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Learn to know what we see

deacons_01Conall O’Cuinn SJ, for the second year, conducted a workshop for the Dioceses of Armagh and Dromore with a group of 7 prospective deacons and their wives on the theme of spiritual direction. Maria Harris’ prayer, “Lord, teach us to know what we see rather than to see what we know”, provided the backdrop for an exploration. According to Conall, the main direction of the workshop was drawn from the question which Vermeer asks in the film version of Tracy Chevalier’s The Girl with the Pearl Earring: ““What colour are the clouds?” This, he says, illustrates the power of ‘looking again’ at experience, the basis of all spiritual direction – looking again, using all the human faculties: the senses harnessed by memory and imagination. Such a listening reveals God’s action, experienced as “e-motion”, motion towards or away from God. Vermeer’s painting is illustrated here.
Conall continues: “This seminar formed part of a year-long series of discernment weekends for these prospective deacons.  Common to all weekends is the lead question: Am I really called to this ministry? Wives take part in all the weekends and are encouraged to be very much a part of the decision. So many of the hard questions came from wives who sought clarity on the nature of such a call.  Their e-motion too required discernment. The fact that only men are admitted as candidates was also an issue for some. The weekend included many experiential exercises, and even some spontaneous spiritual direction sessions live in the group as individuals were moved in one or other direction.”