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.
Liz Deal, WVIS Associate Spiritual Director, tells of a retreat where she was invited to share how she received surprising, good news in her life. Her fellow retreatants told stories of generous friends who showed up unexpectedly, strangers who opened their hearts in just the way they needed, and the miraculous joy and peace of it all. “But I got stuck with the shepherds,” Liz recalls as she tells how, “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. Her encounter with the shepherds helped her face her fear of the dark where she discovered that “God accepts and names my fear then speaks in language I can understand.”
The West Virginia Institute for Spirituality offers individual one-on-one spiritual direction and many group experiences via Zoom including “Transitions,” where attendees will learn how transitions are a threshold into something new. WVIS Executive Director Sr. Carole Riley, CDP, Ph.D. will present a one-day program to help people understand how to move through the transition process healthily, so that transition may be seen as an opportunity rather than a threat/crisis. You’ll find more information, including how to register for the program, in this program brochure.
Rev. Rindy Trouteaud, in her article, “Angels Unawares: How a Protestant Girl Grew to Love Mary,” talks about her relationship with spiritual leader, Sister Mary Pellicane, an angel unawares who challenged her theological beliefs by suggesting that Jesus was crucified because he was a criminal. This set off an awareness for Rindy of how the Mother of the Criminal (Mary) may have felt. In praying the Roman Catholic Hail Mary as she waited for prison gates to open, Rindy began empathizing with the women she met who were mothers of incarcerated parishioners.
Michele Morek, an Ursuline Sister, speaks of her struggle in “Listening to God in the City” after a call to leadership and finding herself in New York City where a homeless man on a dark street with whom she felt threatened shouted at her departing back, “They just ignore you and pretend you aren’t there.” Sister Michele writes, “My Angry Man delivered a life-changing sermon that changed my strategy forever.”
In a sermon by Rev. Phillip Martin, he honors and respects Mary and Elizabeth. The faith of Mary and Elizabeth, he says, is where it all begin. He reminds us, “All generations will call her (Mary) blessed.” His sermon, “Where Would We Be?”, asks us to consider where we would be and who we would be without our “angels unawares”.
Sister Chris Koellhoffer describes her struggle during this season of Advent, constantly reminded by her spiritual directees of how bleak things are in the world today: she finds herself resonating with their question where is God? In her article, “Sticking with Love,” she reminds us of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, and others who suggest we must choose to stick with love.
It will refresh your spirit to listen to Carrie Newcomer who sings “The Gathering of Spirits.” There is a link to her YouTube song after her poem, “Fear & the Prospect of Angels.” She has the voice of an angel and is an activist.
An excerpt from Broken We Kneel: Reflections on Faith and Citizenship by Dr. Diana Butler Bass shares how her little daughter used to point at Muslim women wearing the Hajib and asking what is that? Diana finally explained that the veils were worn by Muslim women to demonstrate their love of God: “She’s ‘who,’ not ‘what.’ That lady is a Muslim from a faraway place. And she dresses like that—and covers her head with a veil—because she loves God. That is how her people show they love God.” Her daughter “stared at the woman who passed us. She pointed at the woman, then pointed at my hair, and further quizzed, “Mommy, do you love God?”
Sister Deborah Lockwood offers a reflection about moving across the country as an eleven year old. ” As a child, I understood this as a great adventure,” she says. “What I experienced was far from wonderful…so I often felt unaccepted by my classmates.” Little did she realize how deeply this experience impacted her understanding of interrelationships across all sorts of borders. “In later years, I came to see it as a blessed experience – hearing a word of life – enabling me to identify with others in similar situations.”
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. “Fuzzy Feelings” is a short film that invites us to see those ordinary places with fresh eyes and thereby be transformed. George Harrison’s “Isn’t It a Pity?” provides the soundtrack for the video.
“The Muse is Not a Trophy Wife,” by writer and blogger Denise Trull is a delightful creative reflection about true poets and philosophers and one in particular that got her attention during a poetry reading for young adults that she was not invited to and had crashed.
I’d never heard of Jean Bell Mosley but this excerpt from her book, Wide Meadows, impressed me with her creative writing skill and fun sense of story. In “Lights for Thanksgiving: A Memory from My Missouri Childhood” she paints a clear picture of family life and the joy of sharing and giving.
Finally, it wouldn’t be Christmas without cookies, right? Well, I don’t bake, but I do enjoy healthy sweets (and not so healthy ones). Kate McDermott, who has written three best selling and critically acclaimed cookbooks with personal narrative essays, shares her recipe, “Gluten- Free Cookies of Joy.”
Thema Editor, the Reverend Christina St Clair, was born and raised in London, England. She came to the United States when she was eighteen and is a U.S. citizen. Her passionate interest in spirituality led her from Eastern meditation to become a follower of Christ. She earned degrees in philosophy and pastoral ministry. She eventually pastored two Protestant churches (United Methodist and Presbyterian). She is a certified spiritual director from West Virginia Institute for Spirituality and practices Reiki distant healing which is like intercessory prayer.
Her latest historically accurate novel, Naomi and Ruth; Loyalty Among Women, is intended for women of all religious persuasions or none. www.loyaltyamongwomen.com.