How Good It Is To Center Down

“How Good It Is To Center Down” is the title of a talk given by Howard Thurman, the great mystic and civil rights activist. Sr. Kathleen Flood played the audiotape of Howard Thurman’s talk on the first morning of the Five-Day Academy for Spiritual Formation held at the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat Center in Barrington July 29 – August 3. To know myself so that I’m able to center down, look beyond my self and see as God sees – this is the purpose of the spiritual disciplines, taught Sr. Kathleen. Spiritual discipline provides a container for the call when it comes, this wise teacher spoke. And then, with fire in her bones and a twinkle in her eye, Sr. Kathleen slowly walked up to the front table where I was seated, stood across the table from me and said,”Our sister Sherrie here is practicing the spiritual discipline of writing about her daughter who experienced a heart attack at day two of her life. Her daughter, now a young woman whom some may regard as grotesque, Sherrie is making it her spiritual discipline to give voice to her daughter’s story.”

I stared at her as if I were seeing a burning bush that was not consumed. Tears overflowed my eyes and ran down my cheeks.

“God chooses to bind God’s self to us”, spoke the other great teacher of the afternoon sessions, Ray Buckley. With his great wise hands speaking the big, gentle words of his and our native ancestors, “This is the God who ordains us to be warriors, the ones who stand in the breach for the tokoi – the poor, those without help or hope. God opens God’s blanket and wraps it around you next to the heart of God. God says, ‘I know your name. I speak your language. I walk with you through the village. You must be all of you so that God can be all of who God is.”

And again, I put my head into my hands and wept and wept, that God would give me such a sacred calling. I am ordained to bring Temma’s story in order that it may be given away.

In the words of Anne Lamott, “Help, Thanks, Wow.”

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