Follow that star


“Our genius is…to seek the hidden, single star, over the night horizon, we did not know we were following,” according to the British poet David Whyte, in his book, Consolations. This is the soul’s journey, the unique path only we can follow. And how fascinating that we follow our own star into the unknown.

This star-following is a mysterium tremendum et fascinans, a fearful and fascinating mystery.* Something in the deep of us knows that something outside of us, the star, is also somehow connected to us, speaking to us, calling us forth toward that “night horizon.” Such a journey can be terrifying because we really do not know where we are heading, and yet we are still being pulled forward.

Part of my family’s heritage is the story of how our Pop Carpenter, (grandfather on my mom’s side), felt called to build a bridge over a river in Maryland so that people living in his region didn’t have to drive many miles to get to the other side. Our Pop didn’t know the first thing about building a bridge. But he started following a “star into the unknown.” The bridge he built still stands today, despite the fact that winter ice flows right over the bridge most years. His star was fearful and fascinating and mysterious, and he followed.

My own story includes building a School for Contemplative Living over the past eight years, a kind of portable monastery,  a bridge to the Divine, which I had never seen before and did not know how to build. I mean who builds a school with no building, or a monastery with no walls? And yet, a star beckoned over the night horizon. Without knowing where we were heading, a group of us followed into the unknown.

Our star-following is a fearful and fascinating mystery, and we are still following down an unfolding path toward a horizon we cannot see. But there is nowhere I would rather be than on this journey. For there is a gentle light, silent as a candle in my soul, that is somehow connected to that beckoning star. My genius is not about being smart. Mine is to humbly follow, always admitting: “I do not know the way ahead, but I do see a star.”

During the late night this week I have looked out of our fourth-story windows and seen some of the downtown skyscrapers, like Benson Towers. I have felt a calling to take the training in contemplative practices to some of the executives working in those businesses. I see hospitals and businesses needing us to follow our star right into their midst. How could that happen? Should we start building a bridge to the Divine through teaching contemplative practices there? There is no one asking us to come. Why go there?

Once again this star-following is a mysterium remendum et fascinans. I can’t explain it. And yet, a strong urge is arising to follow that star. Perhaps you have stood in such a place, or are standing there right now. May we find the courage and wisdom of the Holy to enter the fearful and fascinating mystery again. Amen.

(This phrase comes from Rudolph Otto, The Idea of the Holy).


About soulcare4u

I am the author of Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic World, published by Wipf & Stock and available through; and of a blog on, "A Contemplative Path." I serve as the founding spiritual director of The School for Contemplative Living (, adjunct faculty of Loyola University, and as a pastoral counselor and spiritual director in private practice.
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