On Teachers

Snow Day on Campus (2005)

Lent gives us opportunities to appreciate silence, stillness, and solitude – whether we are in a desert or on a snow-covered campus. I would like to share with you one of the reflections from Mary C. Earle’s book, The Desert Mothers: Spiritual Practices from the Women of the Wilderness (Morehouse Publishing, 2007). It is a reflection on teachers from Chapter 6 – Spiritual Guidance – Lovers of Souls.

The late 3rd-century desert mother, Amma Theodora, offers this description of a teacher. She was speaking of what we today might call a spiritual director, but her words apply equally to classroom and workshop teachers.

A teacher ought not be a stranger to the desire for domination, vainglory, and pride. A teacher should not be fooled by flattery, nor blinded by gifts, conquered by the stomach, nor dominated by anger. A teacher should be patient, gentle, and humble as far as possible; successfully tested and without partisanship, full of concern and a lover of souls.

Teachers are also known by their willingness to continue to learn.

03Crossing Killian Court
Crossing Campus (2003)

Q. Who were and are my great teachers, that is, teachers with patience, humility, and gentleness? In this reflection, I identified four: a Dominican priest, and three late Sisters of St. Anne. I have been blessed with outstanding teachers throughout my life. It is somewhat misleading to name only four, but these four made a significant difference in the direction of my life.

Q. Who have been or are my spiritual companions, that is, who has walked or is walking with me now? I can name six women whose guidance I treasure. They are with me for the long haul.

Mary C. Earle added this characteristic to the amma as teacher:

She had the humility not to worry about her self-image, and the grace to know she was not God.

Q. What kind of teacher am I? What kind of spiritual companion am I?

I’m praying for the grace to know that I am not God!

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