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DEAR FATHER | Spiritual accompaniment of others begins with closeness to God

I’ve heard both Pope Francis and bishops mention we need more ‘accompaniment’ in the Church. This sounds vague. How do we concretely go about accompanying another person?

Our capacity to accompany another person in their life of discipleship begins with allowing ourselves to be accompanied by God.

Approaching God as a friend may seem daunting, which is why He sent Jesus into the world as a man and the Holy Spirit to move within our souls to teach us how to pray. To begin to develop our friendship with God, to live with Him in our daily lives in a “we” relationship (rather than an I-must-please-you relationship) requires intentionally spending time with Him.

In times of silent prayer, we must reveal to Him our own interiority — our thoughts, feelings and desires — as we relate to Him whatever events give rise to joy, grief, anger, gratitude, anxiety or peace in our lives. God waits for us to give Him permission to enter that inner sanctuary of our soul, to enter the movements of our interior life.

The conversation of the spirit then begins. We relate to God our interior movements, and then we wait and receive His response. He may give intuitions of His peace, inspirations regarding His will or illuminations about His own divine love. At other times, He may simply want to be with us in silence. It may feel as if He isn’t present, but we know in faith that He truly is; only the best of friends can spend extended time in silence together.

Over time, as we are consistently generous with God in spending time alone with Him, we will find our understanding begins to change. We begin to approach life thinking “What is best for us” with God Himself being our great friend in our communion. We begin to see small, telltale signs of His living life with us: a person we meet who needs a sympathetic ear, an invitation to silently recollect in His presence during the day, an uplifting conversation with a friend or a sacrifice He invites us to make for someone in need. It is from this place that spiritual accompaniment begins.

The more deeply we live with God, the more readily relationships of spiritual accompaniment will form. They may begin in a variety of ways; your pastor may ask you to take this role officially, you may be part of a prayer group or they may organically develop in your life. As spiritual relationships develop, recall that your accompaniment always comes from your inner sanctuary where God resides as friend. Your disposition should take on the same gentle attentiveness that God gives to us in prayer. There is no aspect of your new friend’s life that is not worthy of attentive love and Jesus’ redemption. You will naturally share your own experience of God in the service of deepening your friend’s desire for God’s friendship and love.

Father Charlie Archer is associate pastor of St. Peter Parish in Kirkwood.

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