The variety and uniqueness of the ministries of spiritual directors is as diverse as the individuals themselves. LifeHouse Ministries, that Cathy directs, is one of those. I first met Cathy about 5 years ago when we were in school together at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary. I was blessed to witness the birthing of this ministry and am excited to have her share a part of her story and the story of the emergence of this ministry with us. She is a United Methodist Deacon, wife and mom, and spiritual director at LifeHouse Ministries in the Ruston, Louisiana community.
Jane – Cathy, what was your first introduction to spiritual direction? Where did your journey begin?
Cathy - My first introduction to spiritual direction was in my Spiritual Direction seminary course I took at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in January 2008. It was on the first day of that class with my instructor, Diane Stephens that I realized spiritual direction had been a part of my life since I was a teenager – I just didn’t have language to name it. As a teen, I had an amazing counselor, Ruby, who listened to me as a spiritual director listens – and in retrospect, I see that my
Jane - Tell me about your path that brought you from your introduction to spiritual direction to your ministry of spiritual direction and creativity.
Cathy - I was enrolled in Garrett, and my course work was a challenging combination of discussions in theology, writing, prayer, and formational work. My reading assignments challenged me to think of ways to establish Christian community beyond the local church and the forthcoming need for community and healing in the lives of persons who aren’t coming to our churches. My time in Chicago in particular opened my eyes to the need in our human family for real community and a healing relationship with God - and much of my course work brought me to a new place in my soul with God. I began to envision this place in the community where people could come to find respite and rest for their soul, body and mind – a place where people could come into the quiet and experience God in non-traditional ways. At the same time, I was having dreams that made me aware of a transformation happening in my own soul that brought forth liberation in my very life and personal relationships. I carefully wrote about all of my experiences and ideas in my journal, and through it all, LifeHouse Ministries was birthed! Perhaps LifeHouse came from my own inner healing and my desire is to now be a “wounded healer” as Henri Nouwen would say. I offer spiritual direction and movement classes at LifeHouse and I am blessed to journey with several people who are called to this deep interior work. I have to say that my training as a spiritual director has enabled me to be a better wife and mom, especially when listening for the soul of my precious husband and children and ministering to them in our home.
Jane -What has been the most influential reading that helped form your journey? What are you reading today?
Cathy - The most influential readings for me have been Christian Meditation and Inner Healing by Dwight Judy, A Hidden Wholeness by Parker Palmer, To Pray and To Love by Roberta Bondi, The Company of Strangers by Parker Palmer, Deep Economy by Bill McKibban, Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church by Lawrence Stookey, and Inner Compass by Margaret Silf. Right now I am reading/practicing simplifying the Soul by Paula Huston and I am also reading St. Hildegard of Bingen: Doctor of the Church by Carmen Acevedo Butcher and Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris.
Jane - If you could travel back to any period in the history of Christian spirituality, knowing what you know today, when would that be and what spiritual leader would you most want to encounter and spend time with? … and why?
Cathy – I would want to travel back to be with Hildegard of Bingen of the 12 century. She is my patron Saint – even though I am not a practicing Catholic! Hildegard was a Benedictine abbess, Christian mystic, artist, theologian, preacher, writer, dietician, naturalist, healer, and musician who lived middle ages. She is about 870 years older than I am; yet from my studies of her life and works, she feels very much like a contemporary – and certainly she is my sister. She lived a life of humility and total dependence on God, as she learned to be in constant communion with God and seemed to utilize each and every gift that God placed in her being for God’s glory and purposes. She was highly creative in writing symphonies and poetry, painting her visions, discovering ways to heal physical ailments in natural ways. She was also an intellect who inspired the priests, nuns, and emperors of her day, and she corresponded with many men and women in leadership positions about politics and religion. She was a strong woman who stood her ground in her beliefs and trusted God more than any human. She founded two abbeys along the way and lived a full life of caring for and listening to others until her death at age 81. Hildegard deeply inspires me to surrender to “The Living Light” as she referred to God, so as not to waste any time in fulfilling the work that God has called me to in my time on this earth. Her amazing life reminds me that truly there are no limits for God, and when we can allow God’s power to flow in and through our lives, then our lives, too, can be lived without limits for God’s glory! So to answer the question completely, I would want to learn from Hildegard up close and personal, so she could be my mentor, my spiritual director, and friend. And I would be able to watch her as a living example in the flesh how it looks to live a disciplined, fruitful life every day.