Reflections in anticipation of National Aboriginal Day Sunday, June 17 2012 Mother Jessica Schaap One afternoon a month, I visit the Young Wolves Lodge, a recovery home for young Aboriginal women operated by the Coming Home Society: a society which began here at St. James’ and in the diocese of New Westminster. During the visit we engage in conversations of often profound depth and questioning. Many are extremely vulnerable to believing that they are unloved and unloveable. Some of the questions they ask me speak volumes about the intensely diverse and adverse life experiences they have had. Here’s a sampling of some of the questions that get asked:
Have you done an exorcism? Are people who commit suicide damned? Can native spirituality and Christianity go together? Do you have workshops on having good relationships? What do you think of reincarnation?
When those questions start firing. I try to answer responsibly from what I have been taught from the Christian tradition and when I don’t know, I tell them or offer suggestions where they might find the information they are looking for. Today I‘d like to explore with you three things: 1)the nature and character of their spiritual seeking, 2) how their spiritual experiences and seeking is very revealing of our society’s assumptions about the spiritual life. 3) How we might offer to grow in solidarity and support of these women and their spiritual journeys. 1) Nature of spiritual seeking – fragmented; intensely curious
Some young women from the wolves lodge tell me they have had no or little religious background of any kind. Others come from a variety of church backgrounds and levels of involvement. Beliefs, values and practices can come from a variety of sources ranging from grandparents to horror movies. Their past experience is often scattershot and fragmented. They generally have not had the time for that stage of questioning, criticality and curiosity so common among today’s privileged young adults. Instead of gap years in Europe or Asia, they are thrown into the adult realities of parenthood, and needing to find work. Instead of maintaining a good university GPA, they are struggling to maintain their recovery from addiction. My sense is that when they come into the program they discover how dissatisfied they are with their spiritual lives and the chaos of addiction. Their dissatisfaction, however, fuels an intense curiosity about faith, belief, and practice. They are really looking for something: a structure of belief and practice that works, makes sense and can encompass life in a broad and deep way. Stabilizing chaotic lives and relationships, getting rooted spiritually, and in relationship with a “Higher Power” - as the Divine is spoken of in the 12 step program - is not a luxury, it is a necessity for life. Without grounding and growing in their spiritual life, these young women are so vulnerable to believing that they are unloved and unloveable. This is the heresy that most come to Young Wolves Lodge with and it is the spiritual root of theirs, and ours, addictive and self-destructive behaviours. How one unlearns the heresy of "unlovability" is hard, lifelong, but ultimately lifegiving work. Learning to love and be loved means committing to a spiritual life and practice - a “rule of life” as we might say in our tradition. And this kind of commitment is the opposite of what the dominant society suggests. 2) Society's view of the spiritual life The dominant society offers spirituality as an item for consumption, without need for discernment or discipline. Like most markets, the spiritual marketplace is also highly fragmented. Yet, it offers no method for evaluating a spiritual practice or belief. It has a laissez-faire, even neglectful attitude, towards those such as these women whose curiosity and intense drive to seek truth and make a conscious commitment to a good way of life is of vital importance to their survival. 3) St. James' solidarity and support So those of us who belong to this community of St. James’, or another, where there is a similar value placed on structured, intentional, deep, generous, rooted worship, belief, and practice are invited to continue our commitment and growth. One way to support and ally ourselves with these women is to renew our commitment to a way of life that reconciles our relationships to ourselves, to others, and to God: committing to learning how to love and be loved. We do this by grounding ourselves and participating in the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church so that we might be knit into the body of Christ; by renewing daily our commitment to our baptismal promises and by being nourished by the eucharist. This way may just prove to be the mustard seed that grows into the flourishing life of the kingdom of God.