Change

by Nicole Snyder

Change is a part of life.  Weather changes.  Last week it was warm and dry, this week it is cold and rainy.  Seasons change.  Summer is gone and fall is here with its red, orange, and yellow leaves.  A new moon gives way to a full moon.  Days are becoming shorter, with a little less sunlight each day.  These changes become a part of the rhythm of my life.  Changes that are predictable.  Changes that I look forward to.

There are also changes as a result of choice.  Some choices change my life in minor ways and others send ripples through my life in dramatic ways.  My most recent life altering choice was to leave my home in Portland, Oregon, pack my stuff into a trailer, and drive 4,500 miles in order to attend the Pastoral Counseling program.  This change, no matter its impact and therefore challenges, was by choice.  As a result, the stress associated with all the changes in my life is, in many ways, expected.  I also have expectations of when all of these major changes will become routine and when the sense of change will decrease.  Like a large rock thrown into a pond, I can count on the ripples eventually dissipating.

Then there are changes that are neither predictable nor by choice.  These changes have spun my world, shattered expectations, and caused me to lie broken on the floor in pieces.  I could never have predicted their appearance and I often cannot predict when the ripples will dissipate.  Yet these unexpected changes have also been the changes from which I have risen stronger, leaving behind in the ashes the parts of me I no longer need.

Since arriving in Maryland, my choice like Pandora’s box has quickly transformed into unexpected change.  My knee jerk reaction is to resist, minimize, and deny what the change is allowing me to learn about myself.  I have to actively work at resisting these urges and instead embrace this tidal wave of change as a window of opportunity for healing.  I have learned the hard way over the years that embracing change is the best way forward, but it has been highly inconvenient.  Lying in pieces on the floor does not go well with being in graduate school.  Despite the inconvenience, I attempt to be grateful for my inward desire to be whole, for the opportunity to heal, and my strength to continually change.

My faith (both in myself and the metaphysical) is what I hold onto in the midst of change.   Change is what I hope to be all about, changing myself, and helping others find the change they want for themselves.  It is why I have chosen this career field.  Change is terrifying, but it is also inspiring.  May the changes before us inspire us.

What’s the Invitation?

by Andrea Noel

I began working for the federal government on April 5, 2006, and since that fateful day my job connected me to one of my life’s purposes. This purpose is using my technical knowledge and skills as an engineer to improve the quality of life for individuals. The motto of my agency is “We save lives” and everyone in our agency wholeheartedly works daily to achieve the goals of our agency’s mission to live up to our motto. So, during this government shutdown I cannot help but wonder why House and Senate officials are not calling to mind how the work they do impacts the lives of others.

We are all familiar with where good intentions can lead as many of our political leaders coin their choices as good intentions for the American public. Author, Andy Stanley, in Principle of the Path, shares that, “It’s not that we fail to see trouble brewing on the horizon. It’s a lack of honesty. We have a hard time leveling with ourselves. We deceive ourselves about why we choose the things we choose. And then we spin a web of excuses to protect ourselves, excuses that over time we come to believe.” The entire world is witnessing the decision-makers of our country contrive their webs of deception in a poor attempt to create solutions to our countries very real problems.

As I sit at home listening to the political pundits, and trying to keep my anxieties at bay, I wondered if God was presenting an invitation during this government shutdown. Maybe there are areas in my life that need honest review? Or, there could be some choices I’ve already made requiring further consideration? Maybe, I need to reflect on how I am deceiving others or myself? Yes, the government shutdown is a huge issue that needs immediate resolution, but I believe real change begins with me and within each one of us. So, I invite you to reflect with me. What is God inviting you to consider during this Government shutdown?

 

The Call of Inspiration

by Andrea Noel

What are you inspired to do? What is that thing inside your soul that you must do, create, be, write, or share with the world? What is that thing that just will not go away no matter how much you try to rationalize why it is silly, not wise, or not best? It is silly for you to quit your job to play the bass full-time. It is not wise for you to leave corporate America to teach 12th grade science in an urban community. It is not best to take six months leave to spend time taking care of an ailing friend. It’s just insane, ludicrous even!

Inspiration is spirit-based rather than head-based, no matter how many times you logically think about that thing you have an intuitive urge or wild passion for, it will never make complete sense. With inspiration there is paradox and mystery; transformation and energy; direction and provision. Inspiration is a force to be reckoned with. It is magnetic, dynamic, progressive, and creative.

When you get inspired follow it wherever it leads and trust that wherever it takes you is exactly where your heart needs to be. Inspiration helps you see clearer, gives you true direction and brings you closer to spirit and your higher self.

You may question whether you have felt inspired before. I boldly proclaim that you have! Slow down and center yourself. Begin listening for the still, small voice inside you and it can uncover your inspiration in all of its grandeur and glory. You are never too young or not young to be inspired.

Feel your wellspring of energy, see the untapped possibilities, and take one step forward. Dare to fly! Dare to believe! Dare to be inspired! Dare to inspire the world!

The Apple of God’s Eye

By Andrea A Noel (c) 2008

 

Seeking Silence

“What you seek is seeking you.”
Rumi

Silence calls to me.

There’s an oxymoron for you.

Here’s another one: Thomas Keating says that silence is “God’s first language.”

I automatically equate language with the spoken word and this is a mistake on my part. Language occurs in so many different ways such as body movement, facial expression, feelings. Sound is not required.

Noise is easy to find in the world. Noise happens with constant abandon. I have nothing against noise. It is very necessary. Birds call to each other to find their way. A baby cries in the night to signal to mother a need to feed. Without noise, we would not hear the approaching car, the cell phone ringing, or the announcement that our dinner order is ready. Noise helps us survive. But we need silence to distinguish between the various noises in our lives to give them meaning. If we did not have those precious seconds of silence, life would just be one huge cacophony of sound and nothing would make sense.  

The Quakers believe that God speaks to us in silence. Their unprogrammed worship is conducted in silence – they gather in communal stillness. No one speaks unless he or she feels moved to do so by God.

I am seeking some spontaneous silence . . . a time where noise falls away and makes room for the voice of God. Usually, that only occurs during a power outage and that just aggravates people.

When I sought out a way to learn to speak God’s first language – silence – I found Centering Prayer. Centering Prayer is reminiscent of meditation. One chooses or asks the Holy Spirit for a sacred word as the focus of intention to consent to God’s presence. When distracted by thoughts (which also include feelings and body sensations) while in prayer, I return to the word to return to the place within me where God and I reside.

In his book, Manifesting God, Thomas Keating makes the important distinction that God is not separate from us. God is within us at all times and it is up to us to create this space, this fourth dimension within ourselves, where we can constantly communicate and live in the presence of God.

The call is not a noise or a sound. It is an urging, a pulling, a beckoning . . . like home waiting in the distance with a candle flickering in the window.

Social Media Revisits The Intensive Prayer Unit

Recently a friend posted news of her illness on Facebook. Within hours she had many “Likes” and it was heartening to note that many friends had offered to pray. This is not a unique situation. Those who utilize social media can attest to similar incidents where prayerful support is offered to those in need. Various forms of social media have made it easier to connect in prayer, and while technology has caused greater visibility, the practice of group intercessory prayer is not new.

Several years ago, Dr. Frank Richardson, a professor at Loyola University Maryland, founded The Intensive Prayer Unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore which offered prayerful support for patients upon request.  Praying for patients provides them comfort and hope by partnering spiritually with their treatment plans.

Such a partnership is similar to what pastoral counselors bring to clients. Like other mental health counselors, we provide psychological care, and we offer something more. Pastoral counselors who graduate from Loyola University’s program are equipped to provide mental health care through the integration of spirituality and psychology. Being a pastoral counselor goes beyond having a career; it is a vocation, a calling to respond to the needs of our clients holistically.

It is this holistic response which I bring to my practice with a goal of providing the best possible care. Although my way of intervention reflects my clients’ spiritual foundation, I look to the Bible for personal guidance and recognize that:

  • I am humbled by my clients’ willingness to trust me as they share their deep emotions. I find support in Psalm 37:3 “Trust in the Lord and do good.”

  • I value the gift of hope. When clients carry feelings of hopelessness, I hold hope for them until they can accept it themselves. I find support in St. Paul’s blessing in Romans 15:13:  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace.”

  • I appreciate the power of prayer. While I do not pray with my clients during session, I pray for them often. I find support in Mark 11:24, when Jesus said “I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Prayer is a powerful tool. The Intensive Prayer Unit reflected an insightful and influential element in establishing an organized medium for intercessory prayer that still exists, expanded through social media. It is possible for those in need to receive prayerful support universally and immediately. So the next time you find an online friend standing in need of prayer, join the Intensive Prayer Unit, and don’t just “Like,” – PRAY.

Anointed, Appointed, and Sent

There are no adequate words to describe my Loyola experience. As a writer, for the first time I feel as if I am wordless.
Vernon already expressed much of my parting sentiments in his article: Don’t Say Goodbye . . . say Thank You. Therefore, I go another direction and speak to the students who are new to Loyola’s Spiritual and Pastoral Care Program, or who are still discerning if it is a correct fit for them.
My life before beginning my MA was in a serious rut. I thought I would die of boredom and lack of fulfillment if I did not take a step. However, I did not know what that should be.
As I knelt in prayer, asking God to please provide divine guidance, I heard pastoral repeatedly in my head. “What is that?” I wondered. I Googled pastoral and found my way onto Loyola’s Spiritual and Pastoral Care website. I knew I was home.
As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him (1 John 2:27, New International Version).
Loyola has anointed me. I have humbly been part of many great formational experiences: Alpha Sigma Nu, Emerging Scholars, Professional Seminar Paper, wonderful MA professors, exceptional staff, spiritual and learned classmates, Graduate Assistantship experiences working on CACREP and Continuing Education Programs, coursework, service-learning, retreats, and more!
I have just been appointed a Lay Ecclesial Minister for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, specifically as a Director of Religious Education for a local Catholic Parish. Loyola has sent me forth to minister to God’s people.
Listen to your instincts, to your intuition, and to your God. You may not have your post-Loyola future all figured out, but that is the beauty of it. If God is truly the center of our lives, then we strive to follow God’s plan, not our own.
John Lennon said it well, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” I planned to go to Loyola, and, with God’s grace, the rest just fell into place.

The author, JoAnn Harvan-Chin, with Dr. Jill Snodgrass, Dr. Ralph Piedmont, Dr. Tom Rodgerson, and classmate Pat Kennedy

Deb Calhoun’s God-Led Path to Chaplaincy

(Deb Calhoun is a distinguished 2012 graduate of the Pastoral Counseling Department’s M.A. in Spiritual and Pastoral Care. She won the John R. Compton Integration Award for her pastoral presence and ability to practice pastoral integration in her work.)
 

Deb Calhoun

JoAnn: How did you find your calling to Loyola?

Deb: While working with a special family – members of my Unitarian Universalist congregation – I learned pursuing pastoral care with greater commitment was my path. My minister recognized it before I did. When I thank her, she denies that she deserves the credit. At first, I could not use the word “calling.” I kept saying “no” until finally I couldn’t any longer. I stumbled upon Loyola’s program. It was the perfect fit for me.

 
JoAnn: What is your lasting impression of Loyola?
 
 

Deb: Spiritual and Pastoral Care with Fr. Kevin Gillespie shaped me as a caregiver. He taught us Care of the Entire Person or Cura personalis and – “where there is a story, there is hope.” Being present to someone listening to their story is the foundation of how I do pastoral care. When you are really attentive to the story, the heart of the matter is revealed. That is where God is! I come to it with the skills that I need and God does the rest.

JoAnn: How is God found in your work?

Deb: When I have the right words for someone that aren’t mine – during a baptism a Scripture verse comes to me that I didn’t even know I knew, or miraculously I run into someone and events just fall into place so that I am able to meet a need.

JoAnn: How do you use your education in your work?

Deb: I draw a lot on Loss and Bereavement and Crisis Intervention. A one-day seminar on suicide prevention came back to me when I dealt with someone who was considering suicide.

JoAnn: Since graduating from Loyola what have you been up to?

Deb: Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE).  I did one unit each at the Hebrew Home, Sinai Hospital and now Johns Hopkins. I have had different supervisors, groups, and clinical components and learned a variety of skills. Typically, someone does a full-time chaplaincy residency in the same place for all four units.  It is 60 hours a week – physically and emotionally intense. That was not the correct path for me. I have Muscular Dystrophy and I was not sure that I could handle it physically.

JoAnn: In your work in CPE, have you worked with people of various faiths?

Deb: Yes! My current supervisor is a ṣūfī, my supervisor-in-training is Episcopalian, and I had a Jewish Rabbi supervisor. I am comfortable praying with people of all faiths. I am leading the worship service at Johns Hopkins every other Sunday, and it is a surprise to me how much I love it.

JoAnn: Do you like your work?

Deb: Oh yes! I am where I am supposed to be. People ask: how can you do it? It is so sad to see people suffering. I think how lucky am I to be able to do the work that I do!

Deb Calhoun receiving John R. Compton Integration Award from Dr. Tom Rodgerson

Since our meeting, I learned that Deb Calhoun has been accepted to Earlham School of Religion to pursue her MDiv. We wish her well.

Deb Rollison: When Spirit talked, she listened

Deb Rollison in her classroom

Barbara:          Deb, you are a graduate of the MS/PhD program – why did you choose Loyola and pastoral counseling?

Deb:    Since 2004, I had been engaged in the work of career counseling. As a career coach, I helped dozens of people find work that honored their skills, passions, and hopes. I worked with people once they were past the disruptive, unhappy parts of losing a job. As needed, I would refer distressed people to a counselor and sometimes see them after that counseling to help them find a new job. I wanted to apply a more holistic, broad spectrum approach to helping people, but I found myself mostly working on resume and interviewing skills.

I grew restless with the repetition.  Relying on my Catholic faith, I prayed to St. Joseph, the patron saint of vocations, and I asked: “Where is my own calling at this time in my life?” A friend, who is a career counselor, asked me: “Have you thought about pastoral counseling?” I didn’t think much about it at the time, but then I went to a national career development conference and listened to Richard Bolles (author of the well-know career guide, What Color Is Your Parachute?) talk about his own learning and journey following an illness. He said something to the effect, “If you hear something once, you might pay attention, but if you hear something twice, that may be Spirit talking.”

Amazing! That very morning I had had breakfast with another friend, who also suggested I consider pastoral counseling. This time, I listened. As soon as I got home, I got on the Internet, found Loyola, and knew that I had a clear calling. God led me to Loyola. I always wanted a PhD in clinical psychology, but I had to spend many years in between learning that I did not want to be a PhD, I wanted to have a PhD, so I could do important and caring things for people.

Barbara:          One of the important and caring things you do is teach here at Loyola. What is your teaching philosophy?

Deb:    My philosophy is to teach people to reach out to others in a larger way. I am your co-learner, I am alongside you, this is something we get to share. You teach me as much or more as I teach you. I feel very privileged and honored to be affiliate faculty. Teaching charges me up. I get “in the flow” and feel graced whenever I am in the classroom. What an adventure! What more important work is there than helping people create the work they were meant to do?

Barbara:          How do you incorporate spirituality into your curriculum?

Deb:    I ask students to start each class with a prayer or moment of silence. In each assignment, I invite students to reflect upon the pastoral dimensions of a theory, website, an interview, or reading. Because most of these are secular, students have to stretch their ideas and imaginations. For example, in career development, we work to relate each career theory in a pastoral way and how to adapt it in a pastoral context. I encourage students to add a spiritual assessment to every profession.

Barbara:          Speaking of professions, how can students use a pastoral counseling degree?

Deb:    I was fortunate to have Dr. Joe Ciarrocchi as my instructor in several classes. He said you can do so much with a pastoral counseling degree, and I so agree. Students learn skills that transfer in all job arenas. They get training in analytical thinking, the ability to write well, and interpersonal skills. The Loyola program enhances a student’s ability to reach out in all professions, blending technical skill with personal caring.

Top 5 Lessons I Learned in the M.A. Program

 The top 5 lessons I learned in the MA in Spiritual and Pastoral Care Program in no particular order are:

1. Be careful sharing your theology with others – What you believe about God may not be what another person believes, and even if you are well meaning you may hurt someone else by imposing your views.  In Theological Anthropology, Dr. Gerry Fialkowski told us many stories.  One that stands out for me was the story of what one well-meaning, but misguided person said to a child grieving for her mother.  It was not a pastoral response.  She said, “God needed your mommy in heaven, which is why she died.”  That child needs her mother.  Only a cruel God would deprive a child of her mother.  Is that the God I believe in? 

2. God is mystery – God continues to reveal Godself to us, God is continuously creating, and God’s work is never finished.  All we have are metaphors to describe God.  Our human minds do not have the capacity to fully understand God.  If you think you understand God, drop that concept you think you know because you have got it all wrong.  St. Augustine said, “God is not what you imagine or what you think you understand.  If you understand, you have failed…”

I now live by that concept.  Surprise and discovery are what I find here at Loyola on this journey toward union with God. I am constantly reminding myself to stay open to new possibilities, new understandings, new invitations, and new calls from God.

3. Self-Care is Sacred.  – It is not selfish to practice self-care — it is self-preservation for someone in a helping profession.  We are so highly prone to burn out, and when this occurs we can cause harm to those for which we care.  “Physician heal thyself.” (Luke 4:23).  I have studied the wounded healers (like Henri Nouwen) who bind up their own wounds, and in so doing learn empathy/compassion.  They sooth others’ wounds because they first tended to their own.

4. I AM capable of being a spiritual director  – In my tradition of Roman Catholicism, priests and religious do most of the spiritual guidance.  It is only in the last generation that lay men and women have taken on a greater role in Ministry within the Church.  There are still many traditional and conservative individuals who would rather go to a priest or nun with a spiritual matter viewing him or her as “more qualified.”  I had carried this with me and it made me doubt my ability to be a spiritual director.  But then, I took Spiritual Direction with Fr. Brian McDermott, SJ.  He showed me that I do have what it takes, that I can be a spiritual director, and that anyone who has a true calling regardless of whether or not they have been ordained can companion someone in their spiritual journey.

5. There are distinct differences between spiritual direction, pastoral care, pastoral counseling, and psychotherapy – As I sit with someone in a spiritual direction session, often relationship issues enter into our space and that is okay.  The Spirit is there between us continuing God’s work of creating by mending fences, changing hearts, calling to conversion, reconciling, nurturing, tending, and challenging.   My directees and pastoral care receivers constantly teach me what they need from me. If I can assist them with that need then I will; however, if I cannot then it is time for me to refer them to another professional.

A plethora of personal growth and formation takes place here at Loyola.  I could communicate so many more lessons I have learned.  This is just a sample of life at Loyola as an MA student in the Pastoral Counseling Department.

Hearing my Heart for the First Time: When faith is challenged

            Friday’s Human Development class began with the question, “On what is my heart set?”  My initial answer is Christ although my actions don’t always point to that.  Where does my faith truly lie?  Is it in the Catholic Church where I grew up?  Is it possible God is leading me to a different faith tradition?  He has shown me parts of Himself in each religion I’ve encountered.  This question had posed itself before and each time I have pushed it aside, feeling guilty for even considering it.  Friday night I was surrounded by people who had faced that question, answered it, and ultimately found peace.  Their acceptance, openness, and honesty made all the difference.  I felt no guilt in considering the question and shortly I had the answer.  My heart is set on Christ, my HusbandMy marriage to Him is the most important thing in my life.  Our union is that for which I live and will die.  Since the Catholic Church is the only institution that honors our marriage, I will stay.  My anger at current leadership remains.  So now what?

            We discussed Fowler’s stages of faith.  During stage IV, a person’s faith is challenged.  Something happens that contradicts what she believes to be true and she is then forced to question:  Do I continue to follow blindly?  Do I leave behind that which I once knew to be true in order to follow new truth?  Do I reconcile the two – and if yes, how?  Certain events have happened that are challenging my faith.  I question the character of God – not doubting Him, but to better understand Him – and I am seeking advice from every wise man, not despising any useful counsel (Tobit 4:18).  With the religious diversity at Loyola, wise men and women are abundant.

We learn faith from those around us.  I’m sure some would argue the opposite because many leave the faith tradition they grew up in, either finding a different one or abandoning organized religion altogether.  But the bottom line is this:  faith is what drives you, it is that on which you have set your heart. I live by faith.  I question my faith but that is necessary – if I don’t ask, I won’t receive.  I am discovering that my Husband, though Jewish when He walked the earth, is not necessarily Jewish.  Or Catholic.  Or Muslim.  Or Hindu.  Or Buddhist.  But He is certainly present in all these traditions.  We are a people who, as Dr. McGinnis says, have written on our hearts to seek God.  I am reminded of a phrase in Slumdog Millionaire, spoken by Jamal to the girl he loves, Latika.  Tragic events transpire in their lives yet he persists in looking for her.  She asks why and he responds, “We are meant to be together.  It is written.”  It was written on his heart.  It was his faith in a love so profound that he could not imagine a life without her in it.  Whatever transpired to that point was unimportant.  As Victor Frankl said, “A person who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.”

It is my love for my Husband – and my desire for our union – that drives my life trajectory.  It is my anchor through the storm, keeping me grounded in my faith in the Eucharist even as my faith in those consecrating it is deeply shaken.  I will continue to search for those ways in which I can reconcile my faith to my religion.  Why?  Because it is written.