By Barbara Leonard
Christos Center for Spiritual Formation, Sacred Ground Center for Spirituality and Loyola Center for Spirituality are co-hosting Margaret Silf’s visit this September 19th and 20th. In 2012 she conducted a four day retreat sponsored by Loyola. It was a joy for all of us attending and we’ve wanted her to return ever since then. Being mindful of her carbon “footprint” she is very careful about the number of times she visits America. And, she told me that 2016 may be her last visit. Margaret is an author of many books, a retreat leader and lecturer. She is steeped in the Ignatian tradition and makes it come alive! Margaret’s presentations are filled with stories that literally speak to the heart.
Margaret is using the title of her book The Other Side of Chaos: Breaking through when life is breaking down (2011) for her presentations. In our exchanges about her visit, Margaret suggested that both the UK and USA are in a time of chaos—doubt and confusion in many areas in our two societies. The UK is dealing with the Brexit and we have a contentious election ahead of us in November.
The title strikes me as hopeful. What is life like on the other side of chaos? What does it mean to break through? She uses the book of Genesis as the basis of her argument that God moved over the void and created earth/universe from it—so God has been and is always present. God is constantly seeking our attention and is continually with us. This is the heart of Ignatian spirituality—God in all things– even in our moments of chaos. We need to pay attention to where God is especially in times of doubt and confusion. She used the expression of letting the Spirit hover over the chaos in our lives. And from allowing the Spirit to hover comes new understanding and direction.
Her book provides helpful stories, questions and suggestions to move us through those inevitable times of chaos in our lives. Some times of doubt and confusion are simply developmental—coping with one’s life changes and others can be compounded life happenings that leave us forever changed. Whatever they are, God is present. How can we know? Margaret provides lots of ways to do this. One simple example from my own repertoire is an explanation given by a mother to her young son when bad things happen. She told him that when bad things happen always look for the helpers. I am reminded about the “helpers” from Hennepin County Medical Center that responded so quickly when the I35 bridge in Minneapolis collapsed several years ago. They went beyond the call of duty!
I encourage you to come to hear Margaret Silf’s presentations and to read her books. There is much to gain in our lives when we remember God’s abiding presence in all things!