By Angela Marie Gage
This is the story of the moment – or moments – I felt the call to spiritual companioning and how heeding that call has changed my life.
In my early 50’s, I was invited to attend a personal and silent retreat at a men’s monastery. I gladly accepted as it had been close to 40 years since I attended a silent retreat. Retreatants were given the opportunity to schedule a session of spiritual direction. This was the first time I had heard of this ministry and since I was in a season of discernment, I decided to accept.
I sat with one of the senior monks. All I can remember is that this man talked most of the time and laughed a good part of our session. He must have known this laughter was just the medicine my soul needed in that given moment. He introduced me to a few women contemplative writers of the past and directed me to read their writing. Women such as Teresa of Avila. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and accepted the books from his library to read while on retreat.
Upon returning from that experience, I felt led to inquire more into the ministry of spiritual direction and options for formation training. I had a few friends that were also attending formation programs to receive spiritual direction certification. I found our common feeling of being drawn to this vocation affirming and interesting at the same time. Could this be the work of the Holy Spirit drawing us? Or was it the demographic of my peers and myself — all women in the second half of our lives longing to yield more into the Imago Dei in and through our feminine lives?
Most likely both.
I found a Christian ecumenical program, Souljourners, led the Benedictine sisters of Mount Saint Scholastica, a woman’s monastery in Attchison, Kansas. I entered in 2013 for a 3-year formation program. To enroll, I was required to meet regularly with a spiritual director. My first spiritual director companioned me for 6 years until her retirement at age 80.
I was amazed at the opportunity to share my life, all areas of my life, with another who did not ask a lot of questions. She sat with me during times of vocational bewilderment, chronic depression, generalized anxiety, the death of my husband by suicide, and the rebirthing of my soul from the depths of grief and loss. She walked with me as a family doctor does, gaining history with me as she witnessed my soul through many large transitions in my life. My 50’s have been truly a decade of transition for me.
Yet, it was while sitting in my small group in the formation program where we offered group spiritual companioning – where I entered the lives of my sisters month in and month out – that I felt a sense of ‘coming home’, coming home to myself. This is when I knew that I had found the calling or the clarification of the calling always resident within.
Having another hold my story gently in her bosom allowed me to blossom into the spiritual director and or sacred listener that I am today. I felt heard, seen, and cherished by our loving God through my spiritual director. This imaging of the Mystery within her was pivotal in affirming and confirming my invitation to offer this ministry of sacred listening to others. Finally, I had a place on the bus, and my gender was not inhibiting me this time.
Without the opportunity to sit with a spiritual director and experience group spiritual companioning, I would not have followed through with starting my own practice of spiritual companioning. I would still be wandering aimlessly about seeking to fit into my calling. Because of being heard by another, gentle and yet very present, I left my day job at the University to give myself fully to the ministry of soul care for others in January 2020.
Be Still and Listen , my website, opened her doors and virtual living room to help others become “still,” so they could listen to their own lives to find discernment and clarity to move forward.
My life is now more on track, more aligned with my God given purpose because of the ministry of sacred listening, deep and wild.
Angela Marie Gage is a spiritual director ( trained at Souljourners in Kansas) and an ordained Christian minister. She offers virtual group spiritual companioning as well as one-on-one sessions. She also offers contemplative retreats on site and virtually. You can learn more about her and her offerings here.