Anam Cara: Befriending the Spirit in Our Midst

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By: Maria Berg

Maria Bergh wears labels like Catholic Worker, architect, farmer, spiritual director, and writer, which really means she tends change and stress to nourish her community with justice, beauty, and joy.

A young community member says, “He misunderstood me,” and is talked over.

A family shouting match escalates, and fists are raised.

In the midst of casual conversation a friend says with wonder, “I think I am going to cry.”

The gentle current of God’s will washes over every interaction. Like a river, we rush by the uncomfortable emotions, tension, and conflict. But when we get hung up, wedged in the rocks of drama and disagreement, our view shifts. We see the foam and current forms, over and over again, around the same rocks. These unmoved fixtures in the riverbed determine everything about the flow, seen only by fixing our attention below the surface events. This is the perspective of the spiritual director, reverently acknowledging those deep and rocky places, gifts, and burdens, that shape the currents of our lives as we encounter each other.

I once doubted my life-river justified spiritual direction, and didn’t feel worthy to offer it to others. I applied to Anam Cara, the Missional Wisdom Foundation’s spiritual direction training program, telling myself it couldn’t hurt to learn. Anam Cara means “soul friend,” and one of the great gifts of the program is that it builds a community of companions who see through the foam and waves of our stories, our spiritual direction practice, and our relationships, to the call that lies in our depths. Sent forth, the practice continues:

A young community member says, “He misunderstood me,” and is talked over. I invite her to speak, which asks too much of a third friend, stressed to her breaking point. Averted eyes cannot see that each response is a cry for grace: “Love me, support me, help me grow.” With compassion I open my mouth, and the spirit speaks.