This reading group guide forThe Source of Miraclesincludes an introduction, discussion questions, and a Q&A with author Kathleen McGowan. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
The real secret to creating and sustaining an abundant, joyous, and fulfilled life has been hiding in plain sight -- in the power of the prayer that unites two billion Christians worldwide, the prayer that each one of them knows by heart.
True happiness and success can't just be wished for. The real secret to fulfillment lies in using the Lord's Prayer as part of an ongoing spiritual practice that leads to real and lasting change in the soul -- change that will manifest itself in earthly, tangible ways. Each chapter in The Source of Miracles is a guide to one of seven steps in that process, corresponding to a primary teaching of the prayer: faith, surrender, service, abundance, forgiveness, obstacles, and love.
Questions for Discussion
1. How do you make use of the Lord’s Prayer in your daily life? When did you first learn the words to the Lord’s Prayer and who taught you? Why does Kathleen McGowan argue that you do not need to be a practicing Christian to benefit from reciting the Lord’s Prayer, and to what extent do you agree or disagree?
2. How does the author’s description of her spiritual revelation at Chartres Cathedral compare to moments you’ve had when you’ve felt closest to God? How do you account for the divine energy that seems to animate certain physical spaces? To what extent can you visualize Chartres Cathedral as you move through the process of prayer described in The Source of Miracles? How does the author’s connection of the rose labyrinth at the center of the cathedral and the verses of the Lord’s Prayer resonate for you?
3. Kathleen McGowan writes: “Prayer is a way for us to get closer to God, to celebrate God’s presence in our lives….When it is a regular practice, your prayer requests will be that much more powerful...” (p 52). How would you characterize your own use of prayer? To what extent does The Source of Miracles challenge you to rethink how prayer operates in your life? How can committed, regular prayer connect you to God’s love?
4. How do you identify with Kathleen McGowan’s concept of total surrender to God? How does her dream about Jesus and the White Sack of Sorrows (p 92) enable you to understand how to release yourself from some of the worries that trouble you? Have you ever had a dream about God that spoke to you in some meaningful way? What was it, and how did you respond to it?
5. “Every good deed neutralizes a bad one. Every act of service eliminates an act of oppression. Every prayer for peace eradicates an impulse of war,” (p 102). In your life, how do you work to introduce good into the world? What are some of the ways that you feel called to contribute to the goodness of God’s kingdom? To what extent do you agree with the author that performing good deeds is a kind of “spiritual insurance policy,” (page 103)? To what extent do good deeds and faith work together in your spiritual development?
6. How often do you praise God for the blessings that have been bestowed upon you? If you were to thank God for the abundance in your life, where would you start, and why? When you don’t receive what you’ve been petitioning God for—good health, a relationship, a new job—how do you respond in terms of your faith? Have you ever confronted the fact that your desires may not be part of God’s divine plan for you life? If so, how would you describe the outcome of that conflict?
7. What does the story of Amy Biehl and her parents’ response to her murder during the Truth and Reforms Commissions in South Africa reveal to you about human and divine natures of forgiveness (p 140)? How do you experience forgiveness in your everyday life? How frequently do you pray for those who have hurt you in some way? Why might doing so release you to greater possibilities for joy in your own life?
8. How do the seven deadly sins that the author identifies (ego, anger, envy, complacency, indulgence, greed, and lust) stand in opposition to God’s love? How has one or more of these seven sins been an obstacle in your life? How did you cope with it and what enabled you to work through it?
9. “The more blessed you have been by God, the more you need to care about those who are less fortunate than you,” (p 171). In what regards do you feel called to share your blessings with others who are not as blessed? How have people shared their blessings with you when you’ve experienced difficult times? What are some other ways that you actively avoid spiritual complacency? Can you think of examples from Christ’s life and teachings that support this behavior?
A Conversation with Kathleen McGowan
You describe the Lord’s Prayer as “the formula for manifesting miracles…on a regular basis.” How did you arrive at this understanding of the Lord’s Prayer?
I came to this understanding of the Lord’ Prayer the only way one really can – through regular use of it as a practice! I found that the more I committed myself to working through the challenges of my life while using this prayer, the faster the obstacles were removed from my life. I believe firmly that Jesus gave us many valuable tools to reach God while improving ourselves and our communities, but the Lord’s Prayer is primary of these. It is perfect. It is flawless. It is powerful. And when life gets busy and I forget to use it regularly, I see the difference in my life. The miracle of it is in its simplicity of use. Anyone can use it at anytime, and instantly feel better about themselves and more connected to the Divine.
Can you describe the experience of writing about the incredibly personal story of Shane’s birth and near-death and some of the religious visions you have had in your life?
I cry every time I write about Shane or even speak about the miracles that brought him here and kept him here. There are so many different emotions to work through as a result of what he has taught me, but all of them come through love: maternal love for my beautiful child, love for the friends and family who sustained me during those tough times, love for the doctors and nurses who are so devoted in their daily lives to service, and of course the often over-whelming, awe-inspiring love of God and the miracles that are possible through that love.
It is always risky in these jaded times to write about visions, but mine have been so powerful that I simply cannot stay silent about them. I feel as if I was given the visions for a reason, and that reason is to share them with the world in a way that I hope will open more people up to their own personal experiences of the Divine: Divine Mind, Divine Will, Divine Love, and how we are all a part of that.
For readers who will never have an opportunity to visit Chartres Cathedral in person, can you recommend any books or works of art that will give them a sense of its enormity and beauty?
I will be creating an aspect of my website which is a celebration of Chartres through photography and experiences there, so they should definitely check out www.KathleenMcGowan.com. There are some lovely websites now which have great images of Chartres, which are a nice option as there are few books available in the USA which really do it justice. I think the best and most thorough can be found here: http://vrcoll.fa.pitt.edu/medart/image/France/Chartres/Chartres-Cathedral/chartres-main.html
This website allows you to search through the sculptures and the stained glass individually. I have spent many hours on this site, as it truly is the next best thing to being there!
How did you come to pair the text of the Lord’s Prayer with the design of the rose at the center of the Chartres Cathedral?
As I was researching Mary Magdalene for my first book, The Expected One, I became deeply immersed in the “underground” spiritual cultures that exist throughout France. On this continuing journey, I have met a number of extraordinary teachers, one of whom introduced me to this particular practice. It was thrilling for me, as I have long wondered exactly what that rose in the center of the labyrinth was for, and none of the recognized labyrinth “experts” seemed to have any definitive idea. It was one of the great, lost medieval mysteries. Until now! I am thrilled to bring these teachings back to the world and share them in the hopes that others will find them as miraculous and transformational as I have.
How would you characterize your own faith journey?
My own faith journey has been rocky, difficult, beautiful and miraculous – which I think is what everyone’s faith journey is! The nature of faith is that we have to endure trials – which I believe are largely self-imposed – in order to test our own beliefs about God and our own connection to all that is Divine, on earth and in heaven. It doesn’t have to be hard, but I think we often make it so. I wrote this book because I hope it will help others to find this path a little easier, to learn from my mistakes so they won’t have to make them. God doesn’t want us to suffer! He doesn’t want us to experience pain in this process, in the same way that no loving parent wants to see their child hurt – and yet also realizes that sometimes it is the only way the child will learn…
Most of all, I would characterize my own faith journey as constant and ever-lasting. There isn’t a day of my life where it isn’t tested or pushed in some way. But at the same time, there also isn’t a day of my life when I don’t witness something totally miraculous! If we didn’t have darkness, the light wouldn’t seem nearly as bright to us once it shines…
What are some of the rituals, practices and techniques that you incorporate into your everyday life as a devout Christian?
I’m big on prayer, and as I say in the book I use several prayers on a regular basis. Obviously, the Lord’s Prayer is key in my daily life, as are prayers authored by Saint Francis and Saint Teresa, which I reprint in the book. I use the “mantras” which I describe in the book as well, when times are tough. For example, “God is all good all the time” is my reminder when things are tough, and “People are doing the best they can with what they have” is the phrase I rely on when I am annoyed with some aspect of human nature.
You say that readers do not need to be practicing Christians to use the process you set out in The Source of Miracles. How will readers who are unaccustomed to praying daily find your book helpful?
My book is written in a very conversational tone, and formatted in an easy to use way. I wanted it to feel like you were sitting at my kitchen table with me. I want to be your sister on the path, not a preacher or a guru, so I wrote it the way that I teach it to my friends. And many of the people I have taught it to are not Christians. Jesus may have authored the prayer and taught it, but the prayer is not about Jesus. It is about understanding your relationship to God and your fellow humans, and that is an idea which is available to almost everyone.
This book breaks what is already a very short and easily understandable prayer into six even smaller pieces! So in essence, all the reader has to do is look at a sentence or two a day in order to learn it. The practices are simple and profoundly effective, so those who use it will see and feel results quickly. I also tell “non-religious” friends not to get too hung up on the word prayer. It is really about being able to ask yourself questions about your life, your desires for the future, your behavior patterns, and your relationship to the Divine, and having the willingness to explore how all of those things can and must work together. The prayer is a tool that gets us there easily and effectively.
One of the expressions you return to in this book is “People are doing the best they can with what they have.” How does this philosophy color your approach to life?
As I said above, this is a phrase I find myself using every day. I think the biggest challenge we all have in the 21st century is tolerance. We need to be tolerant of others, their differences in beliefs, their challenging behaviors. We need to try to remember that everyone is dealing with a lot in their lives right now. Stresses abound, and people are reacting to those stresses. We need to cut each other some slack and try to understand that the person who cuts you off on the highway or is rude to you in the supermarket may just be having a really bad day. It relates beautifully to the old Native America adage I learned as a child in California that “Great Spirit reminds us not to judge a man until we have walked a mile in his moccasins.” This phrase, “People are doing the best they can with what they have” is a quick reminder that all humans are complicated, sensitive beings who are trying to get by to the best of their ability.
Why does the Gospel of Matthew speak to you more profoundly and personally than the other gospels?
There is a purity to Matthew that I relate to above the others. It contains all of the grand elements of Jesus’ teachings, and presents them in a way that I just find absolutely perfect. It contains the Sermon on the Mount and the first introduction of the Lord’s Prayer – and I find Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes to be most beautiful.
It also contains for me what is for me the most perfect teaching of any gospel, found in Matthew 22: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two.”
Although the similarities between the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Matthew are often cited, I find that Matthew has more love in it, it is more gentle. Some of the harshness of mark has been removed. Similarly, the elements in Matthew and Luke that overlap just resonate with me more when I read the version in Matthew.
In what ways has describing your own intimate relationship with God in The Source of Miracles changed that relationship?
My relationship with God is ever evolving as I learn more and more each day through what the Divine has to teach me. Most of all, I learn each day from the people I encounter through my life and my work. I believe that there is divinity in everyone, and I equally believe that I can learn about God via my interactions with people just as profoundly as I can through my direct experience.
I try to live my life as a constant prayer. I’m not always successful, as I am as flawed and human as everyone else, but it is a beautiful goal to have. And I find that when I stay on that path, God is more available to me, and closer than I ever imagined.