Recently, I had the pleasure to hear Rowan Williams, the former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, speak on “Theology as a Way of Life: the Frontiers of Theology and Prayer.” He talked aboutseeking greater integrity between our experience with God and our experience with life.
For many, our experience of God occurs within what has become known as a “thin place” or a “thin space.” It is understood as a place where the boundary between heaven and earth is especially thin. It’s a place where we can sense the divine more readily.”
At our very best, we attempt to help invite young people (non-manipulatively, of course) into thin spaces. It comes out in lots of our expressions. Somehow, an invitation prayer often becomes “Let us remember that we are in the presence of the Lord,” replacing the Sign of the Cross (which I get its intention but not sure that I prefer it.) A resounding quiet and peace of Eucharistic Adoration allows us the opportunity to consider and answer “What about today? What are you seeking? What is God whispering to you?” A time and place away moves one to a time and place closer, more intimate, with the Lord.
It seems that Jesus had a preferential option to also get away from the crowds and engage in to the thin spaces of the desert or cave or even a garden. Those thin spaces carried through into the thick space of his mission of teaching and healing. It was because of the intimacy with the Father that the Son of Man could do what he does.
His disciples had some experiences of thin space, too. The Transfiguration on the mountaintop was a place where they wanted to remain. These were the same folks sent “two by two” and then to “go and make disciples of all the nations.”
Thin spaces are meant to lead towards thickness. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is rich example of the thickness of thought that has ensued from thin places. The heroic life of service of Blessed Theresa of Calcutta is another rich example of the thickness of activity that has ensued from thin spaces, even ones darkened with doubt. A flash of deep prayer and intimacy with the Lord should lead to a desire to maintain that beyond the moment.
At our very best, we attempt to help invite young people (non-manipulatively, of course) into thin spaces. BUT, if we are truly at our best, we further attempt to invite young people into the thick lifestyle of discipleship as well.