Lent Project Day 6: Spiritual Mentors

A candle held in cupped hands. The flame from the candle is the only light, casting shadow other than the skin touched by the flame's light.
Photo by Dhivakaran S on Pexels.com

I listen to a podcast wherein one of the hosts speaks regularly about her spiritual mentor – St. Therese of Lisieux. The podcast doesn’t speak much about spiritual matters, so when she says something about St. Theresa, I’m fascinated. I don’t keep my penchant for the Pantheon of Catholic Saints quiet for longer than about 27 nanoseconds, so you’ve heard (read?) me wax poetic about my love of St. Michael the Archangel (Defend us in battle!), St Anthony (finder of lost things), St. Raphael (patron of medical professionals), St. John (patron of friendships), St. Gabriel (patron of writers/messengers, and my RC Confirmation patron), St. Joseph (patron of families)…I could go on, you know I could. You’ve seen it…

But I was thinking about how I feel kind of unmoored, without a spiritual adviser right now. My church opened back up for services last week with the Ash Wednesday masses, so there’s a sacred space in which I can spend time. But the priest at my church right now… well… we don’t have a connection. He does his duty as the Administrator of Mass, but other than his official duties, I don’t have much use for him. That might seem harsh, and it’s likely not even his fault. The priest before him was an absolute gem. Father Phil Sherlock. Father Phil was an outstanding priest and spiritual mentor and advisor. Quick with his Irish wit and a laugh that lit up the room. He died a few years ago, and our dioscese is dimmer for the loss.

But I digress.

I am a huge Pope Francis fangirl. Same with Pope St. John Paul II (hitherto and henceforth known in my musings as PJP2). But I woudn’t call them my spiritual mentors. But I also feel… separate from them. They have received Holy Orders, I am a lay RC kid. And I can’t just ring up the Pope-ma-phone to ask Franciso to counsel me throug a particularly crunchy ordeal. Which isn’t to say that I haven’t written him some letters, because I have. And I got a lovely letter each time from the Papal Nuncio (the Vatican Ambassador from the Holy See) for Canada, with a glossy postcard of the Pope. So splendid.

I was looking at a website I had bookmarked for some inspiration this afternoon. It’s a site that has social justice from a Catholic Slant, and sometimes they have a good hook for a reflection. Today, on that site, I happened upon a list of Saints, Martyrs, and Heroes. Um, YES PLEASE! The introduction to the list describes them as “ordinary individuals who provide us with role models and examples of how to live as disciples in a complex world. By learning about their lives and paying attention to their example, we can draw strength for our journey of faith…” Um, DEFINITELY YES PLEASE.

Some of the folks on the list, I expected to see. Former Popes and some Saints (including the namesake of my Catholic Elementary – St. Clare of Assisi and my Highschool – St. John Henry Newman). Some obviously religious people, like Thomas Merton and Mahatma Ghandi. But I was gobsmacked by some of the people on the list – not because I don’t think they deserve to be there as inspiration, because they’re absolutely inspiring. Anne Frank. Bob Marley. Nelson Mandela. Eleanor Roosevelt. Malala Yousafzai. Jimmy Carter. And Stephen Bantu Biko.

When I was 5 years old, Steve Biko was beaten to death in a prison in South Africa. When I was 8, Peter Gabriel released a song about him. When I was 16, I watched Peter Gabriel sing that song at the Free Nelson Mandela Concert, and I was mesmerized and heartbroken. And just a week ago, Peter Gabriel released a new, amazing version of Biko. Turns out, it’s still a song that inspires a giant lump in my throat.

There’s a line in that song: You can blow out a candle, but you can’t blow out a fire. Once the flames begin to catch, the wind will blow it higher. And while I wouldn’t call Peter Gabriel a spiritual mentor, as much as I love his music, he opened my eyes to Steve Biko’s story, which in turn opened my eyes to the horrors of social injustice. The eyes of the world *are* watching now.

This Lent, may I be open to spiritual mentors wherever they reveal themselves to me. May there always be inspiration to feed the fire of my faith, and may I recognize the flame I have to share. Be inspired, friends.

Extra Credit:

I encourage you to visit the Education For Justice website, and the Saints, Martyrs, and Heroes pages in particular.

I’ve created landing pages for the last 2 years of Lent Project. You can access them from the Reflections Projects option in the menu bar. Happy reading, friends!

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