Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!
This weekend I was able to spend a night back home at my parents house in New Berlin. It was a short but sweet trip---around 24 hours from start to finish including 8 hours of sleep (much needed sleep) Saturday night.
Sometimes I question what all the traveling I have been blessed enough to take part in over the last year has done to the relationships I most value. One of the relationships I sincerely treasure the most is the one between my parents and me. They are the two people in this world responsible for creating me and thereby, in a certain way, they have been two people who have so carefully guided my soul during my life. They have opened my Book of Life and continue to play an active part in bringing plot to the pages in between. And though I know that their books, as well as mine, will come to an end someday, as all stories do (except maybe for the James Bond film series), I am confident that faith will allow me to continue to read their books and thereby share in an Eternal story with both of them---a familial, spiritual, hope-filled blend filled with only the drama of the divine---the drama with a happy ending.
I sometimes think it is kind of strange to write about impending death, and I know many others feel the same way. But death...its the elephant in the room...it's inescapable. But, I think once we embrace that elephant, make it part of our Eternal covenant and plan, we understand the richness and fullness of our present state of being. We belong when we know who we are---and who we are is a group of organic beings working towards a journey filled with winding, unique roads (sometimes easy to climb, sometimes incredibly difficult to ponder). At the end of our journey, we come to the end of our life here on earth. But everything in between, the journey that we come to call "life, can be fully life-giving if we choose to make it that way.
I thank my mom and dad, Rick and Anne Spoerl, from the bottom of my heart, for being two deeply Spiritual people with deep, dear convictions about the power of living life to the fullest. This doesn't mean they don't have their grumpy days (I've seen them, I lived with them for the first 18 years of my life!). What this does mean, however, is that they see a light at the end of the tunnel and are able to shine that light into my young, impressionable, but growing (hopefully) soul. They are two of my nearest and dearest "anam cara" (a Celtic term that essentially means soul friend). My parents are, well, my parents...but they are also my friends. At the age of twenty, ready to take on the world but still not ready to give up a good home cooked meal or a hug from my mom or dad, I can say that my relationship with my parents is at a point nearly void of the terrific tension of the teenage years (I desperately wanted to separate myself from "home" during high school, but still always wanted to have a place to call "home." And despite the fact that I wasn't the sweet little redhead I might have been when I was maybe five or six, my parents still loved me with an all embracing, all forgiving, all healing kind of love that I need during my mid to late teenage years.
My parents have been with me along every step of the way during the last two years since I have been accepted into the college seminary program for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Since I made the decision to actually enter seminary, I have most definitely needed courageous love from my parents. I have, more often than not, been a kind of metaphorical prodigal son, venting frustrations with them, realizing their ears and hearts and arms were and are always open to hearing, encasing and embracing my innermost turmoils.
I have had friends along the way that have also been anam cara. I have several friends now studying abroad for some time, friends that have been close, compassionate listeners and healers of my soul and mind---one friend a person I have considered one my closes friends since I was six years old! I pray for these friends and I am sad to not have the opportunity to literally be with them for several months. Nevertheless, I realize that, understanding the holistic idea of the anam cara, the soul friend, provides me the comfort to realize these friends, people who I respect, admire, and share my thoughts and joys and struggles with, are still with me in Spirit. It is this realization that brings me the deepest kind of peace that I can ever imagine. And it is this realization that makes me confident that the next time I see these friends, wherever we may be, will be a time of great consolation and sacredness. For when we enter into the possibility of being an anam cara with people, when we entertain the possibility of having soul friends, our souls can expand and we can let in more love than we ever thought imaginable.
The larger our circle of soul friends grow, the less we feel isolated. This takes effort on our part. It begs for an openness and, I feel, a kind of confidence in the workings and unity of the Spirit. If we believe that a Great and Holy Spirit has the possibility of bringing us together with another person or a group of people for a purpose, for making individuals a community for a reason above and beyond what we can possibly conceive, then I think we have the ability to bring our soul together with friends who also will open up their souls to us and thereby give us a glimpse of an Eternal Reality that we patiently await.
My parents have opened up their entire life to me---in raising me, in supporting me in all my activities and endeavors, in loving me unconditionally,even when I am probably impossible to love, they have shown me a glimpse of a light that I choose to run with. It is a kind of decision that takes a lifetime to materialize and an intimate connection with daily life to make possible. But it is in sort of metaphorically running a race, a complete and tiring but deeply promising and rewarding race, that we come to etch out our path every step on the way to light and the Promised Land.
Through their complete generosity and openness to the Spirit, my parents have provided me with a grace filled vision of the light of Jesus Christ, the complete being of our faith tradition. I have faith because they taught me what it meant to have faith. I have hope because they showed me that hope brings us life and happiness. I have motivation because they are motivational people. I have life because of my parents and I am loved and can love because they have shown me love. In this way, they have shown me God. Because of what they have shown me, I want to do my best to show God to others. I want to show other people love, and spread love to this world. I am very fortunate and privileged to have two parents, guardians, absolute givers, who have been their for me...it is the least I can do to now go spread what they have taught me to the people who run the race with me, who I find on my path as I continue on my journey. I want to spread the message of love that I have been given to all those in need. And I pray that by doing that, in time, my own needs will also be fulfilled. I have two role models that have shown me what it means to be "givers." And, we are left with hope in the message of Francis of Assisi "it is in giving that we receive."
May we all "give" more to others, so that we may receive true anam caras in return!
I pray for all my anam caras, all my soul friends, and in a very special way, for my parents. I pray for all those people on our earth in dire search and in constant need of an anam cara. May we all collaborate to bring them this wish...and if it is our calling to be that person, may we answer that call with an open heart.
And I pray in a special way for all those people in my life who I do not consider soul friends. May I have the generosity to enter into a deeper friendship with those who I find challenging to be around.
If any of you would like to learn more about the concept of Anam Cara, I suggest the book Anam Cara, A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O'Donohue. It has really moved me over the last few months as I periodically read portions of the book. It seems like reading it slowly is allowing me to take in the deep wisdom of O'Donohue. The book really is worth checking out if you happen to have any free time to read a book of your choice (as a student, I hardly have that time...and if you're a parent or professional reading this blog, you probably have little free time either).
peace and blessings to all.
your friend bob.