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Spiritual Direction: What is it?
Spiritual Direction, also called spiritual companioning or spiritual mentoring, is the process of accompanying a man or woman on his or her spiritual journey in an atmosphere of prayer and trust. Thomas Merton described it as “nothing more than a way of leading us to see and obey the real Director – the Holy Spirit hidden in the depths of our soul.”
Spiritual Directors and authors William A. Barry and William J. Connolly give this definition of Christian Spiritual Direction:
“Spiritual Direction is help given by one Christian to another which enables that person to pay attention to God’s personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with this God, and to live out the consequences of the relationship.”
Very simply, Spiritual Direction is holy listening to a person’s life in the light of faith. The true and only director is God. Trusting in God’s loving presence , the human Director listens without judgement , contemplatively and compassionately to the person’s experiences of God in their lives and invites that person to discover God’s loving presence within and around them. Spiritual directors may ask questions, help clarify or articulate experiences, suggest resources, encourage and sometimes challenge, but primarily they listen for the voice of God in the person’s story.
Spiritual Direction: Where did it come from?
Spiritual Direction is an ancient tradition with in all major religions.
In Christian history, it appears very early. Jesus offers the perfect template for spiritual direction in his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. In the first century, the Desert Fathers, people who sought God in the solitude of the desert, became so renowned for their wisdom and holiness that people came to them for spiritual guidance.
The tradition continued as monasteries and religious orders were formed, and lay people (including kings and queens) sought direction from wise and holy people in religious life. Over the centuries, many lay men and women also have supported the faith journeys of others with spiritual guidance and living example.
In recent times, lay people from many Christian denominations have discerned a call to this ministry, and have sought formal training in spiritual direction.
Spiritual Direction: What it is NOT?
It is not counselling. Spiritual Direction focuses on one’s relationship with God. If issues arise in the course of spiritual direction which requires psychological, medical or financial counselling, the Spiritual Director will refer the person to the appropriate resources. A person may receive Counselling while seeing a Spiritual Director also, but the focus of each is different. The goal of counselling is to resolve a specific problem. Spiritual Direction is more open-ended and focuses on the journey.
It is not advice –giving. The Spiritual Director’s role is to assist, foster and support a person’s journey with God, not to provide answers. By attentively listening to the Holy Spirit, the person will discover the answers within themselves.
It is not only for the “religious”. Many people today are experiencing restlessness and a nameless longing for “something more.” St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless, Lord, until they rest in you.” One goal of Spiritual Direction is to assist a person identify and give voice to the spirit crying within them. You do not have to be a saint to receive spiritual direction.
It is not just a chat between friends. It focuses on the spiritual life of the person seeking direction, not a mutual sharing of spiritual journeys.
Spiritual Direction: What to expect in a session
Your first meeting with a spiritual director is an opportunity to meet the director, to discuss your understanding of spiritual direction and your purpose for seeking it.
If you wish to continue with this director, it is usually recommended that you meet for two or three sessions to ensure compatibility. A good “fit” is essential, and if you are not comfortable with one director, look for another. On-going Spiritual Direction presumes a willingness on the part of the person seeking direction to share their relationship with God most significantly in daily life experience and in the experience of prayer.
Meetings with the Spiritual Director are normally about one hour long and commonly occur monthly, but the schedule will depend on the individual situation. It is important, however, that sessions occur on a regular basis.
You may terminate the sessions at any time, but it is important for both parties to discuss the termination beforehand.
Spiritual Direction: Is it for you?
Yes, if you wish to increase your awareness of God in your life.
Yes, if you wish to enrich and deepen your prayer life.
Yes, if you wish to grow in your relationships: with God, with others, and with your true self.
Yes, if you have a longing for God, but aren’t sure how to meet God.
Yes, if you are struggling in your faith journey.
If you are interested in more information about Spiritual Direction, or wish to find a director, please go to the “Contact” page.
Forms: Downloadable, editable Word files.