"Significant positive personality change does not occur except in relationship." — Carl Rogers
“The apostles gathered round Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, 'Come away to a solitary, quiet, desert place and rest awhile.'” — Gospel of Mark
On February 20 at 4:55 p.m., Jean Springer, my spiritual director for 25 years died. We had a weekly standing appointment except for occasional vacations and retreat times when we were away. I feel very sad, restless and unsettled.
Spiritual direction is a vital gift to humanity from the Catholic tradition. It is simply a time to listen, behold and discern how the Spirit is being manifested in our lives. When I first met Jean in 1992 I was angry, adrift and in despair about my religious heritage while at the same time searching for a new identity and ministry direction.
Jean and I had a soul connection that is extremely rare. Together we trod the terrain of healing, searching, probing, digging deep, reflecting, contemplating, emerging.
In these 25 years Jean shepherded me through being lost, to a pastoral ministry and now to a prophetic ministry. My spiritual development has traversed the vocations of Hospice chaplain, bereavement counselor, part-time parish minister, spiritual radio show host, founding a congregation and directing a statewide justice ministry.
Jean and I were VERY blessed to be able to say goodbye to each other about a week before she passed from this life. Here is a brief reflection I wrote after our final sacred encounter.
“I have been seeing Jean Springer for spiritual direction weekly since 1992. In fact I (was) among her first directees when she moved to Austin. Her work on this earth is complete. She will soon shed her earthly tent and find a greater freedom and love beyond this sphere of reality.
"I went and said goodbye to her last week. It was truly a bittersweet encounter. There is (no way) I would (be) where I am spiritually without Jean's ever present listening and gentle guidance. She never wavered in allowing the Spirit to flow through her. Jean will soon be physically gone but as we affirmed in our final fleshly encounter, her spirit will not cease to offer me loving guidance.
"My love for you is unconditional and eternal Jean. I'll see you on the other side.”
We studied Carl Rogers in my chaplaincy training. One of his beliefs that has stuck with me through the years is that no significant change occurs in our lives except in a relationship.
The relationship Jean cultivated in me was twofold. Between her and me and between me and the Spirit. These are relationships that matter ... eternally.
Jean's vision became a spiritual community called Eremos. This is a Greek word meaning solitary place, quiet place, desert place. Her calling was grounded in the passage from the Gospel of Mark, “Come away to a solitary, quiet, desert place and rest awhile.”
Before Jean transitioned to her new life she wrote a letter to the Eremos community. She said in part:
“Love one another as I have loved you. My whole life has been dedicated to knowing love and longing to have others know love no matter what their darkness, what their gifts, their blessings. It is important to know how profoundly, how tenderly, how intimately each one of us is loved."
I recommit myself for as long as I have breath, to walk in her love, the love of God; to be guided by the wind of the Spirit, for the sake of all that is good and sacred, and holy.