Touching Spirit

A new way of ministering

When you think of getting a massage, more than likely you don't envision a priest, nun, minister, or rabbi as the body therapist who will soothe away your tensions. If you've ever signed up for a spiritual retreat, you probably didn't expect massage or energy balancing as part of the program. Yet during the last 20 years, a growing vanguard of North American clergy has not only openly supported working with the body but also become directly involved in hands-on treatment.

They've discovered that such work has a lot to do with spirituality. It helps deepen contemplation and prayer. It can heal psychic wounds and promote integration of mind, body, and spirit. They've noticed that providing nurturing, non-threatening touch, as well as accepting and respecting the body, may encourage a loving relationship with one's self. As feelings of separation and fragmentation transform into a sense of wholeness, there also emerges the possibility of feeling more connected to others, to one's God, and to the universe.

The journey to share the gift of touch and to serve as a conduit for healing wasn't necessarily easy for these religious figures. But once they experienced the power of touch themselves, they decided to make it an integral part of their life and ministry. Sister Rosalind Gefre, a member of the Order of St. Joseph of Carondelet, recalls, "The first time I had a massage, I knew in my heart that's where God had called me to." She pursued it even when there were no sisters "doing such things." Her decision was tolerated but never encouraged. Even worse, when she passed out her massage fliers at a Twin Cities street fair in 1983, some people actually threw them back and laughed at her. "They looked at me like 'you dirty woman, don't you dare touch me.'" Within five years, people were standing in line to be massaged. Sister Rosalind went on to establish a series of massage centers for personal sessions, as well as instruction, in the St. Paul-Minneapolis area.

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Easing tension and relaxing retreatants physically quiets them down at every level and puts them in a really good place for prayer.


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Mirka Knaster
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