By: Bernadette Rudolph
For the past year and a half, I have had the honor of being in Cranaleith’s Spiritual Direction Formation Program. My calling to this program began almost a decade ago, when I attended workshops on listening and facilitation. My newfound awareness made me more conscious of two things as I interacted with family, friends, students and people I served through my work. First, I could see the Spirit beckoning to the other person in the experience he/she discussed with me and, second, I wanted to help them figure out where the Holy Spirit was beckoning. These workshops had boosted my ability to help. What if I were formally trained in spiritual accompaniment?
Cranaleith’s program in particular caught my eye. It was appropriately rigorous for me: two years of reading, practice and time with the team and my peers, without having to quit my day job. The program also created a community among its members. I had been longing to find likeminded people of faith and here they were! Most importantly, Cranaleith’s program was based in mercy and drew attention to the spiritual need of those on the margins for companionship, same as anybody else. I value mercy and was intrigued by bringing it to others, including the most vulnerable, in this new way.
The program has stretched me in a beautiful way. The four Mercy sisters who lead the program are highly gifted, seasoned practitioners of spiritual direction. They balance affirming what I may have heard or understood with drawing attention to the deeper layer, the next step. They are patient, generous mentors and fun friends! I have also appreciated my fellow learners, whose lives I admire and whose insights enrich me. The materials we read/view/listen to have opened me to new knowledge and my own need to grow spiritually. Most importantly, the practicum, in which I meet monthly with two individuals to give them spiritual direction and receive supervision from my mentor, has provided a place to try on what I am learning. What’s more, whenever I have wondered, “Am I cut out for this?” my experiences of helping my directees see God’s presence in their lives have removed my doubts. Yes, God has called me to this ministry and is helping me grow into it.
Fascinatingly, this program is shaping many aspects of my life. I find myself becoming less of an advisor to my husband, children and friends and more of a listener who asks questions that allow them to explore how God is alive for them. I now have my eyes and ears open during casual encounters with anyone in need. In my current work as Cranaleith’s program director, I use what I have learned to listen more respectfully to individuals in the retreats I lead. I also use what I have learned to guide the overall direction of Cranaleith’s offerings: I reflect on all manner of comments I hear and ask, “Where is God present in this? How can I help others see God’s tender mercy in this?” In addition, I plan to continue spiritual direction with my directees and have a few more folks waiting until I am finished with the program to start meeting with me. I also hope eventually to join the staff who currently provide spiritual direction through Cranaleith.
Most importantly, I will always carry with me an awareness of God’s mercy in the lives of others and a desire to offer them compassionate assistance in seeing it. God looks at each one of us with love and acceptance. Yet each of us carries so many illusions about ourselves – about our loveableness, our purpose, our value, etc. These all keep us from God, who wants only to give us fullness of life (Jn 10:10). As a spiritual director, I can tenderly shine a light on this. Mercy is what we all need but we can only discover it through merciful methods. It is with good reason that Isaiah tells us “a bruised reed [my servant] shall not break; a smoldering wick, [my servant] shall not quench” (42:3). Mercy is “the supreme act by which God comes to meet us” (Misericordiae vultus, 2). In an age that prioritizes efficiency, flawlessness and making money, mercy-centered spiritual direction offers an alternative to the violence of the “quick fix.” It can heal; it can draw us into greater intimacy with the God. Cranaleith’s Spiritual Direction Formation Program opens up a lifetime of delving into this grace.