I have been gifted with the delight of having several spiritual companions who have guided, taught and helped me pray along the way. Companions who have shared their very best selves with me as we have nurtured our souls and sought out the wondrous mystery of life with God. I am grateful to them all.
In the late 90’s I met Sister Mary Dennison as I attended the Spiritual Directors training at the Cenacle Retreat House in Houston. She urged me to read the classic spiritual literature and let me tell you it’s timeless stuff.I am amazed how the likes of Julian of Norwich leading an austere life in the 1300’s, speaks volumes to me as I approach the sorting out of the clutter of my well stocked closets and cupboards . I am made keenly aware of the amount of time and energy that too much stuff requires to maintain, to store and to clean. She lived painfully simple even for her time. Yet that simplicity yielded a kings ransom. Free from consumerism, simplicity gave way for an abundance of time to pursue her true love: Christ. She devoted time in prayer, praying the hours along with her community. Prayer yielded wisdom, she was sought out from near and far for her wisdom and commonsense spirituality. Her visions from a near death experience became the basis for her writing “Showings,” Out of which Julian is famous for saying ” all manner of things shall be well!”. Sister Mary opened up the deeply rooted spiritual classics that I had never known of and so desperately needed.
I met Sister Dorothy Briscoe through Sister Mary. Sister Dorothy has taught me the value and power of spiritual friendship. At first glance Sister Dorothy and I don’t appear to have much in common but then most things aren’t as they appear. She is tall, I am not. She is crowned with beautiful white hair while mine has just a few speckles here and there. She is from Beaumont, I am from Houston. She is a Cenacle Sister -a nun, I am not, even though as a child I longed to be. She is a musician, I can barely play my iPod let alone a “real ” musical anything. We are separated by almost 30 years and at times it seems that we are worlds apart. She knows the pain, heart ache of racism, I do not know the glaring harshness that was her reality living in the South. But what we do share is the power of going through this life together. Sharing conversation on the patio as the Cenacle peacocks strut and call out to each other in the spring. She and I have shared private thoughts that only she and I have spoken out loud to each other,fears, secret pleasures – like stealing away for ice cream on a hot summer evening,sorrows, delights, hopes and dreams. We have wrestled with how much in our lives have changed and yet how much remains the same. We have given each other the ability to pause amidst our goings on and to just be in the present with one another. Clueless at times, void of answers, just present to the other without solutions or expectations other than knowing that God was present even in our unknowing.
Then there is Marie Noack , she’ a spiritual director and the founder of a ministry of prayer called New Beginnings House of Prayer. Marie has helped me to gain an appreciation for the liturgy of the hours. I almost put” Sister” before Marie’s name. While she has at times been informally my spiritual director formally she’s a dear “sistah” from another mother. Marie is not a Catholic nun but “none” the less a devoted Catholic returnee faithful in her observance of the hours of prayer. We have retreated together for years and often have enjoyed the beauty of sharing the office of the hours together. often sharing tools that have helped us as busy wives, mothers and spiritual leaders to stay afloat a midst a current of crazy making culture and ruthless feminist expectations. The liturgy of the hours has been a haven of rest in the hours of the day when only the prayers of the righteous could keep a sistah sane. I’ll always remember with great fondness the prayers of the hours retreat Marie conducted. I attended and was totally exhausted from the “hurry up and get there” that women often find themselves driven by in an attempt to get to a retreat. You know the checklist of to-do’s so you can “get – to – go” along with husband promises to keep him content in your absence. Phew it’s enough to ware a girl out. But we do what we have to, so we can do what we NEED to. The retreat started with a brief teaching about the hours and I had the profound awareness of the beauty of prayerful solidarity around the globe as believers everywhere joined in prayer. Not having grown up Catholic this is a rich and enchanting gift that the Catholic and Orthodox churches offer to all believers the coming together in prayer or as I like to think of it “stop-drop – and pray.”
There are many other incredible men and women to whom I am indebted but unable to mention due to the constraints of time and space. To each of you I am grateful for the spiritual gifts you too have invested in my life.
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How have classical church readings and traditions played a part in your spiritual journey?
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Juanita Campbell Rasmus is an inspirational speaker, motivational teacher, author, and founding board member of the Bread of Life Homeless Project. Juanita and her husband Rudy co-pastor Saint John’s United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas.