Anam Cara – Soul Friend

Soul Friendship

Relational Discipleship and Spiritual Direction

Anam Cara involves a friendship that psychotherapist William P Ryan describes as ‘compassionate presence’

I was recently given a DVD as a gift, the title ” by Rebecca Friedlander. In it I was struck by the mention of an ‘Anam Cara’ – it was not something I’d heard of before. As I listened to how it was explained I felt something stir in me, this explains what I do! And it’s something that existed in the Celtic Church in Ireland all those years ago. It really has intrigued me so watch this space as I unravel more around it over the coming months. In the meantime here’s what I’ve learned so far…

In Celtic Christianity it is said that in an AnamChara you would find –

a relationship that was more than just spiritual direction, counselling or life coach.  It kind of incorporated all of these things and went deeper.

Soul Friendship, Relational Discipleship and Spiritual Direction an Anam Cara involves a friendship that psychotherapist William P Ryan describes as ‘compassionate presence’

A soul friend is a person who will allow you to tell the whole truth of yourself, and encourage you to seek healing and restoration.  A soul friend also has the fine gift of being able to share in joy, a gift that our highly competitive culture does not call forth.

The late John O’Donoghue, twentieth-century Irish author and poet noted that the Celtic Christians were distinctive in recognizing that friendship is a creative and subversive force.  A soul friend will be a hearth where we may sit in silence and be warmed.  A soul friend will be a place of belonging and rest.  And a soul friend will help kindle the divine fire within the soul.

Like many Celtic saint’s Brigid from Kildare believed that each person needs a soul friend to discover together that God speaks most powerfully in the seemingly mundane details of shared daily life. She is known to have said:

Anyone without a soul friend is like a body without a head –  Saint Brigid of Kildare

Our life experiences can deeply affect us in ways we may never be able to clearly describe. It is the effects of the most challenging experiences on our sense of certitude that often draws us to seek an Anam Cara/Spiritual Director. As we begin to question our values and beliefs, and as we sense the loss of stability around what we thought we knew, we may seek the assistance of someone who can help us navigate the uncharted waters of our life.

“An Anam Cara’s role is definitely not to rush through the process to achieve a specific goal. It is to be with the person in his or her place of trauma, loss, confusion or longing. This is the process of integrating and healing body, mind and spirit that occurs within a time frame we don’t control. Rev. Ellen WolfMuhleck (

“The spiritual director is a midwife of the soul, present and attentive as new life emerges. The spiritual director offers hospitality, in the holy tradition of Abraham entertaining the angels. The spiritual director is a teacher, after the model of Jesus, who was called ‘Teacher’ by those who loved him. But whether we call that trusted person teacher, midwife, or host, the spiritual director is always and above all a holy listener.” — Rev. Margaret Guenther, Holy Listening

As an Anam Cara the goal is to create a safe and sacred space, bring an attitude of peace, conditions of empathy, congruency and unconditional positive regard. Skills of deep and active listening. The Holy Spirit will provide the direction.

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