Today I join with those who remember St. Brigid of Kildare on her feast day. Since I was not raised with the tradition of remembering saints, I discovered the Irish celebration of her with surprise, then delight–a celebration of relationship, of practicality and of trust in God. The adage attributed to her most often is
Anyone without a soul friend is like a body without a head.
Maybe I love her as much as I do because she articulates and embodies my vocation at this time of my life–to be a soul friend, an anam cara. I am called to do it formally and informally. Formally I sit with people monthly for sacred conversation with the question, “How is the Holy One moving in your life?” Informally I find that catching up and reporting in with another often turns soon into pondering meaning and sharing joy at what we are discovering about the Presence of the Holy One in our worlds. Moreover, I keep discovering that many of us us are hungry for those conversations. The writers Mary C. Earle and Sylvia Maddox, in their book Praying with the Celtic Saints, tell us that in soul friendships we discover the presence of Christ, much in the same way that the travelers on the road to Emmaus discovered that the Jesus had appeared to them as they were talking. I am grateful for this calling that has emerged from me, along with and after other vocations in my life.
I am aware for myself, however, that in this age of electronic communication and social media there are wider possibilities for soul friendship. I can access information about my soul mentor Brigid, including art and photos on the internet. In my spiritual direction practice I sit with some folk on Skype, others by phone. My Facebook account is not only a way to connect with my family and friends, but it is a daily opportunity for joining in the prayers of people with whom I am FB friends and the cares and crises of their lives and communities. Often I am blessed and/or challenged by a post that someone else has found to be a gift, an inspiration, a joy that also encourages me. I wonder where Brigid would find her soul friends in this 21st Century brave new world. I am guessing she would be wired and in prayer in the same way many of us are!
Nothing satisfies my own longing for sacred conversation more than sitting down with a soul friend, face to face, uninterrupted, with no time restrictions, in the “endless conversation” that will last as long as it lasts, and will pick up where we left off the next time together, whether in this life or in the new life to follow. Yet in the meantime, I am never isolated as long as I attend to the sacred conversations that I am given, day by day, with soul friends by design, soul friends by opportunity, soul friends by wire and book, or the saints like Brigid who have blazed the way for this connection! Thanks be to God for the community of saints!