Spiritual Direction: The Ordinary Way

Here’s an excerpt from my new book Same Old, Same New: The Consolation of the Ordinary. It’s an imagined conversation between a spiritual director, Father Zachary, and his directee, Philip. 

Find the Bird!

Father Zachary sat in his office with a young man named Philip who was trying to describe the problem he was having with his prayer life. 

“I just feel like nothing’s happening,” said Philip. 

Lacing his fingers, the priest asked, “So tell me—when nothing is happening, what’s happening?” 


Father Zach repeated his question. 

“I just told you,” said Philip. “Nothing. Nothing happens.”

“But what does that nothing look like? What does it feel like? Can you describe it?” 

Philip looked all around the room, as though the answer might be lurking in a corner, hiding beneath a picture frame, or even clinging like a gecko to the ceiling. 

“Well, I don’t know,” he said finally. “I just feel restless. My mind keeps wandering, thinking about all these things.” 

“What things?” 

Philip’s head stopped moving and he looked intently at Father Zach. 

“What do you mean, ‘What things?’  Just stuff.” 

“Like what?” 

This was the part of spiritual direction that Father Zach enjoyed most: relentless questioning of the apparently obvious. It was like fishing, casting again and again to the same spot. 

“Like what?” muttered Philip. “Oh, I don’t know. All the things I have to do. The pain in my back. The bird out the window. Just ordinary stuff.” 

“Ordinary,” echoed the priest. 

“Yes, ordinary.” 

“And what’s wrong with that?” 

For a moment Philip stared incredulously. “What’s wrong with that?” he fairly shouted. “It’s not prayer! It’s got nothing to do with prayer.” 

“Are you sure?” 

After a significant pause, the priest went on, “Do you really believe, Philip, that God isn’t interested in your to-do list, in your sore back, or in that bird out the window? What makes you think the Lord of Creation has no interest in everyday life? In your everyday life?” 

An excerpt from Same Old, Same New: The Consolation of the Ordinary by Mike Mason.

Photo: “Savannah Sparrow” by Karen Mason

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