By Monica Romig Green
I tried to read, but he just kept falling asleep too quickly! You see, for most of our marriage, my husband has read to me every night before we go to sleep. We used to take turns reading, but now he is on permanent reading duty, and I get to listen to his sonorous baritone before my head hits the pillow. Usually, he’s sharing the musings of some comedy writer. But currently, he’s reading to me from Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship by Fr. Greg Boyle.
If you are unfamiliar with Fr. Boyle, he is Jesuit priest and the founder and director of Homeboy Industries, the largest and most successful gang-intervention and rehabilitation program in the world. I’ve heard Fr. Boyle speak before in interviews, and his gentle, winsome tone comes through in his writing, as does his important message of boundless compassion, universal kinship, and extravagant tenderness for all. And, what makes his writings and speaking so compelling is not just his important message, it’s also the form he uses to deliver it: story. Or I should more appropriately say, story after story after story. Because Fr. Boyle has been working in and loving his community for many years, he’s collected hundreds, if not thousands, of real-life anecdotes, tales, and parables. These not only support his message; in many ways, they communicate his message better than any statements he makes. His stories are amusing and joyful, tragic and sorrowful. Through them, he paints a picture of how challenging life can be for the clients of Homeboy Industries, but also of how the Divine intervenes and transforms in practical, surprising, and moving ways.
Each night, before I drift off to sleep, I hear six or seven short stories from Fr. Boyle, and I am troubled and challenged as well as delighted and uplifted. His book is probably going to become my bedtime favorite because I am a “God-story junkie.” There is almost nothing I enjoy more than witnessing spiritual journey stories. It must be one of the reasons I became a spiritual director, or perhaps becoming a spiritual director has only heightened my desire and enjoyment in hearing again and again in how the transcendent breaks through to touch our lives.
I’m really looking forward to talking more about Story in Spiritual Direction at the workshop this Saturday. If you aren’t one already, perhaps I can help you become a “God-story junkie,” too. And if you already are like me, I hope that together, we can sharpen our story-listening and collaborative storytelling skills together. Maybe we’ll end up with a great story to tell!