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Do you have an anamchara, the Celtic word for “soul friend” or “spiritual director”? Tracy Balzer’s second chapter, in Thin Places, is a delicate and insightful survey of the Celtic practice and how spiritual direction or soul friendship can be developed in our world.
St. Camgall of Bangor, a 7th Century saint, said “it is not good to be your own guide.” Many of us are. Do we need to rethink our independence, our rugged individualism, and consider having an anamchara? St. Brigid, a 6th Century saint, said “a person without a soul friend is like a body without a head.”
A soul friend provides sanctuary — a safe place to reveal, to ponder, and to learn — and confession — so that the words may be heard in an audible way making us more aware of our sins and accountability.
We lack safe places today and we grow restless in spirit — we are afraid to voice our honest questions because of fear of condemnation. An anamchara can help.
Tracy tells the story of a friend who spoke to her students about the “power of the secret” (life) and the need to “break the secret.”
The anamchara asks questions and listens well. In essence, the anamchara enables a person to hear from God, listen to God, and to walk the life of faith better.
It is not good to be your own guide… that statement, at the close of the chapter, was for me the best thing said.