- Kathleen Henderson Staudt
- I work as a teacher, poet and spiritual director at a number of institutions in the DC area. My teaching focuses in various ways on writing, poetry, Spirituality and Christian vocation and ministry - especially from the point of view of the laity. I also offer classes and retreats encouraging people to explore their inner lives, engage their creativity and reflect on their beliefs about God, vocation, and how we can discern and pursue new ways to transform our broken world. I enjoy speaking of faith in the secular academy as well as reminding those preparing for ministry in the Church that our primary purpose is to love and serve the world beyond the church's doors. I love helping people to grow in faith and to find their own voices, and I also love encouraging them to use their minds. I see no contradiction between these impulses, believing as I do that faith, reason and creativity work together.
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
I'm including this photo of the sunlight on a bare tree to remind me of the beauty of this past weekend's experience of retreat. There is something quite wonderful about the winter sun in Washington DC -- it has the brightness of mediterranean sunlight in an impressionist painting, and yet the branches and leaves are all dull colors -- greys and browns and deep evergreen. Something about the sun this weekend seemed to bring all the winter colors to life -- sparkling on boxwood leaves, creating streaks of silver and crystal light along the edges of branches and tree trunks. The light of the stained glass windows inside the Washington National Cathedral was also extraordinarily clear and bright this weekend -- a real gift.
I was at the Cathedral College for a weekend of retreat, led by Martin Smith and Esther de Waal, two well known and truly gifted writers about the classic traditions of the Christian spiritual life. Large parts of the retreat were spent in communal silence, in this lovely big old stone building, with a garden at its heart, that feels like somewhere in England or Europe. I felt very far away from home. I wrote pages and pages of journal notes about what was said but the thing that most stays with me is that everything about what we call the life of faith is grounded in our deepening experience of a God who longs to be in relationship with us. The image of God as a lover seeking us as beloved, which runs through so much of the mystical tradition and especially in traditions of interpretation of the Song of Songs, really stayed with me and grew in the silence. This is the personal experience that goes with what I called the "dream of God" in an earlier post. It's about deepening our awareness of a Love that is really beyond our understanding, but that is available to our experience, because in some mysterious way the God we seek is also seeking us. The retreat reminded me that everything we are called to be and do comes out of this core of experience -- something to keep returning to. It is an inexhaustible mystery. The long times of silence and the retreat addresses that connected in practical ways to the mystical tradition helped me to experience this afresh, and more deeply because of the long times of silence. It was refreshing indeed.