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Stop, Look and Listen: A Spiritual Practice

This picture is of our friend Annie and a Irish woman we met on our walk out to the shoreline of Dublin. Her name is Mary and she has been married for over 50 years. Her husband was out playing golf on this morning which was part of his weekly routine.

If you have listened to as many peoples’ stories as I have been privileged to do, you can almost tell the place of origin within the teller’s soul. Sometimes folks “just have to tell you something”, they simply cannot contain it. Then there have been times in my life where my telling came forth for a place of deep pain – that was a different kind of, “I just have to tell you something, I simply cannot hold it in.”

Our conversation with Mary seemed genuine and flowing beginning with the customary pleasantries. “Why were we out walking?” “Where were we headed?” “Isn’t the weather beautiful?” and then Mary began to open up about her life, where she grew up (just a few blocks from her home now!)…and then…as sadness is a part of “every life”, she shared with us the death of her 17 year old son.

There was this moment of silence. It just came and held us. It wasn’t a long moment but a significant one.

“That’s our one big sadness of life,” She said and made good, engaging eye contact with us as she did. Sadness, strength, and an easy sense of gratitude for ALL of life.

A simple yet transparent sharing and listening. It did? Or didn’t? matter that we would probably not cross paths with her ever again. It was a moment. An unexpected cherished engagement between the three of us. It was wonder - full.

The ancient Celtic Christian people like many of the indigenous people of Ireland believed in miraculous events, like God showing up in both extraordinary and common ways. It took some seasoning, some practice in how to “see” and “listen” so that as one went throughout their day, they were ready to experience the wonder, the beauty (God’s invitation), and any experiences which might be in the waiting for them.

The first words I learned to read in Kindergarten were, “Stop!” “Look!” “Listen!” It is funny when I think about those early words now. I am still trying to learn them in many ways. Long ago spiritual practice was part and parcel of the early Christianity found in the United Kingdom. It drew them close to God; it prepared them for the unexpected encounters; it enriched all of life.

Dr. Ian Bradley, author and Emeritus Professor of Cultural and Spiritual History at the University of St. Andrews makes the case (as do many others) that early British Christianity was Monastic, Biblical, and Mystical. They were deeply connected to a long tradition and given to a future not their own.

Consistent Spiritual Practice is the key that unlocks the surprising encounters with God through others and nature. For a helpful read that gives practical direction, I wholeheartedly direct your attention to The Soul’s Slow Ripening: 12 Celtic Practices for Seeking the Sacred by Christine Valters Paintner.

I’ll see you on the road…Father Scott

Fr. Scott Jenkins is a founder & Creative Director for Celtic Way.

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