In everyone’s life, there is great need for an anam chara, a soul friend. In this love you are understood as you are without mask or pretension. The superficial and functional lies and half-truths of acquaintance fall away. You can be as you truly are….The anam chara is God’s gift… (John O’Donohue)
Just as Jesus lived in community, we are created to need one another. Within His wider community, Jesus walked closely with twelve disciples and even more intimately with Peter, James, and John. He invited these three to share in His high moments, like the Transfiguration, and His lowest points, like Gethsemane. Everyone needs a few deep friends – those who know who we are, as well as what we do; who laugh and play and pray together; who intentionally offer support and encouragement, reminding us of our true belovedness before God. Such a healthy, interdependent friendship reflects the love of the Trinity.
Over the years I adopted so many masks and roles that I lost sight of who I really was. When I found the courage to speak my questions and doubts within a small group, I was not taken seriously (“You’re too hard on yourself”) or my feelings were dismissed with pithy phrases (“Don’t feel like that. God knows what’s best for you.”) I longed for a few friends with whom I could re-discover my true self and learn to speak my truth.
Such relationships don’t just happen; they require a prayerful desire, searching, and intentional sharing of hearts. The Gaelic name for this type of friendship is anam chara, meaning soul friend. The anam chara acts as mentor, companion, prayer partner, and spiritual guide. The emphasis is on spiritual companionship and direction instead of today’s romantic notion of the “soul-mate.” The relationship is much deeper and often lasts a lifetime.
How do I find a soul friend? What happens in a spiritual direction group?
New triads (groups of three) begin in September, meeting for two hours once a month. If you are looking for “a safe place on your dangerous journey,” prayerfully consider joining us—either for individual spiritual direction or in a triad. Registration deadline is August 31. For more information or to register, see: http://holypaths.org/spiritualdirection
Comments from spiritual direction group members this past year:
I’ve never felt so known and accepted and loved unconditionally.
Learning to listen to others and to the Holy Spirit has transformed my relationship with my husband and children.
I’m discovering my True Self as the protective masks fall away. The group offers me a safe place to be vulnerable and to explore what God is inviting me to be and do.
For those living outside east TN:
Check out the website for Spiritual Directors Intl. to locate potential spiritual directors in your area, realizing that the organization supports spiritual directors from all faith traditions. If you desire someone with a Christian orientation or from a specific denomination, look at the description and background of those listed: http://www.sdiworld.org/find-a-spiritual-director
Another possibility is for us to connect via the internet. I currently meet monthly with several people around the world via Skype and facetime.
Read how important having an anam chara was for Celtic Christians:
Go forth and eat nothing until you get a soul-friend,
for anyone without a soul-friend is,
like a body without a head;
is like the water of a polluted lake,
neither good for drinking nor for washing.
That is the person without a soul-friend.
(St. Brigit of Kildare)
Don’t go around “headless”….find someone to share your journey!
Do you have a soul friend? Tell us about them or your experience with spiritual direction by posting a reply below.
Registration for Spiritual Direction Triads for fall 2016 closes Wednesday, August 31. Click here to learn more and to register.