I had an interesting experience recently I wanted to share with you. Ever wake up in a bad mood? You know, you’re kind of beating yourself up over something, it could be minor, or some perceived slight that happened recently.
Well, that happened to me last week. And it happened to be on a day I was scheduled to volunteer at the hospital, visiting patients. I really love doing this. I get to talk with and listen to people going through something sometimes awful in their lives. Depending on their needs we also usually do the readings of the day, or a prayer I’ve put together on a topic relevant to them, or simply an Our Father and Hail Mary. Between expressing their feelings and praying people feel centered by the time I leave. That’s my goal anyway and it often happens that way.
Unfortunately that particular day I wasn’t very centered. I thought to myself: “How am I going to minister to the people I will see today feeling so out of sorts?” I felt like it wasn’t very fair to them and also I didn’t want to just force my way through it and pretend all was well.
So I decided to go in an hour early and spend some time reading and reflecting. There’s a lovely little chapel in the hospital. It isn’t much more than a small room but it’s silent and has a nice spirit to it. I kissed my wife Joy goodbye and asked her to pray for me as I went to the chapel.
Once there I started with the Gospel reading of the day. It was one of my favorite stories (John 21). Jesus, after the resurrection, appears to several of the Apostles on the shore of Lake Tiberius. They are fishing but having no luck. Jesus suggests they put the net on the other side of the boat and that works – they have plenty of fish.
This is the part that goes right to my heart – Jesus invites them to eat breakfast with Him. He has prepared a small fire to cook the fish and offers some bread as well. He breaks the bread and the fish and hands it to them. Kind of a mini reenactment of the Last Supper. This is such a gentle, loving story. Jesus makes a modest breakfast, no big deal, for these men who followed him, and who are confused and probably still in shock over his death. They talk and the story goes on from there.
Reading that story that morning was perfect for me. It settled me down and helped me center myself. I spent the rest of the time meditating and praying and by the end of the hour I felt calm and centered. And most of all very ready to see patients. My time with them was especially fruitful that day. I listened better and had long conversations with them. Why?
Because I let go. I let go of whatever was bothering me. I let go of the self-criticism, which gets you nowhere ever. And I let go of my desire to be in control. The whole experience was a wonderful object lesson for me. Yes even Spiritual Directors can get off kilter sometimes. But when we do what brings us back? What centers us?
Stopping. Maybe Reading Scripture. Maybe Praying. Being silent. In other words, connecting with our own center. Centering Prayer is such a powerful way to reconnect with our Spirit. And when we’re connected, we’re centered, grounded, and ready to give to others what it is we’ve been inspired to give. Which is love, kindness, and an open heart.
What this experience has led me to do is go in early to the Hospital Chapel every day I volunteer. Even if I’m feeling great. It’s important to prepare to do God’s work. To be in the right frame of mind. To be in listening mode, and that’s what meditating does.
How about you? Have you experienced something like this? I’d love to hear from you.
Peter J Nagle
SoulWork Spiritual Direction