also read articles and listened to cd’s to broaden our knowledge about dream work from various perspectives. There was a lot of laughter, and more than a few “a-ha” moments as we brought together our personal dreams with all that we were learning from those who have gone before us.

At the end of the six weeks, when we reflected back on the experience, we all agreed that we had received some major insights into issues in our lives, and into the way in which God seemed to be calling us to grow. We were amazed to reflect on the common threads in all our dreams, and we appreciated the way in which we had been able to share a bit of each of our lives, and make a supportive connection with each other.

This fall, the Franciscan Spiritual Center will be offering several opportunities for people interested in exploring their dreams. We will have two 8-week dream groups beginning, one on Wednesday nights starting September 16, and one on Friday afternoons. In addition, Jesuit Fr. Paul Fitterer will spend a morning with us on Monday, October 12, for a workshop entitled, “Praying With Our Dreams, Part II,” a follow-up to a workshop that he did last year about how to bring our dreams into our daytime prayer (information on all of these is on our website). Anyone interested in finding “health and wholeness” through paying attention to this rich source is welcome to attend.

For more information on these dream workshops, check out the following site:

Saturday, August 1, 2009

For the love of new life

by Mary Erickson

It has been twenty-five years since my youngest daughter, Emily, was born and nine years since my little Scottie, Lily, came to live with us. Needless to say, I have seriously gotten out of the habit of caring for, loving and dealing with the challenges of new life. We now have the great blessing of little Gracie in our midst, a nine week old Scottish terrier puppy.

Her presence in one short week has turned our home upside down with activity, tasks to complete, messes to clean and amazing energy that I had somehow forgotten about. It is almost comical how our lives have changed. Getting ready for work in the morning has taken on a whole new level of challenge not to mention the every two hour bathroom calls in the middle of the night. I have learned that nothing stops Gracie from what she wants and needs and the existence of two adult humans in her house only adds to the interest she has in everything she encounters.

Our decision to add Gracie to our family came after great thought and consideration since our Lily is fighting liver disease and we have hoped that having a new puppy would energize Lily into prolonged life. Naturally, we knew that there would be some relationship issues but weren’t prepared for Lily’s reluctance to have an interloper in her midst. Gracie won’t give up in her quest to become Lily’s new best friend so the coming months will continue to bring challenges for all of us as Lily fights loving her baby sister at every turn.

The gifts that Gracie bestows on us are many. New life is always an open invitation to observe the miracles that God provides. Her sweet face and charming puppy breath literally take my breath away when I hold her. I am constantly made aware of how little she is yet how daring and uninhibited she is as she explores her new environment. Taking tumbles, being snapped at by Lily, being underfoot with an occasional stepping on of her feet…nothing stops her inquisitiveness to challenge this new world she has been introduced to. At this point, the great sadness in Gracie’s life is when she is corralled in a fenced environment which inhibits her racing through our home unencumbered!!

We also experience levels of frustration with Gracie but know that nature will take its course and eventually we will see a puppy that can be housebroken, can stop screeching when put in her pen and will learn the dangers of an open stairway that could result in injury. We are so incredibly blessed with Gracie’s presence that once again it gives me cause to reflect on the goodness and mystery of God in our lives. Puppies don’t come along often because they represent great challenges to their owners, but when they do, they compel us to witness the presence of God in our midst and to be grateful for new life.