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The Kingdom in daily life
February 2021 – A long-time member of L’Arche in France, recently retired
Michèle Dormal carried the responsibility of spiritual life for L’Arche international in her final mandate.
Here, Michèle answers the question « What nourishes your inner life? ».
How do I nourish my inner life?
A real question… even more so this last year, which has been so disorientating: the revelations about Jean Vanier, the start of my own retirement, and then the pandemic, lockdown, terrorism…
My impression is that my spiritual life has dried out! Goodbye Sunday Mass with other people; goodbye my habits; my sources of inspiration – gone! My interesting assignments, the beautiful story of our foundation of L’Arche – also gone! My certainties about tomorrow – they’ve all flown out the window, along with the words I pray with…
Then I remember my early days in Trosly. Although I was raised a Christian, this familiar intimacy with Jesus, which I discovered at L’Arche, was totally new to me. It was Norbert, Pierrot, Patrick and the others who showed me how to pray, every night in our foyer, La Vigne.
And little by little – or perhaps it was all of a sudden, I cannot really say – I saw and felt and tasted that the Gospel was true, and that it was at work within me. The mighty one, overthrown from her throne, that was me: so often thrown into confusion when faced by a new situation. Peter refusing to let Jesus wash his feet – that was me when I preferred to go it alone, without taking the community into account. The poor widow and her tiny coin at the entrance to the Temple, that was the look that Jesus was offering me so that I could live a pretty dull daily life…. Forgiveness seventy-seven times seven was the only way out when in the midst of conflicts large and small. This thirst for a new heart, for a new spirit, this long training to become gentle and humble of heart, that was what I wanted above all else. To allow the Gospel to do its work in me, that is the path I am being offered: the precious path of Jesus by which he reveals the Father to me.
Yes, the harvest is already there, the Kingdom is among us. Often, I do not see it. That is why I want to let this Gospel keep on working on me.
Things are kind of back to front: it is not about us learning the gospel, it is about the Gospel teaching us, working on us. We wouldn’t be seeking God if he himself wasn’t already looking for us. The Father had a dream about a beloved daughter well before she called him Abba-Father.
So, how do I nourish my inner life?
I ask for the grace to perceive this lavish harvest all around me, to notice the kindness of nature, of the daily hello’s, of the little gestures we make to each other, the generosity of neighbours and of the parish. To see this Kingdom which is already there today, and to savour it… To take notice of this Gospel, at work within me and around me. And so often, when I do pass by on the other side, then to retrace my steps, again and again, and climb out of my rut.
Concretely, to nurture this inner life, I read and copy out the gospel of the day; then during the day, I try to recall it, so that His word can teach me through life, people, nature and events… In the evening, just to bring everything to a close, I enter into quiet, and stop making any noise… so that the seed of this gospel and the mysterious tangible presence of God can germinate in our lives. And if that is granted me, then to throw myself fully into collaborating with this world in the making… to be a co-creator with God!
And then, at the very end, to say ‘Thank you’ to him, for his presence in our midst. ‘Thank you’ but also ‘Again’… That he may give himself again, so that we may see, welcome, and co-create again.