to ground our mentoring of others
In response to India’s need for personnel trained for the ministry of accompaniment, four Christian Brothers (Joe Johnson, Steve Fernandes, Tommy Samuel, and visitor Jack Mostyn) and a Presentation Sister (Ida Ferrao) got together for a mentoring programme earlier this year. It was not what they were expecting…
“Six days of guided conversation”, the facilitator called it. That didn’t sound too demanding, so we readily agreed to a time-table of seven hours a day. We had come to this mentoring programme expecting to be equipped with skills and processes to train others in mentoring. We never expected to find ourselves wading through the theology of Karl Rahner! We were invited to stay close to our unique personal experiences of God and of ourselves. Right at the start, the facilitator stressed the need to ground our ministry of accompaniment of others in holistic theological foundations.
So we set out on a journey with Karl Rahner, reading his theological investigations and entering into his thought and insights on experience of self, of God, of Mystery, of freedom… We grappled with the concepts and theological language, sometimes wondering whether we were reading the original German transcription or the English translation! But we remained faithful to the pattern of two-hours’ self-study, then reading one of Rahner’s Theological Investigations, followed by an hour of guided conversation.
Some of us found the initial couple of days very heavy going, especially given that we had not all studied formal Theology, but we drew comfort from the fact that others in the group were also in the same boat.
But with the facilitator’s gentle assurance and challenge, we got into Rahner’s style and found ourselves enjoying the reading and the insights it brought to us. We felt enlightened and were excited to be doing theology with our human experience as the starting point, and to be touching the limitless horizon of the incomprehensible mystery called God who is permanently and irrevocably God-with-us. We found that Rahner’s theology was driven by a passion to articulate what the human person must be like if prayer is possible, if we human beings can really make contact with God. This led us naturally to introspect the theology operative in us as we accompany others.
The guided conversations were spaces where, having grappled with Rahner’s theology, we touched into our experiences of love, forgiveness, aloneness, and pain, and felt at home to share in the group, enriching each other’s lives. And so Rahner’s heart-centered theology came alive. The resistances and blocks we encountered in our accompanying others became for us possibilities to touch into the Mystery of God.
What did we learn in the course of our week together?
It was a week of profound grace for us. We experienced it as an empowering: it enabled us to enjoy theology, to touch God through our experiences, and to come to insights that will surely transform our lives and the way we do our ministry.
Christian Brother Tommy Samuel and Presentation Sister Ida Ferrao
adapted from two articles in a recent Christian Brothers Indian Province Newsletter
published May 201