Ten years ago today I entered the gates of Loyola Hall, a Jesuit Spirituality Centre in Merseyside in the UK. It was grey winter’s day. I was carrying a backpack on my back and small bag in my hand. That day I was beginning a training program in spiritual direction which was to last about seven weeks.
I still remember the sense of relief as the gates slowly swung open and I began to walk down the driveway, the house only partially visible through the naked trees. The previous six months had been the most emotionally challenging and draining periods I had experienced up until that time. I had no idea where I would go or what I would do after the course was over. I just knew that this is where I needed to be. My prayer journal entry from that evening reads:
My Lord, it is difficult to believe I am actually here at Loyola Hall. It was a dream for so long and suddenly I am here. I have no doubt that you have brought me here. What I don’t know is why: who is here that I need to talk to? What have I to learn? There is only one thing I can do – to be present and to allow your Spirit to guide me.
It is extraordinary to me to look back at these words with the grace of hindsight. The training course turned into a permanent job and it was four years before I left. A single conversation with a woman named Ruth Holgate ten days later would lay the groundwork both for the job and for real friendship. What I learnt in those years will shape the rest of my life.
I am deeply indebted to the community who taught me so much. I am enormously grateful to those retreatants and directees who trusted me to hold their spiritual journeys. In their trust of me, I learnt to trust God.
But mostly on this day, I am struck by the resonance of my prayer of that day. It is as true today as it was then.
I have no doubt that you have brought me here. What I don’t know is why: who is here that I need to talk to? What have I to learn? There is only one thing I can do – to be present and to allow your Spirit to guide me.
I would choose slightly different words now for the last phrase – to be present and to allow God to be God.