Pastor Pat Bailey: View from the Pulpit

Pastor Pat Bailey in front his church

Pastor Pat Bailey: View from the Pulpit

Pastor Pat Bailey in front his church

Pastor Pat Bailey

Dr. Pat Bailey of Telluride’s Christ Presbyterian Church, is a native of Atlanta, Georgia. He was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in 1987. For 16 years, Pat served as a chaplain in the U.S. Army. He is also an Iraq War veteran. Pastor Pat holds several degrees: a Master of Divinity from Columbia Seminary, a Master of Theology in comparative religion from Emory University, and (recently) a Doctor of Ministry from San Francisco Theological Seminary. His primary professional interests are interfaith spirituality, evolutionary consciousness, nature spirituality – and accompanying others in spiritual community. To that end, Pastor Pat has been blogging on Telluride Inside… and Out for years. His new series, “View from the Pulpit,” continues.

This Sunday at Christ Church I will complete the sermon series I have been doing around the topic of our shadows, the hidden aspects of our personalities that include both our unloved negative propensities and our unlived positive potentialities. I will give a recitation of St. Anthony’s Gift, a medieval, mythological folktale as an illustration of how pervasive shadow language and imagery is in the history of cultural expression.

St. Anthony descends deep into the earth and into hell itself in order to acquire fire for the people who were suffering on the cold surface. In his encounters with the demons who dwell in hell, he first tries to force his will upon them. He soon learns, though, that more subtle means are necessary to fulfill his mission. The conversation between the saint and the demons is reminiscent of the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other  we have all seen in cartoon depictions, a playful repartee of good and evil.

Before becoming a saint, Anthony was a swineherd, and still there was a certain pig who accompanied him everywhere and refused to leave him. In hell, the pig goes wild and disrupts all of hell’s strict order, which actually serves to fulfill Anthony’s cause. While the demons cannot catch or drive out the pig, Anthony, with a light tap of his staff and the admonition, “Be still little one,” is able to calm and quiet the pig. He is, after all, his friend.

Shadow work involves integrating and befriending our shadows rather than casting them out or defeating or interning them. It can be hard work bringing to the light what our fearful egos would prefer remain hidden. Yet, this is the work of wholeness, ours and all the rest. It is, therefore, not the work of willpower, but of assent, surrender, and trust. So, it is never our work alone, but the entire cosmos joins us in our journey toward wholeness.

At the conclusion of the story, St. Anthony ascends with fire concealed in his shepherd’s staff. Waving it above his head in the night sky, the sparks are spread to bless the people far and wide.


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