Listening to “Angels Unawares”

In this issue of THEMA the contributors are themselves angels unawares who give so much to others through ministry, music, film and creativity! You will find many examples of spiritual guidance from surprising sources that will help you to discern how God, Mystery, is speaking in your life, and increasing your awareness of the sacred.

“Angels Unawares,” Truly

On behalf of the WVIS Board of Directors by WVIS Executive Director Sr. Carole Riley, C.D.P., PhD, LPC, AAPC-Fellow

Confluence: remarkable instances where the right people with the right gifts come together in the right place for the right task. Over a year ago a group of WVIS associate spiritual directors raised what seemed to be a perplexing question, “How can we find resources to nurture our souls, cultivate our gifts for spiritual direction, increase our sensitivity to the workings of the Holy Spirit in our world and lives, and grow our ministries?” Scrambling for answers to this multi-layered question led to the launching of THEMA, the bi-monthly digital magazine created in response to the deep needs of those called, as the poet says, “To pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” (Mary Oliver, “Instructions for Living a Life”)

On Shepherds and Angels in the Dark

Liz Deal, Associate Spiritual Director

But I got stuck with the shepherds. As a child, I was always afraid of the dark, running anxiously from my friend’s well-lit house to my home next door, desperate to evade unseeable horrors. But the shepherds must have been comfortable out there in the dark with their sheep. They lived in a world without motion-activated spotlights, endless lines of streetlights, and the now ubiquitous cellphone glow. Their eyes must have been accustomed to reading the dim landscape which was their home. 

Transitions: Danger or Opportunity

WVIS Program Brochure

“Transitions are almost always signs of growth, but they can bring feelings of loss. To get somewhere new, we may have to leave somewhere else behind.”
~ Fred Rogers

An Angel Unawares: How a Protestant Girl Grew to Love Mary 

Rindy Trouteaud

“We Protestants don’t do the Mary thing,” I blustered as I took her gift. Eyeballing me up and down, she responded, “Did you ever ask yourself who made that rule for you Protestants?” Then she gave me a card with the words of the  Hail Mary, Full of Grace’ prayer and coached me through how to pray the rosary. Fascinated by the way her arthritic hands fingered the blue-glass beads, I listened attentively, my skepticism giving way to curiosity. Our eyes met as Sr. Pellicane pulled her walker close and struggled to stand. “Memorize the prayer,” she whispered as she shuffled up the ramp to the Retreat House.

Listening to God in the City

Sr. Michele Morek

God never stopped speaking, though she chose some interesting ways to do it. My first tip was that if you want to move slowly in the spiritual life or in the City, you could always stay on the surface with a bus. But if you want to go far and go fast, you have to go deep. 

Deep–down where there is darkness and screeching subway wheels and maybe even rats. I found plenty of rats in my spiritual life, too. 

But my memos from the Spirit were usually delivered by the street people, of whom there are many in New York City, and with whom I developed a complicated relationship.

“Where Would We Be?”

Rev. Phillip Martin

“Where would we be without the faith of Mary and Elizabeth?” ponders Phillip Martin, senior pastor of Epiphany Lutheran Church in Richmond, Virginia. In a familiar passage from Luke 1:39-45 (46-55), Mary allows herself to become God’s magnifying glass, through which “the whole world can read and understand the gospel.” Where would we be without Mary? “Where would any of us be without any of God’s little magnifying glasses all around-those who have shined with the power of faith in spite of the odds, those who have borne Christ to us and enabled us to read how much God loves us?” asks Martin.

Sticking with Love

Sr. Chris Koellhoffer

God needs us to stand in a relationship of love with each other.  There is gift in naming and sharing our vulnerability, our unknowing, our uncertainty about what to do and how to be.  God needs us to show the face of the Divine to our world, because none of us can see the face of God except through others and the way we live our lives as people of peace and compassion, as people of justice, of right relationship with God, with others, with all of creation.

Fear & The Prospect of Angels

Carrie Newcomer

A poem and reflection from singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomer…

What might happen if the next time you noticed a fear holding you back from some small (start small) connection, you stopped and listened for the humming of something gracious and true in your life? 

Honoring Other Faiths

Diana Butler Bass

I did not want her to fear difference. I did not want her to demonize someone else’s religion. She needed to understand that all people are created in God’s image—and that God loves everybody—in order to be both a good Christian and a good American in this new century.

Angels Unawares

Sister Deborah Lockwood

In 2019 a sculpture was placed in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, the first one in 400 years, called “Angels Unawares” depicting migrants and refugees – men, women and children, old and young of various world cultures, showing the plight of those forced from their homes by unbearable and unjust situations. As I looked at the faces of the people, I was struck by both the anguish and the hope that the Canadian sculptor, Timothy Schmalz, had captured and depicted. One can look into the eyes and feel with them, people fleeing from oppressive governments, from hunger, from war and death.

Fuzzy Feelings

Creativity has the power to change the way we see each other, and the world. Sometimes, seeing things through a new lens can make all the difference. “Angels unawares” show up in ordinary places.

The Muse is Not a Trophy Wife

Denise Trull

That is a philosopher. That is a poet. That is a professor. One who seeks. One who needs to experiment with his thoughts and say words out loud just to hear how they sound. One who delights in what he is thinking about. One who is so taken with water that he doesn’t mind his cuffs being baptized in the wonder of it. One who thinks about the happiness of his wife and the prospect of dancing with her in his arms, while in the midst of teaching the supposedly higher things. One who is constantly thanking his lucky stars that the Muse smiles upon his small, eccentric, little, unimportant self and he is filled with a giddy adoration that wants to constantly tell others to love her too. To treat her as the gorgeous sun that she is. 

Lights for Thanksgiving: A Memory from my Missouri Childhood

Jean Bell Mosley

A queer feeling took hold of me, hearing Grandma, the Archpractical, talking like this. A good, light, floating feeling. I looked at the hole in the ceiling again and thought of how it was filled up with Jack Stacey’s railroad ticket home and Paul Britt’s three years of taxes, and a barrel of fruit rather than with the carbide light fixture for which Dad had made it.

“And,” I heard Archpractical going on, warming to her explanation, “sometimes the things we fill holes with turn out to be better than the thing we had intended for them.” Dad was glowing like a pumpkin in the autumn sun.

Cookies of Joy

Kate McDermott

From a baker, an “angel unawares”…music and a recipe for joy:

Today, I make Cookies of Joy to serve at tea time. Don’t you just love the name? The 12th-century recipe is attributed to Hildegard of Bingen and I play music written by her as I bake. What an amazing woman!

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