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Journeying with Dayspring

My experience of doing the Dayspring training in Spiritual Direction

When initially I read an outline of the Dayspring Course in Spiritual Direction, I found it to be a clearly worded document, interesting, informative, inviting, and I thought that the course seemed likely to meet my need to know how to mentor more efficiently! Also, it had been recommended by a trusted friend. I thought to myself, “I’m sure it will help me to learn a few new skills and I do like the sound of that phrase ‘a contemplative stance’!! ” Only much later I remembered Joy’s words, “ Pat, I think the Course will stretch you!”

Well !!  I’d no idea at the time that for me doing this course would feel like a psychological, spiritual rollercoaster ride and that, at times, I would feel totally disengaged, disorientated, dislocated, dis everything!! But, slowly and gratefully I came to see this experience as God’s loving kindness offering me a robust challenge to take a risky journey through a season of inner chaos. The Dayspring experience involved some painful self-questioning and the shaking of some inner certainties, the dismantling of some tightly held theological convictions, the facing of my own shadow and, at times, feelings of deep panic at the realization that I couldn’t take anyone else where I’ve never been myself.

A poem by Noel Davis given to me during my end of course retreat with Sr Marie Therese expresses so well what the experience felt like for me:

O GOD !
When we accept what we truly need
it undermines our way
and what we have been seeking
turns our lives upside down.
It’s terrifying
letting go of our control
and falling through the unknown.
without a ripcord.
Little wonder we hesitate!

And, I truly believe that the Dayspring experience was what I needed and also what I’d been desiring so deeply and for a long, long time.

The wonder is that at some deep soul level a mysterious ‘knowing’ that the Spirit was leading me (or at times catapulting me) never really departed. God’s grace was abundant and it manifested in moments of mystery and insight, in the mature and seasoned knowledge of the Course lecturers , the wisdom and experience of the supervisors, Beth’s anointed leadership, the life giving beauty and comfort of Nathaniel’s Rest, the presence of my fellow students who were one with me all the way and in the gift of encouragement offered by a few friends who recognized the truth of my journey.

I can remember at a very low moment taking comfort in the familiar, unchanging sight of one student’s shoes, the only pair she wore for two years (she loved them and I came to love them too !!). In some funny way they represented a stability that I needed but wasn’t feeling.

Yet despite the chaos, there were memorable highlights throughout the Course fulfilling in me the thirst and desire for God that I have carried since a young age when , to quote Teresa of Avila, I was wounded by God’s love. There were moments of wonder and consolation such as when Father David Barry expressed his passion for God in his love of the psalms, the inspiration of John Auer’s teaching on Meister Eckhart….. I was enthralled when Beth opened up to us the Poems of John of the Cross, …… moved to a deeper understanding of the wonder of what it is to be human when Brian shared with us the parable of The Bridge …. Our lectures on grief and loss, discerning abuse issues in SD, the darkness of God and its place in the spiritual life, the significance of dreams as sacred texts, the web of creation., discernment, meditation were for me, catalysts and challenges to greater awareness, deeper insight.

The reflection on the Trinity was for me a pivotal point in the transformation of my mind and heart, and I registered a movement of the Spirit within me that is still bearing fruit. I grown in awareness of the spiritual process of ‘ becoming’ ( that amazing continuous tense verb that like the word ‘transformation’ opens me up to hope and expectation. ) I have felt a new and revitalized sense of social justice and what that might mean in my life. Becoming ‘ a wounded healer’ (Henri Nouwen’s wonderful motif) has taken on greater significance for me as I understand a little better the processes involved in Spiritual Direction and its subsequent healing and transformation in the facing of my fears, learning to ‘let go’ and the building of a reconciled self.

Reflection on the mystery of God and the movements of the Spirit do not always lead to truth that can be clearly articulated. Rather, I find myself resting these days in a new place of ‘knowing’ and being and enjoying a special feeling of freedom: the being allowed to question, explore, contemplate and not be threatened by the equally authentic but different stance of others. ‘Holding the tensions’ in places of uncertainty; treasuring the remnants of truth and experience that I carry within me from all my previous journeying without being defensive or reactive; finding God in stillness and silence; learning anew, the delicate balance between being an alive part of community but knowing ‘God alone’….. these are some of the life-giving challenges that the Dayspring experience opened up to me. Oh, and I forgot to mention, learning to become a competent spiritual director !

Again and again throughout the course, I have remembered words written by T S Eliot. They sum up so eloquently for me my experience at Dayspring. I hope that they will speak also to you. He wrote

‘We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of our exploration
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time’
From Four Quartets.

And now, a plug for the Dayspring Course in Spiritual Direction. One of the women who came from the east to assess the course said that in her opinion it is the best course of its kind in Australia.

For me, the Dayspring Course has led to a new sense of calling and challenge in my work with my directees, a sense also of being a part of the Dayspring community. I feel supported by a local body of spiritual directors from whom I can seek ongoing supervision, guidance and the wisdom of experience. Much encouragement comes especially from the monthly gatherings of our 2009/2010 group as we enjoy a meal and continue to listen, to laugh and to learn together.

I thank God today for all that the Dayspring experience has given to me.

– Patricia McCarthy, 2011 Graduate

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