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Community Greetings from Avila!
In Antonio's Reflections
Jul 11, 2021
Spiritual Accompaniment Praised be Jesus Christ! I am right now here in the Carmelite Mystic University, the ultra-modern building in the foreground with the medieval walled city of Ávila in the background. The English term of spiritual direction is really misleading. In Castilian Spanish, it is called Acompañamiento Espiritual, meaning Spiritual Accompaniment. The spiritual director is really the Holy Spirit, and this is one of the key points emphasized over and over. There are very specific techniques using neuro-linguistics that we are taught in order to bring the person under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. One of the key techniques is empathy, examining Teresa and John, and the doctoral dissertation of Edith Stein on Empathy. We do not infuse our own teachings to the person and leave it all to the Holy Spirit. In this case, most priests are not equipped in this method, but rather infuse their own teachings. We really need more laypeople in this field. One-third of the students are priests, only one Carmelite, and a Carmelite nun. One-third are Carmelite or other order seculars. Another third are civilians who are in various professions like tax law, social work, labor relations, psychiatry, etc. The neuro-linguistics part was the most difficult part of the course, and even the native Castillian Spanish speakers had a very tough time with it, so they said, more especially for me. It certainly pushed me much further along. Our group that went through the practicum for Cognitive Coaching developed close, supportive relationships very quickly. That course was the most intense I had ever taken in my life, including technology courses. The spirituality courses, while also intense, are not as exhausting. Right now, we have a priest of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with a Ph.D. in Psychology in our course on normal and clinical psychology. Again, the approach is the same, to enable the person to transcend him/herself with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This place is run by Carmelite priests who are devoted to scholarship in mysticism. They are so humble. We live together in a community. It is like the modern version of the design of Athens in ancient Greece, where scholars and students were gathered to advance the field of philosophy. There are some employees hired for various functions. The administrators are all OCD and they all even help serve meals and clean the tables, especially with COVID sanitation. There are glass booths on the tables so that we can sit together and yet be isolated from each other's breaths. I've attached our very structured and tight schedule. There's no time for anything else, even finding time for laundry is challenging. Last Sunday, we got the afternoon off, but this Sunday is class all day. Thank God for the official siesta to refresh the mind and prepare for another intense class. My sleep disorder had been worse so I struggle with attention during class. I was able to purchase a melatonin formula that has herbs to prolong sleep and that has helped a bit. At the conclusion of yesterday's course on Edith Stein spirituality, I made a comment that is somewhat an over-simplification of our process and drew a little smile from the professor, who is the director of the university. If a train is not obedient to the rails, it can go nowhere. But if a train abandons itself to being directed by the rails, it can carry so many passengers to any destination they choose. It is the passenger's responsibility to purchase the correct ticket for the destination they wish to travel to. Other news: my composition awarded here in Ávila 7 years ago will be sung at the Carmelite Youth Congress in the summer of next year. Unidos en la oración, Luís Antonio Labayen, ocds
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