1. Exploring Our Praxis
In coming to a deeper understanding of our guiding and companioning praxis[i] it can be useful to enter into a dialogue with a colleague whose encounters with pilgrims have been impacted by the personal solidarity and relational presence of Jesus.
Andrea (a composite identity, appears in Reflected Love, Chapter 3: Following the Golden Thread of Grace) is one such guide. I have constructed conversations with Andrea which deal her praxis. The invitation is for you to enter into these conversations from within your own praxis.
Begin with Jesus
As an entry point into our own praxis and that of Andrea’s, we begin with a pilgrim who seeks out Jesus. Who does he encounter? He encounters a person who is transparent and whole and, because he does not defend his own person, enters into personal solidarity with this pilgrim. He allows his life-giving energy to impact on the other. He is invited into a relational presence which embodies and reflects the unimpeded flow of the self-giving and sacrificial love and dynamic relational presence of the persons of the Trinity as persons. This pilgrim encounters nothing less than Jesus’ praxis—the breaking through of the kingdom of God.
Lord, use this concise account of your person, presence and kingdom praxis to enliven the eyes of my heart as I come to know you, and also Andrea as guide and companion in your way. I invite the Holy Spirit to guide me.
Reflective reading – Matthew 8:1-4, NIV.
When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
Follow your first reading by an unhurried time of indwelling—entering into the encounter between this pilgrim and the person of Jesus. Experience the person and presence of Jesus in this encounter.
During your second reading, notice a key word, phrase that is drawing your attention. Stay with this giving it time to settle in your heart. Then attend to what the Holy Spirit is stirring within your spirit.
During and following your third reading, simply sit in the transforming presence of Jesus. Resist any inclination to hurry away from the personal encounter between you, the man just cured of his disease, and Jesus.
Spend some time with the question: Who was Jesus to this man? Imagine him, with his socially isolating disease, hearing of Jesus, coming to his resolve of what he would ask of him, seeking him out, being in his presence, experiencing his kingdom breaking through into his body—breaking through into his life—and following through on his instructions.
In your journal, create a simple drawing of this encounter (stick figures will do). Then jot down some brief poetic phrases on who Jesus was for this man.
My sketch of this encounter. . .
Who was Jesus for this man?
Getting to know Andrea
As with the above reflection—coming as close as possible to whom Jesus was for this man (and of course for you and me)—we will explore who Andrea (companion) was for Carol (pilgrim), and who she might become for us, especially in our formation as guides and companions in the way of Jesus. To engage with her person, presence and praxis, our focus is more with her than with the approach or technique that Andrea demonstrates in this encounter (extract below). The encounter is highly relational—person-to-person—as it is with the encounter between Jesus and the man cured of leprosy. So first, we get to know the person!
Who is Andrea for Carol?
Though extract below from Chapter three of Reflected Love (pages 17 – 21) is far longer than the above gospel passage, I would encourage you to enter it in a similar prayerful and reflective manner. You worked with the question: Who was Jesus to this man? In a similar way, ask, “Who is Andrea to Carol (and to me)?”
Giving Carol plenty of time to adjust to the companioning room and settle into her chair, Andrea waited for Carol to look in her direction, indicating without words that she was ready to begin. Then Andrea said, “Carol, I wonder if you could say what it is that you need to attend to in our time together?” Right at the outset, Andrea placed high value on Carol’s inner knowing.
“I’ve been putting-off coming for such a long time,” Carol said, explaining that Andrea’s phone number had been on a slip of paper stuck in the front of her address book for at least eighteen months. Carol shuddered as she recalled the many times she had reached for the phone, only to pull back at the last minute. Fumbling through her purse, she pulled out the address book and showed Andrea the scrap of paper.
Seeing that Carol was close to tears, Andrea took the slip of paper and holding it back to Carol, gently asked, “What has been so important to you over the last eighteen months that you have kept this number right in the front of your address book?”
“I know that I am going to cry,” replied Carol, taking three tissues from the box.
“Just take your time, Carol. You have waited a long time to come to talk about something that is very, very important to you, and now you are here. We don’t have to rush.”
Like Mary of Bethany having to move beyond cultural, religious and gender constraints to sit at the feet of Jesus, Carol has had to cross personal, social and cultural barriers of independence and self-reliance to become vulnerable enough to expose some of her inner darkness to Andrea. The fear is that self-disclosure can lead to rejection, and though Andrea knows this, it is not her task to make a commentary on it. Just as Jesus brings Martha’s experience back in front of her for her attention, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things,” so Andrea reflects to Carol the feeling beneath her experience: “. . .something that is very, very important to you. . .” Both Jesus and Andrea invite pilgrims to become more attentive to their own experience and to discern what is happening for them from a level of awareness that is deeper than ordinary, everyday awareness. Both Martha and Carol have a faculty of soul that, when enlivened, enables them to look in on and be prayerfully attentive to and discerning about their own experience.
Carol took the slip of paper from Andrea and sat for a few minutes, examining it before placing it back in her purse. She then drew her legs up into the ample space of the lounge chair and covered much of herself with a large cushion. As her tears began to flow, she moved the cushion to cover her face, remaining silent and hidden for several minutes before finally showing her tear-stained face. “It all seemed to start again when my mother visited just over eighteen months ago. I had not been in touch with her for at least two years before that. We don’t have good contact. She will never phone or write to me. I am always reluctant to get in touch with her because, when I do, it takes me a long time to get over what seems to happen between us. And I really wish I knew what does actually happen. I know she is a very remote sort of person. You would never talk to her about personal things. I also know she had a terrible time with my father, who was an alcoholic. She is rather distant from my children, but that is all right in a way, because I don’t really want them to experience too much of her influence and her negativity.”
“I know there is a lot that happened in my childhood,” she continued, “and that I firmly resolved to be a very different mother to my own children than she was to me. I also know that it has taken a lot out of me to do that, and a number of times my husband has commented that I just run myself completely ragged over them. I actually agree with him. I know that I am doing this, but I simply don’t know how to stop it.” Carol paused and then repeated, “I don’t know how to stop it; I really don’t.” She paused again and then said more definitely, “And you know, as I talk about it now, I realize that I become even more hyperactive when I have been in contact with my mother.”
Andrea waited for a few moments and then reflected back the last part of what Carol had said: “You find yourself running ragged, even hyperactive I think was the word you used, over your family, you say you don’t know how to stop, and that this actually increases when you are in contact with your mother.”
“Yes,” replied Carol. “That is exactly it.”
“I wonder what you are noticing is happening to you right now, Carol, as you hear yourself saying this out loud?”
Carol was silent for a moment and began crying again. “I am feeling incredibly sad, but I am not sure why. But at the same time, I am feeling very angry about this thing that I cannot stop.”
“Incredibly sad, but not sure where that is coming from, and angry about this thing that you cannot stop,” responded Andrea, pausing when she noticed Carol nodding in reply. “I wonder if you can see this person of yourself: incredibly sad and at the same time angry about what she is finding it difficult to stop.”
“Why yes I can,” said Carol, as though surprised by this image of herself. “She is right there!”
“As you look at her before you, what do you notice is beginning to happen to her?” inquired Andrea.
“She is not going to allow herself to feel sad,” Carol replied.
“She is not going to allow herself to feel sad,” echoed Andrea. “When you see that, what do you notice she does next?”
“She just gets frantic and throws herself into activity,” said Carol emphatically.
For the next few minutes, with Andrea encouraging her to be attentive to the image right before her, Carol closely observed the person of herself putting all her energy into trying to restore pristine order to a house that was already very clean and tidy. When she had finished, she simply looked for more things to occupy her. It continued non-stop, and Carol said she was starting to feel worn-out just watching all this happening.
“As you now begin to feel worn-out just watching this, what is it that you know is really happening to this woman you are observing?”
“That she is putting all of her energies into avoiding the sadness,” she answered, pausing as if looking for more, then added, “and the pain. Yes! She has to avoid both the sadness and the pain.” She paused again, and Andrea waited, realizing that Carol was not yet finished. “What was the pain? If I only knew the pain I have put so much into avoiding.” Carol looked up at Andrea with her eyes full of tears. “What was the pain I have been frantically running away from for all these years?”
Reflection on this encounter
Follow your reading of this encounter with an unhurried time of indwelling—entering into the encounter between this pilgrim and the person of Andrea. Notice what in particular draws your attention and allow time for it to settle in your heart. Follow this with a time of imagining you just sitting in the presence of Andrea. Then in your journal, bring this to a sketch and some poetic phrases as you did with the encounter between Jesus and the man cured of leprosy.
My sketch of this encounter. . .
Who was Andrea for Carol and for me?
 “Praxis” is not the same as “practice.” It is the application of principles and theories to practice and the ongoing reflection on that practice. There is continuous movement between action and reflection.
 The approach or style of Andrea’s companioning, which we refer to as reflective, attentive and restorative, is modelled by each of the guides and companions we meet in Reflected Love. It grows out from their person, presence and praxis.
To proceed to Section 2. CLICK