The spiritual practice of nurturing others' souls, and our own as well, is part and parcel of shawl-knitting ministry, a worldwide ecumenical movement of small groups of women who create shawls for those who need them most. Think of a handful of women in a group knitting together. A prayer has stitched them together in common purpose and what they are creating out of their time and talent and love is something that will nurture someone else and fill them with joy. This group is bringing to fresh life the ancient Celtic ideal of weaving a simple but satisfying practice into the mystery of God. Those who receive these shawls find themselves swaddled in beauty, peace, and pleasure. They know in their hearts that others have given something precious to them that is filled with healing Divine energy and purpose.

Susan S. Jorgensen has been a spiritual director in private practice since 1989 and leads workshops and retreats across the country. She is the founding editor of Presence: The Journal of Spiritual Directors and the author of Rekindling the Passion: Liturgical Renewal in Your Community and As We Celebrate: Letters to God on Life and Liturgy. Susan S. Izard is an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ, serving as pastor of spiritual life in a parish in Hartford, Connecticut. Knitting into the Mystery contains chapters on a history of shawl-knitting ministry, ideas on selecting yarn, knitting alone or with others, keeping a journal, giving away a shawl, and receiving and wearing a shawl.

This is an awe-inspiring book about a very meaningful spiritual practice. We were especially moved by the group of prayers at the end. Here is a "Prayer of Blessing" by Cathleen Murtha:

"A blessing to my mind (pause for a moment) to be free to enter this time of contemplative activity . . .
A blessing to my hands (pause for a moment) to be the source of creating something of beauty and love . . .
A blessing to my soul (pause for a moment) to be open to the promptings of prayer and reflection . . .
A blessing to my yarn (pause for a moment) to be shaped into patterns of love and caring . . .
A blessing to my needles (pause for a moment) to be the holders of stitches as they become a whole garment . . .
A blessing to my knitting (pause for a moment) to be a work of heart and hands, body and spirit . . .
A blessing on the one who passed this ancient art to me . . .
A blessing on the one who will receive the fruit of my prayer and my knitting . . .
May this shawl be welcomed in the spirit in which it was knit . . .
May we become one with the One who knitted each of us in our mother's womb.
We join our blessing, our prayer, and our knitting with women and men all over the earth in this common effort to bring healing and wholeness, comfort and celebration.
Amen."

In a time when spiritual practices are expanding in so many fascinating and special ways, this is an essential volume for church libraries. For as the authors of Knitting into the Mystery put it, our hands are God's hands.