“Susan Stabile is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the University of St. Thomas School of Law and an adjunct Instructor in Theology at St. Catherine’s University, where she co-directs a Lilly Grant secured by that university to bring contemplative practices to congregations and parishes. An experienced spiritual director and retreat director, she offers retreats and other programs of spiritual formation in parishes, retreat houses and other venues around the country. She also teaches in the Sacred Ground program for training spiritual directors. Susan is the author of numerous publications, including Growing in Love and Wisdom (Oxford University Press 2013). She also authors a blog, Creo en Dios! (http://susanjoan.wordpress.com), on which she posts spiritual reflections and podcasts.”
She shares with MysticMag her passion for God and reveals how she helps others deepen their experience with God and their spirituality.
Why do you think the quest and understanding of religions and spirituality has been so prominent throughout your life?
My first reaction is to want to turn the question around: How can it be that the quest and understanding of spirituality is not prominent in everyone’s life? But let me try to answer the question in the way you framed it.
From the earliest age, I sensed that there was more than this world, something beyond this human existence; that as wonderful as this world and life could be, it was not enough. In the words of on Hindu writer, worldly pleasure “is essentially private, and the self is too small an object for perpetual enthusiasm.” Augustine expressed something similar in Christian terms, writing in his Confessions, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
It is that sense of something more, something beyond, that had made my spiritual searching so prominent throughout my life. That searching has included studies of many of the world’s major religions as well as a significant period of my life practicing Buddhism before returning to my Christian roots.
What does God encompass for you?
I believe the late theologian Michael Himes is correct in his observation that anything we say about God is wrong, in the sense that it will be incomplete. Thus, he says, the best we can do is to come up with the “least wrong way” to talk about God. (He would say that from a Christian standpoint, the least wrong way to talk about God is to say God is love.)
I see God as both in me and more than me. We each possess a spark of the divine; no one and nothing can exist without that. The “more than me” encompasses God as creator….as ground of being. God is love loving, as St Ignatius might phrase it. In the Contemplation that ends his Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius says (in David Fleming’s contemporary translation) that “God pours forth a sharing in divine life in all the gifts showered upon me.”
I also believe that when I get to the level of my deepest desires, what we might call our holy desires, that my desires and God’s desires for me are the same.
Which of your books would you say is the most accessible for the novice?
Growing in Love and Wisdom, which adapts Buddhist meditations for Christians. I think both the introductory chapters and the meditations themselves are helpful for all, regardless of where they are on their journey, and accessible to novices.
What is your purpose and approach when offering and facilitating retreats?
My purpose is to help people deepen their experience of God – however they conceive and relate to God, and to help them discern how they are being called to live their lives.
My own spirituality is heavily Ignatian, that is formed by the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, which emphasizes finding God in all things and being “contemplatives in action,” that is deepening our relationship with God and out of that deepened relationship, to take our place as co-laborers (or co-creators) in the manifestation of God’s kingdom.
Thus, many of the retreats I offer either present or follow the flow of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises; many Catholics and Protestants are drawn to those retreats. Others address other elements of Christian spirituality/theology
I also give retreats and programs in congregations designed to teach people a variety of contemplative practices. I believe this is important because people have different praying styles and not everyone benefits from the same form of practice.
My approach, regardless of the topic or theme of the retreat, is to give enough of a talk to give people something to chew on, to reflect on, to pray with. Ultimately the value of a retreat lies in the encounter between the retreatant and God. So the “true” director of any retreat is God, not the person presenting the retreat.
What advice do you have for those embarking on their Spiritual journey?
First is to find regular time for prayer/meditation, preferably each day. This takes intentionality, as we all lead busy lives.
Second, find a community of others who are committed to deepening their own spiritual lives. We benefit both from the experience and the encouragement of others
Third, I believe that anyone serious about deepening their spirituality benefits from having a spiritual director – from having a safe, nonjudgmental place to share what is going on in their prayer and their lives, and have someone listening deeply to them, mirroring back what they are hearing (and perhaps sharing some helpful suggestions).
What do you understand your true calling to be?
My calling is to both (1) grow in my own relationship with God and my commitment to co-create with God and (2) to help others to deepen their relationship with God and to discern how they are being called to be co-creators with God.
If you would like to find out more about Susan Stabile, visit https://susanstabile.com/