The Portability of Soul

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM   June 19, 2022

When you’re on the road a lot, you start to look for travel companions that are easy to transport and that take up the least amount of space. I’ve noticed that over the years my laptop has downsized from 10 to a svelte 3 pounds. The stack of books I used to haul around on every trip has now been compressed into the width of my Kindle. (I still feel there’s nothing quite as satisfying as turning the actual pages of a paperback, but expediency sometimes wins out). My bulky CD player has given way to hundreds of songs stored on my iPhone and paired with a Bose speaker that’s both lightweight and compact. I don’t cart around a 12 ounce bottle of shampoo any more since I know I can squeeze out two weeks’ worth of washing from a travel size bottle. And I’ve improved my clothes rolling skills to the point that I can conserve space and avoid wrinkles at the same time.

So yes, there’s something to be said in praise of portability. At the time of this writing, I’m serving as a presenter for a guided retreat at Holy Family Passionist Retreat House in West Hartford, CT. I look around my lovely suite of rooms and note with pride how I’ve successfully packed a week’s worth of clothing, toiletries, and books into a small suitcase. It seems I’ve mastered that level of portability.

But reading Spirituality & Practice’s “Spiritual Practice of the Day,” I sat up and took notice after reading the quote of the day from Richard J. Foster’s Prayers from the Heart. He wrote,“My whole life, in one sense, has been an experiment in how to be a portable sanctuary, learning to practice the presence of God in the midst of the stresses and strains of contemporary life.” 

That image of a portable sanctuary grabbed my soul and made me sit up in attention. A sanctuary is defined as a place of refuge, safety, shelter, an oasis, retreat, or holy place. We tend to think of that type of sanctuary as fixed or stationary, standing in one specific geographic place. But since all our other travel necessities are portable, why not, above all, do what Foster notes: have a portable sanctuary right in the heart of each one of us? Our very own retreat where we can remain grounded in the Holy while open to the unfolding of life with all its twists and turns around us. An oasis where we can return often for refreshment and renewal and perhaps a fresh sense of direction.

And to take it further: why not widen that sanctuary, stretch the boundaries of that sanctuary, so that it becomes a safe place where others can unburden themselves of worries or concerns? Why not be a refuge where long carried shame or entire decades of woundedness can be unpacked, sorted, and placed in the light of day without fear of judgment or disapproval? Why not become a shelter from the storms of life, offering a haven that is unfailingly gracious and restful and full of hope and deep listening?

Marissa Grootes, Unsplash

I’ll be packing for my trip back home soon and when I arrive there, I’ll be replenishing my supplies for my next bit of traveling to offer another retreat experience. This time, though, I’ll have a deepened consciousness of what I carry within my heart as well as within my luggage. Safe and happy trails to all of us!

Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Open the sanctuary of your heart.
Invite into that space whoever is most in need of rest and renewal and welcome.
Welcome them and hold them with love.
Ask the Holy One to continue to throw the doors of your heart wide open.

Featured Image:   Mantas Hesthaven, Unsplash

Happy Father’s Day to all those who give their lives over as parents, guardians, mentors in caring for those entrusted to their care. May you be blessed!

Thank you for your prayers for all the Sisters who were part of the retreat at Holy Family Passionist Retreat House this past week. Special thanks to Father David Cinquegrani and staff for hosting us in such a peaceful, beautiful, and welcoming place.

Please now hold in your prayer my IHM congregation as we prepare to install our newly elected leadership team on Sunday, June 26.

Please remember in your prayer my travel and the next guided retreat I’m leading, July 2-10, for the Sisters of Divine Providence in Cincinnati, OH/Melbourne, KY. Thank you.

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5 thoughts on “The Portability of Soul”

  1. Chris, This is truly perfect for me at this time. I am wanting that traveling sanctuary and having a very difficult time finding it. Your words are truly a gift. Thank you and continued prayers. Sr. Alphonsa

  2. I definitely need to learn to travel more lightly!! Thanks for the sharing of the idea of knowing that we carry the space needed to travel each day right withun us.

  3. Hi Chris,
    I’m in my room going through papers etc. that I think I won’t need in the future and there’s your post saying almost the same thing. Thanks for sharing, as usual. I always love your thoughts although I may not say so. Yes, cleaning out or down-sizing is always good for the soul and…the bod.
    God bless you Chris and hope to see you soon. Love, Regina

  4. Beautiful Chris.
    Thank you again!
    God’s Blessings as you Heal Hearts and Souls.

    Barbara G

  5. Thank you Sr Chris, I look forward to reading your reflections. Portable sanctuary…something to strive for… prayers for you and your community

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