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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

An Interview with Barbara Lee

by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. Profiles in Catholicism

Dr. Knight: As a fellow person from New York, I feel a kindred spirit with your direction in this book. Does your early home situation support your work?

Barbara: I grew up in Connecticut, went to school in Massachusetts, worked for a few years in Washington, D.C., and moved to New York in my late twenties.

Dr. Knight: What religious education that you’ve had in the past led you to write such a meaningful book as ?

Barbara: The three books I have written are all an outgrowth of my late call to the ministry of spiritual direction. I trained for this ministry at Creighton Un During the course of my studies (three summers and an internship between the second and third years), I came to realize that my late call meant I should concentrate on the needs of my own age group—thus “ministry to the aging.” I went to University in Omaha, Nebraska, a Jesuit school well known for its Christian Spirituality Program, which trains spiritual directors from all over the world.

Dr. Knight: How did your work as a lawyer clarify your thoughts for this award winning book?

Barbara: Legal writing requires clear reasoning and economy of expression==no circumlocutions or excess adverbs and adjectives. The same can be said of good spiritual writing.

Dr. Knight: What others aspects of life formulated your thoughts for this book?

Barbara: I’ve been blessed with a long life, and with it all kinds of experience. The choice of subjects, and the anecdotes, in Praying with Pain, reflect my own experience and that of people close to me, as well as my extensive reading and study

Dr. Knight: What are the most important aspects of pain that you address in your book?

Barbara: Everyone’s pain is different. Readers have shared with me what moved them the most; some say the chapter on Patience; some refer to Grief, still others to Trauma. The message I would like to communicate to all of them is that we do not suffer alone; as the Scripture passages included in the book demonstrate, people throughout the ages have had similar experiences, and written about them in ways we can relate to

Dr. Knight: Your write with ‘aging’ in mind, what drew you to this developmental level?

Barbara: After a career as a lawyer and judge, and several years as a volunteer English teacher at an immigrant services center, I felt called to become a spiritual director. At first I laughed at the idea: go back to graduate school at age 77? But the Holy Spirit is relentless—and in the course of my studies at Creighton I realized that I was particularly well qualified to minister to older adults; it seemed clear that was the reason for the grace of my late call. So I began to develop the idea of a ministry to the aging.

Dr. Knight: Your book helps those of us who have a traumatic incident to deal with our trauma by concentrating on prayer with the presence of God as the focus, is your investment in this book from the experience of your life?

Barbara: I can’t say I have experienced trauma, but many of the other chapters in this book draw on my own experience.

Dr. Knight: In reading the reflection questions throughout the book, I feel/think that those who read this book will have ample meditation from these reflections, did you write them with a team?

Barbara: No, I had no help from a “team.” Every word in all of my books is my own.

Dr. Knight: What are some of the aspects of ‘aging’ that you want to continue to pursue, that will assist the population that at times has been neglected?

Barbara: I want older adults to be aware that God calls us in different ways at different times in our lives. Retired people and empty nesters still have many ways to grow in the spiritual life and to contribute to the community. My first book, God Isn’t Finished With Me Yet, developed this theme. My second book, Answering God’s Call: a Scripture-Based Journey for Older Adults, presents a series of Scriptural role models for older adults, such as Moses, Lydia, Miriam, Anna, and many others whom God called late in life to do extraordinary things. Praying Through Pain is directed to a broader audience, since pain and suffering can occur at any age, but I expect it to resonate with older adults. In addition, as you note, older adults are often marginalized, in the church as in the world. I would like to increase awareness of the contributions older adults are able to make, and counteract the stereotypes that so often categorize us.

Dr. Knight: What does winning this award mean to you? What do you want your audience to do as a result of reading the book?

Barbara: It’s all grace. The Holy Spirit wants us to use the graces in service to one another.

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