Anam Cara

“In the Celtic tradition, there is a beautiful understanding of love and friendship. One of the fascinating ideas here is the idea of soul love; the old Gaelic term for this is anam cara. Anam is the Gaelic word for soul and cara is the word for friend. So anam cara in the Celtic world was the soul friend. In the early Celtic Church, a person who acted as teacher, companion or spiritual guide was called an anam cara. Anam cara was originally someone to whom you confessed, revealing the hidden intimacies of your life. With the anam cara, you could share your innermost self, your mind and your heart.”

From “Anam Cara” by John O’Donohue

In everyone’s life there is a deep-seated need and yearning for an anam cara, a soul friend. In this relationship, you are understood and accepted for who you are without mask or pretension. You can be as you really are and, under the friendship and guidance of your anam cara, that true self can be freed to grow and flourish.

The “soul”, in ancient Celtic as in Biblical thinking, refers to the whole personality - body, mind and spirit -  and in our quest for eternal truth and enlightenment, these three are inseparable. It is the privileged task of the anam cara to travel alongside others through their life’s journey, encouraging them to develop their self-awareness and their understanding of and relationship with God.

Who are we?

We are an ecumenical group of Christians from different backgrounds and traditions who meet monthly at Holland House, the Retreat Centre owned by the Anglican Diocese of Worcester. It is a closed group which fosters a sense of belonging, sharing and commitment to one another, strengthened by the experience of working together for two years on a spiritual direction training course run by the diocese.

We offer one another “soul hospitality” through shared times of prayer, reflection, non-judgmental listening and friendship. A significant part of our time together is devoted to providing supervision and support for each other in our work as “soul friends” to those who come to us for spiritual direction or guidance.

Visiting speakers are also invited regularly to come and share their experience, knowledge and wisdom with us and to be a source of inspiration and encouragement to us in our own spiritual quest. An openness to God and to one another, a desire for spiritual growth and change and a willingness to keep seeking to live with the mystery and questions of life are at the heart of our existence.

What is Spiritual Direction?

Spiritual direction has been an important part of Christian ministry, undertaken by both the clergy and lay people for centuries. Recently it has undergone a resurgence, as people seek for a spiritual dimension in our increasingly secular and materialistic world. Various terms have been used to describe the practice, including spiritual companion, prayer guide, mentor and soul friend.

Indeed, these definitions are perhaps more appropriate, since the role is not seen as authoritarian or controlling, but rather is about walking alongside others on their journey as they seek God in the context of their daily lives and experiences. It is not the task of the spiritual director to provide solutions and answers to life’s problems, but to listen attentively and encourage others in developing their relationship with God and discerning His will for them.

Who is this for?

Quite literally, for everyone! There is undoubtedly a quest for spirituality in today’s increasingly secular and materialistic society. Many people are uncertain of what is missing in their lives, but desperate to find something worthwhile to fill that gap. For some, life seems to be a dead end with nothing beyond themselves to inspire or uphold them. Others are caught up in the mere struggle for survival with little time for reflection on the mystery of life. Many are disillusioned or assailed by doubts and fears.

But if we can see life as a journey, a quest for an eternal truth and reality beyond ourselves, then the result can be transformational. In order to find and to remain true to a path that leads us towards personal “wholeness”, fulfilment and the discovery of God’s will for us, we need  someone to accompany us who has experience of this journey. This special “soul friend” is there to support and encourage us when the going is tough and to celebrate life’s joys with us.

If you have many doubts and questions about faith; if you are seeking to deepen your experience of God; if your prayer life seems empty and arid; if you long to explore and  express your spirituality – perhaps we can help.

What do we offer?

The strength of our group - Anam Cara - lies in both its coherence and diversity. As individuals, we bring years of collective experience to our work and can offer a wide variety of approaches to spiritual direction, but always rooted firmly in our common faith in one God and one Lord Jesus Christ. In the art of  contemplative listening which is at the heart of our calling, we recognise that the Holy Spirit is the true “director” or “guide” in the discernment of God’s will.

We seek to listen and learn from each other through sharing our wisdom and experience and helping each other to discern the ways that will lead to self-knowledge, light and eternal truth. Personal prayer, reflection and contemplation are the mainstay of our daily lives and the core foundation out of which all else flows. We have the confidence and strength to offer others spiritual support and guidance because first and foremost we are held and supported by one another and by our faith.

Our approach to those we work with is non-judgmental and empowering. We respect the dignity and beliefs of each individual and always maintain appropriate boundaries of confidentiality and good time-keeping. Our aim is to create a “safe” sacred space of mutual trust where those we meet with find encouragement and acceptance.

We are able to offer spiritual support and guidance to both individuals and groups and are willing to respond flexibly and creatively to meet specific requests and needs.

We provide:

  • one to one sessions for those seeking to explore and develop their spirituality and faith
  • individual support to those undergoing difficult transitions and critical changes in their lives
  • individual support and encouragement to those involved in the process of vocational discernment

By arrangement, we may also be able to offer group sessions, e.g. quiet days; guided meditation; workshops on various aspects of spirituality and prayer. We are aware that there are many creative ways of exploring and expressing our relationship with God.

Honouring the influence of the creative arts, the respect for silence and contemplation, together with listening to the promptings of the heart are central to the ethos of Anam Cara. We would like to share with others some of the “treasures” we have found along the way by giving them the “tools” which will enable them to draw closer to God.

For Friendship

May you be blessed with good friends,
And learn to be a good friend to yourself,
Journeying to that place in your soul where
There is love, warmth and feeling.
May this change you.

May it transfigure what is negative, distant
Or cold within your heart.

May you be brought in to real passion, kindness
And belonging.

May you treasure your friends.
May you be good to them, be there for them
And receiving all the challenges, truth and light you need.

May you never be isolated but know the embrace
Of your Anam Cara.

John O’Donohue

If you would like to learn more about the work of Anam Cara, please contact us