The Holy Spirit as a Honking Goose

The other day Pope Francis referred in a homily to the way the Spirit sometimes moves us by annoying us. This is often my experience. Today in spiritual direction I shared a bit about my experience of the Spirit as a honking goose. Then I remembered that I wrote about this in the early days of my blog when I was a candidate. So here is my post from New Year's Eve 2005, courtesy of the way back machine that is this blog. Enjoy!

During my quiet reflection time on Christmas Eve, I spent some time with a reflection on the spirituality of CSJP founder Margaret Anna Cusack by Fr. Terry Moran. Margaret Anna was born in Ireland and was deeply nourished by Celtic spirituality. This tidbit in Fr. Moran’s reflection particularly struck me:

“The Celtic symbol for the Holy Spirit is not the gentle breeze, the mild dove but the wild goose! Is that not how God often is made known in our lives, honking and annoying us into fuller life, out of our comfort zones and into risk and relationship?”

I was immediately reminded of a solitary walk I took several years ago, right before my return to the church. It was an unsettled time in my life, and I was struggling to find my way. I do not recall what I was thinking about or contemplating that day, but I vividly remember my encounter with the goose. I was at a City park with beautiful rhododendrons and azaleas, windy paths, quiet benches, and an assortment of water fowl. There was a lake and a beautiful wooden footbridge across it. I started across, got 2/3 of the way, and was confronted by a goose. Honking and charging towards me. Protecting a baby goose no doubt, but determined that I would not make it across. I turned around. But then I noticed that others were making it across the bridge no problem. So I tried again. Got about 3/4 of the way across, and was again confronted by the honking charging goose. I was reminded of the 3 Billy Goats Gruff. I had no intention of tempting the goose a 3rd time. I found another part of the park in which to meander.

I’ve never forgotten that day. I’ve been back to the park since, but have only attempted to cross that particular footbridge when accompanied by friends. Otherwise I stay clear of the bridge of the Billy Goose Gruff.

This New Year’s Eve morning I went to a different park for a morning walk. Lots of good reflection and consolation from God’s wonderful gift of creation. The Pacific Northwest is so beautiful this time of year. Lush and green. On my drive home, however, I remembered my reflection last week and that walk years ago. I found myself driving by the park of the Billy Goose Gruff. And so I parked. And I walked. And I came to the footbridge. Sure enough there were many waterfowl resting and playing in the lake, including an assortment of geese. And at one end of the bridge there was a goose standing guard, observing all that went on. Dare I cross the bridge?

There was not a repeat of the Billy Goose Gruff incident. The goose looked me over, and apparently deemed me no threat. I crossed the bridge, walked around the island, and crossed back with no minor or major incidents.

But by thinking of the goose as a symbol for the Holy Spirit, what does this story tell me? On that Saturday morning many years ago I was not on the right path. I was searching and looking and to be honest ignoring the soft gentle signs. So maybe I needed a loud and honking goose to turn me around and annoy me to finding my way to a fuller life. And now? Risks taken, comfort zones breached, I find myself more at peace and open to where my loving God is calling me. Even if I sometimes find my feathers ruffled.

Interesting to reflect on this last day of the year.

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