Catching Center

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

Every week on Fridays at 10:00am, my Study From Afar Program mentor and clay instructor, Sarah Wells Rolland, is on Facebook demonstrating a throwing technique by making a teapot, a pitcher or other clay forms.  It’s a wonderful 30 minutes and I try to catch it live. Otherwise, I watch the saved version.

She has the most wonderful way with clay, great command of the clay and can make it do just about anything. I love watching her throw and talk about technique, the little tips, and small details that capture what it means to “throw with excellence,” in her words. (Here is a link to an 8-minute YouTube video of Sarah making a pot) It’s part of a Vessels of Hope series, but that’s a topic for another blog.

Potter Sarah Wells Roland

There is a particular aspect of throwing clay on the wheel that is brand new to me and it has a great practical connection with spiritual life. Sarah talks about catching center. This means that in the process of centering clay on the wheel, and lifting the clay into a tall cylinder, you continually make sure that the clay remains centered. There is no wobble or swim, the walls are even in their thickness, there are no thin spots or bulges. In shaping the clay and stretching it to its limits, a well-thrown pot remains centered. Sarah can catch the center at the top of the pot or in the middle or anywhere it needs to return to its invisible axis. She coaxes the clay into its natural place of rest while it spins.

So too in the spiritual life, I sometimes need to sharpen the skill of catching center, of being able to return to my own invisible axis, on which my world turns, the interior space where I can sense God’s presence within. A still space amidst the turning world around me. Being centered is a contemplative practice, an awareness of who I am and who I am before God. It might happen purposefully in a time set aside for prayer or reflection. It might happen as I finish making my bed, when I sit down to gather my energy and focus for the day.

Catching center might occur when I look out the office window and watch the trees blow in the wind. It’s a private moment, all it takes is breathing and listening.  And being aware that being centered is an active and engaged way to become internally quiet. Catching center is when my day is over and I come to rest, I return to the quiet with gratitude.


Dear God,

Help me to hear your invitation to catch center, to not miss the moments of the day that invite stillness even as my world spins around me.    Amen.

Posted in Weekly Word

8 responses to “Catching Center

  1. Anne,Did this one ever “ring my bell…or “Center”! But as yet, I need more practice. Thanks for your gift to us.

  2. I love this reflection. Thank you for sharing!! “Catching Center” is a great reminder for me these days.

  3. So grateful, Anne, for your reflection on throwing and shaping the clay keeping it centered on the wheel and then applying it to our spiritual life.
    I relate so well to all you are saying and the examples you gave are great. We don’t always think of them as catching center. Yet, the other day, I saw a goose at my window and I was awe struck. I think she was looking for her partner and for a nesting place. I thanked God for that moment of centering and peace.

  4. I enjoyed this reflection, Anne! Thanks for sharing your “potter’s wisdom”. Great reminders!


  5. Thanks for this post, Sister Anne! I love the visual image God as the potter and us as the clay. The whole explanation of “catching” center on the wheel speaks so well to how a day can spin out of control. I think a picture of a potter working at the wheel would say a great deal more to me now than it did before.

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