Spiritual Director Profile: Sister Virginia Matter, OSB
My calling into the journey as a spiritual companion or Director is likely because of the many spiritual companions and friends I experienced in my life. As I reflect, I am aware of how blessed I have been because of those who have challenged and stretched my life within the joys and sorrows. Each has been a healer for my flaws and imperfections. In my writing, I realize there are many names I use for those who journeyed with me. You will see they each touched me in meaningful ways.
My older sister was there from the day I was born, like a mid-wife. My middle sister became my ‘soul friend’ from the time I can remember she was there, often teaching me as we learned together to discover new meaning in the wonder of God’s creation.
My Lutheran mother was an example and a guide when I needed someone to talk with. She was our spiritual guide. She took her promise seriously to raise us Catholic, beginning with Catholic school in Springfield, MN, where I was born. She even went to church with us for all our special events and feast days, in addition to attending her own church.
My father was there silently. He only attended church on special events and feast days with my mother’s encouragement. He did return to the church ten years before his death. But my father modeled to me another way of finding God, and maybe for him this was his church. He found God profoundly in God’s creation. This is the beautiful gift he gave to me. One day he said to me, “Come here Nettie, look at this stone, what do you see in it?” I looked and looked to find something, and then he took it from me. My learning was not to just look at the exterior, but to gaze into the stone. To not just look at a tree, but gaze into the tree and the wonder from its beginning, the depths of where and how each thing becomes what it is To Be. To pause and take time to be present to what is before me (I will come back to this later).
When I entered the Benedictine Life in 1955, I was blessed to have wise women available to discern and walk with me on my journey. So, spiritual direction has been important as I entered the next step of my conversion process.
When I was seeking deeper prayer, I was guided to the Eastern teachings and meditation. Then in the late 70’s, our Christian tradition of silent prayer was reclaimed through Father Thomas Keating’s teaching on Centering Prayer, a way into Contemplative silence. This has been a daily blessing in my spiritual growth.
My own call as a spiritual guide grew out of my ministry. In 1981-82, I spent a year in St. Louis, MO, in the Inter-Religious Formation Program. That year also gave me the gift of becoming a Spiritual Director. I have been journeying with women and men in the Benedictine Center since 1984. This calling is a sacred ground experience. Like Moses, I feel I need to take off my shoes as the Holy One is present in the person before me.
This brings me back to my Father’s lesson as a child. As I am present with another, I am invited to not just gaze at her/him externally but gaze into the deep inner beauty, where the person is ONE with the God of love. The potential, the trust and the love that is to be revealed, to be named and called forth as they come home to their true self. I ‘Listen with the Ear of my Heart’, to the whole person, body, mind and spirit. What is the person seeking, what is the inner hunger, where may God be inviting them on their journey?
Because of my spiritual directors and friends over these many years, I have learned how to love the cracks and imperfections within me. I see, they have been my teachers, and without those times, I would not be who I am today. May the God of love bless you, and like my cracked vessel above, may you embrace your inner beauty and wisdom within.