Fr. Peter Bisson, SJ, Provincial Superior of the Jesuits in English Canada recently visited the Jesuit Community at Martyrs’ Shrine. During his exhortation to the Jesuit Community members, he said that we all need to have spiritual conversation with the people we personally encounter at the Shrine. Further, he indicated that ‘spiritual conversation’ is not just talking about theology or spiritual matters but of being genial toward everyone, whether we meet them in person or talk to them over the phone.
In this short article I would like to reflect further on the concept of spiritual conversation. I think that our spiritual conversation with people at the Shrine calls us to be more open, real and comforting.
When we walk into a conversation with people, we need to remind ourselves that we are not the ones with all the answers. We are not the saviors. We are not the ones without needs. Such openness in our spiritual conversation can help us realize that we are accompanying the people in their spiritual walk, either in their searching for God or for meaning in their life.
Such openness in our spiritual conversation can lead us to be real. It can help us to be more aware of our own limitations and to understand the shortcomings of others. If we consider ourselves as a perfect human being, we will not have a heart that listens to others with empathy. Only those who are able to accept their imperfection, can understand the weaknesses of others.
We should also remember that our spiritual conversation is not a time to talk about a great load about ourselves, our successes, our virtues or how perfect we are. It is easy to fool others and make them believe that we are someone who we really are not but it is not so easy to fool ourselves. We all are human and we have the proclivity to fail and make mistakes.
Being open and real in our spiritual conversation can help us to be comforting to others. When we are comfortable with our own imperfections and limitations, we are able to comfort others in their worst circumstances. Our encounter with such people does not give us the right to accuse or judge them. Even if we come to know something critical about them, we are still called to be merciful to them.
Hence, our responsibility in spiritual conversation is to give people space and time to get comfortable and to display to them that we are not high-pressure sales people eager to close the deal.
Fr. Ahil, S.J.