The Plural I

The Plural I

“If I respect the plurality in myself, and no longer see my jealous self as the whole, and greed and sloth is an opportunity to lift out of the waters of unconsciousness a tiny piece of submerged land of me, then I have gained the distance I need to observe it, listen to it, and let it acquaint me with a piece of my own lost history.”

–—Elizabeth O’Connor in Our Many Selves: A Handbook for Self-Discovery (Harper & Row, 1971).

o'connor our many selves.JPG

O’Connor’s book was one of the first I read as I was seeking to understand why I do the things I do—trying to find out what was underneath the surface or behind the mask I was wearing. Her classic writing gives us tools for becoming the person God created us to be. She teaches us about the many parts of ourselves and how God uses every part of us to connect to God.

Those parts of ourselves that block us from the Spirit can also be pathways back to an even richer relationship to the God or Spirit within us. Christians would tell us that the life of Mary Magdalene is our scriptural example. Whatever her seven demons were, they led her to Christ and a new relationship with God and a new life. The recovery community would say that the recovering alcoholic or addict is led back to the God of his understanding in his journey to recovery. The Jungians would tell us that a recognition of the shadow or unloved or unaccepted part of us can become our hidden treasure or gold.

O’Connor presents a series of practical exercises she developed from years of group work at The Church of The Saviour in Washington, D. C. They are designed to help us locate these many parts of ourselves, leading us to the God within and enabling us to reach out to the God in others.


Wolfe: Modified Prayer of St. Francis

Wolfe: Modified Prayer of St. Francis

We recently talked about the classic book on personality type and prayer styles, Prayer and Temperament: Different Prayer Forms for Different Personality Types by Monsignor Chester P. Michael and Marie C. Norrisey. The book is based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Assessment, and explains five types of personal prayer developed over the centuries.

prayer and temperament small.jpg

If your prayer type is Augustinian (Intuition, Feeling NF)—a type who finds prayer most meaningful when Scripture or a message is written for or speaks directly to you—this modification of the Prayer of St. Francis may suit you. In this prayer, adapted by spiritual director, Jane Wolfe, God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit is praying, speaking directly to you. Jane’s premise is that we can take any petition and turn it into listening, thanksgiving, and praise—whatever we wish.

On the other hand, the more traditional version of the Prayer of St. Francis may be more meaningful to you when you are praying directly to God. So I have included it as well.

Prayer Attributed to St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

and where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master,

grant that I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved as to love;

for it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Book of Common Prayer, p. 833.

Use this modification as a Monthly reading especially in Advent or Lent. Read one line a day for two days as if God/Christ/Holy Spirit/your Higher Power is saying this to you. Begin again on the first day of each month.

1. I am the instrument of your peace.

2. Where there is hatred, I sow love.

3. Where there is injury, I pardon.

4. Where there is discord, I bring union.

5. Where there is doubt, I give faith.

6. Where there is despair, I bring hope.

7. Where there is darkness, I bring light.

8. Where there is sadness, I bring joy.

9. I console you.

10. I understand you.

11. I love you.

12. I give myself to you.

13. I pardon you.

14. I die for you.

15. I give you eternal life.

—Modified by Jane Lee Wolfe, “Spiritual Health and Fitness for the 21st Century,” Woodstock, Vermont.


God's Presence, Mystics

God’s Presence, Mystics

“But the fruit of the Spirit is ‘love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.’ Against such things there is no law.” —Galatians 5:22-23.


I recently met with an amazing group of people who were searching for God in their lives. Several questions were asked: “How do you know you are in relationship with God? How do you know God’s presence? How do you know God is speaking to you?”

I have always been skeptical of people who tell me, “This is what God told me to do.” I do not know the voice of God until after something has happened, never before.

However, I have learned that I may be doing God’s will if I feel the presence of the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

We also can learn from the experience of others who were deeply aware of the presence of God. They are called the Christian mystics. Richard Rolle, the 14th-century English mystic, describes being in relationship with God when he feels a physical warmth in his body; when he has an awareness of God’s sweetness; and when he experiences a heavenly music as he chants the Psalms. I know that, indeed, music touches our soul; that the sweetness and warmth Rolle feels may be from one of the fruits of the Spirit.

I have heard others say they have a gut feeling of assurance when they think they are doing God’s will. Another common experience of the presence of God happens when we are in nature, where we feel the presence of something greater than ourselves. Others may learn more about the presence of God when they become ill or lonely or are suffering or dying.

Experience tells me that people of the feeling (F) type in the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator may be more inclined to develop this relationship experience with the Divine; but I also know that thinking (T) people can experience this presence and assurance through logic and truth in research and reading.

[See Ursula King, Christians Mystics: Their Lives and Legacies Throughout the Ages (HiddenSpring, 2001).]