Tag Archives: Spain

One Spirit Meets Different ‘spirits’…

Help me to journey

Beyond the familiar

And into the unknown.

Give me the faith

To leave old ways

And break fresh

Ground with You…

(The first stanza of the Prayer of St. Brendan of Clonfert, “the Navigator”

Irish patron of sailors, written in the 6th Century)

     Last Sunday, my young-adult granddaughter called to say, “Happy Easter, Granny!” She was on her way to church with a friend—another young woman—who was attending church for the first time ever. I told my granddaughter I would pray for her friend, which I’ve been doing every since early Easter morning.

     Even though I wouldn’t recognize this young woman for whom I’m praying, I know God knows her, and I believe it is only the Spirit of God who can reveal the message of the Resurrection to her spirit.

     Later in the day, I visited with my mother, a woman in her 90’s, who for as long as I’ve known her, has embraced the message of Easter. Mom’s influence was the first and undoubtedly one of the most powerful in my faith journey.

     Mom is struggling right now with difficult issues unique to the elderly. They take a toll physically, emotionally and even spiritually. I try to help how I can but admit frequent feelings of helplessness.

     Even though I struggle knowing how to best pray for my mother, I know God knows her, hasn’t abandoned her, and I believe the Spirit of God will guide and bring hope to my aging mother’s spirit.

     The last event on a busy Easter Sunday was celebrating with our daughter’s family. Our toddler grandson was eager to show me the stained-glass window craft he’d made in Sunday School. But, truly, Reeve’s greatest excitement centered around candy and coins contained in plastic Easter eggs.

     Even though the message seems obscure to my 2-year-old grandson, I believe God knows this little red-haired guy and has heard every prayer sent heavenward on his behalf. It is only the Spirit of God, who can awaken Reeve’s spirit into an authentic relationship with the Resurrected Lord.

     The people whose lives intersect ours on many different levels are important, including family, friends, and for me, people I met on my recent educational pilgrimage to Spain.

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Fellow “pilgrims” and new friends with Fr. Javier (center) who served us communion in the ancient cave where St. Ignatius’ spirit encountered God’s Spirit in life-altering ways.

     Relationships included brief but meaningful one-day exchanges with four different tour guides who shared well their knowledge of history, culture, and love for their homeland.

     I’ll never forget the soft-spoken Jesuit priest who guided our talkative group of Protestant pilgrims through four days of teaching on contemplative (silent/listening) prayer. Fr. Javier Melloni’s deep religious devotion and keen intellect were evident, but what impressed me most about Javier was his ability to be fully present whether in prayer or while visiting one-on-one. I was reminded through his example how “not present” I so often am—whether communicating with God or with one of God’s creations.

     My most significant interactions were with the eleven “pilgrims” with whom I shared this experience. There was one lone male, the gracious husband of our leader, Dr. Debbie Gill. Four of us were married; one was recently widowed; and one teenager, traveled with her mom. Five were never-married, well-educated (three with doctoral degrees), mature, confident and committed women. Two were from New York City; two from Washington, D.C.; four from Missouri; one from Arkansas, and of course, yours truly, the “granny” from North Idaho!

     Even though we all held similar fundamental beliefs, our individual stories, personalities, life events, and journeys of faith created prismatic perspectives through which we each embraced the unique pilgrimage experience. Like the 6th Century Irish missionary, Brendan, each of us had beforehand decided to “journey beyond the familiar,” to travel beyond “old ways” and to “break fresh ground” with the God we love and serve.

     The result? The same Divine Spirit met with each of our human spirits in distinctive ways. In our always-changing worlds confidence in the never-changing Spirit of God seems cause for great comfort and joy.

Blessings on your journey beyond the familiar to break fresh ground…

Sue Reeve

Meet Teresa of Ávila

     If all goes as planned in my world, today’s Listening on the Journey… blog will be posted while I’m on a plane in route to Madrid, Spain.

     The first portion of the educational pilgrimage I’m embarking on will be visiting sites where Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) and St. John of the Cross (1542-1591) had unique spiritual encounters—experiences which continue to minister to folks navigating our 21st Century faith journey.

     I became familiar with these amazing Christians several years ago when I read Devotional Classics[1], the source from which I obtained most of the biographical information shared in my next two posts.

     Both Teresa of Ávila and St. John of the Cross lived during the Roman Inquisition, a period when reformation was occurring in the Church. The most well-known reformation activity was the Protestant Reformation begun by Martin Luther in Germany. Because of corruption that had crept into the Catholic Church, however, pockets of reformation also occurred within the organized church in other European regions around the same time as Luther’s revolt.

     Teresa, a sister in the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation in Ávila, Spain, was what some might call “one tough cookie.” She was a strong-willed leader and independent thinker who endured many physical, vocational and relational hardships. Instead of crumbling under adversity, however, Teresa delved more deeply into a devout life. At the age of 40, she experienced what she called a “second conversion.” Visions she experienced lead her to establish Carmelite houses devoted to contemplative life.

     On Trinity Sunday, 1577, Teresa had a profound vision of a crystal-like dwelling with many rooms—each room moving her closer to the center where the King of Glory dwelt. The Interior Castle is her recollection of that vision.

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Ávila, Spain (photo provided by Dr. Deborah Gill, our pilgrimage leader)

A prayer from Teresa of Ávila
“May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.”
― Teresa of Ávila

Today, may you too experience “peace within…”

Dios te bendiga!

Sue Reeve

  1. Devotional Classics, Selected Readings edited by Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith, A Renovare Resource for Spiritual Renewal

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Travel that Never Leaves Us the Same

     In three days, I’ll be on my way to Spain. Almost every “must-do” has been checked off my preparation list. Suitcases are packed, making sure to leave enough room to bring home a few souvenirs.

     I don’t consider myself an adventurer. In fact, I generally avoid taking risks.

     I’m certainly not a daredevil! Truthfully, I harbor quite a few fears and am inclined to take the safest path.

     Despite these characteristics, however, wanderlust is woven into my bones.

     I welcome almost any opportunity to travel, to discover new regions, meet new people, explore different cultures.

     The notion of never traveling beyond the comfort and predictability of home sends shivers to my soul!

     In reading the Bible, it seems God designed us for movement.

     In the Old Testament, God often transported his children to new regions. Abraham was moved away from the familiarity of home and family to go to a land God promised to show him (See account in Genesis 12).

     Moses was tasked by God to lead a massive group of Israelites—people who had lived as slaves for multiple generations—to the new “promised land.” Their journey ended up taking 40 years! (See full account in Exodus.)

     In the New Testament, Jesus turned the well-established religious system upside down, moving believers away from adhering to restrictive laws, promising radical relational freedom governed by love—love for God, others and self. (See various accounts in Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.)

     After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, persecution plagued Christ’s disciples, causing them to disperse. Because of their travels, the gospel (“good news”) spread far and wide, and the promise of eternal spiritual life was presented to many. (See Acts)

     I’ve never been to Spain. I look forward to seeing new sites and experiencing the culture near the capital of Madrid and into the Catalonia region around Barcelona.

     Because my upcoming trip is about more than visiting never-before-seen sites, I also anticipate growth and movement in my soul. My spirit leapt when I heard about the opportunity to join this group destined for an educational pilgrimage to Spain. Excitement since first learning of the opportunity last autumn has never waned.

     I leave with few pre-conceived notions about what will happen—probably because several years ago, it dawned on me, every time I’ve tried to figure out what God was up to, I was wrong!

     As has been the case in previous personal retreats, I’m praying one of my favorite prayers in preparation: “Surprise me, God!” So far, God’s surprises haven’t disappointed.

     If you think of me during the next couple weeks, please pray for travel safety and personal wellness for each in our group. More importantly, however, I’d appreciate your prayers that during this season of spiritual education and immersion, each heart will hear from God in special ways equipping us to return to our respective home bases prepared to better complete the “good work” God has planned for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

     I want you to know, also, that as I’m in Spain, I will be praying for each Listening on the Journey… reader.

Blessings on our journeys of the soul…

Sue Reeve

Travel to faraway places is often life changing. When I did a Google search for quotes about travel, words from Mary Ann Radmacher, popped out. My first international travel to South Africa in 2005 was heart changing. I will always remember the people, magnificent animals, and shall never forget stunning South African sunsets such as this one.

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