Monday, October 31, 2011

Spiritual Direction

I once thought that only saints and religious had spiritual directors.  Reading about some of the saints, I had noticed mentions of the spiritual director's advice or guidance in their lives.  It was not something that applied to me in my ordinary life, or so I thought. In truth, I am not sure I wanted to go that deeply with someone into my faith life.  I was just fine, thank you very much, and I didn't need anyone telling me to pray a certain way or to change the way I did things in my life.  That was between me and Jesus, or so I thought.

Then one day something I call an alligator arrived in my life and this alligator was all wrapped up in the church and my family and my life.  It doesn't really matter what the alligator was, it became a spiritual crisis for me.  I was confused and angry and I could see no clear path.  The alligator seemed to be something that was derailing me from the clear path to Heaven that I was trying to follow in my life.  I had a friend or two who went to someone for spiritual direction and I had talked to them about direction.  Someone to talk through the alligator situation with was what I needed. Perhaps what I needed was spiritual direction.

Most diocese, I am told, have lists of spiritual directors.  All you have to do is ask.  Priests also serve as directors and will often serve people beyond their own parishioners.  As a woman, I decided that I really wanted to talk to a woman and I was able to find one whom I talk to monthly.  I pay her what I can.  This is not something covered by insurance. An advantage to having a priest as director is that he can hear your confession and adminster the sacrament as part of the direction session.

I suppose every director is different.  In my direction we discuss what is going on in my prayer life and my life.  Sometimes she will recommend a book or a particular way to pray.  This month she has suggested that I meditate on one of the Stations of the Cross.  She prays over me.  We meet for about an hour. Once we went to Mass together.  I have done a lot of crying in her office and laughing.  I often say, she makes me cry, but the truth is, I make myself cry as the hurts and things that I have held inside come spilling out.  Christ is there with us in Spiritual Direction.

Spiritual Direction, I heard at a conference, is a growing need within the Church.  More and more people want and need spiritual directors.  There are several programs to train more directors out there. I don't know if I would agree that everyone needs a director, but if you feel like you might, I would encourage you to seek a director out.  It is one more help to get you out of the way of the alligators who are trying to derail you on the path to Heaven. Are not we all trying to become saints?

16 comments:

  1. I personally like to have a priest as a spiritual director because their advice is always the best advice I hear. Maybe because of their vocation, graces and experience and loads of good education? At any rate, I've asked priests for to be my spiritual director and they never have the time- which is totally understandable given the amount of work they have to do. To substitute, I almost always bring up my concerns in confession or better yet, make an appointment for a confession and/or direction. They seem to go for that rather than a regular date for direction.

    My husband did need some spiritual direction a few years back when we lived in Colorado and recieved it from a conservative Jesuit monestary close by. The priest was wonderful and help him through his struggle and provided him with confession and wondeful advice for each meeting.

    I have to disagree with the saints who say that everyone needs a spiritual director. There are just not enough priests and/or other religious available. Confession and appointments for specific concerns are the graces we have in our day in age and I believe these are sufficient. In a perfect world, we would each have a priest for spiritual direction once a month, but I think God provides where there is a lack. I find direction in spiritual readings, blogs and publications that are abundant now where they were once scarce centuries ago.

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  2. Mary, I am thisclose to getting a spiritual director. Father said he would take me on but I still haven't heard from him. Until then, I rely on another spiritual director...St. Padre Pio. I asked him a while back to take me on as his spiritual daughter. I believe Rosalind Moss who is now the superior of a new religious order in Tulsa has St. Francis de Sales as hers. I have more to say but maybe I will contact you privately.

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  3. Mary, disregard the last sentence. For a moment I thought it was Mary333 who posted :-)

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  4. I am a spiritual director. I am certified through two different programs to be a spiritual director, but I was doing spiritual direction even before certification, under the supervision of my own director.
    The Holy Spirit is the REAL spiritual director and gives the gift of this ministry to whomever God wills. Does not have to be a priest. In fact, not all priests are called to be spiritual directors.
    I have discovered in my own life as well as in my ministry, that the Holy Spirit always leads the person to the right spiritual director for him or her. We just need to listen and pay attention.
    I think we all need spiritual direction but God provides spiritual direction in many different ways. Through books and homilies and friends and spiritual directors and spiritual companions.
    By the way I do not charge. It is my ministry.
    Great post, thanks!

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  5. The best site on the web is www.RCSpiritualDirection.com - the RC stands for Roman Catholic. Interesting comments. Here's what the Pope said about it at the Teresianum this year: "As she has never failed to do, again today the Church continues to recommend the practice of spiritual direction, not only to all those who wish to follow the Lord up close, but to every Christian who wishes to live responsibly his baptism, that is, the new life in Christ. Everyone, in fact, and in a particular way all those who have received the divine call to a closer following, needs to be supported personally by a sure guide in doctrine and expert in the things of God."

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  6. I'll just put in my two cents worth here.. I agree with Colleen that the real spiritual director is the Holy Spirit. I went through a terrible trial in my marriage two years ago. I tried going to someone to pray for me.. she recommended a counsellor. I only attended one session with him and when we tried to see him for two occasions after that somehow it didn't work out, he cancelled on us or we just couldn't make it.

    I realised afterwards that God did not want me to go to him but come directly to Him. I sat in front of the Blessed Sacrament day after day for months, absorbing His teaching and consolation... this led to daily holy hours for much of the past two years. As Colleen said, He led me to the places I could find help, via articles and even websites.. He eventually led me to a couple of blogs and that is how I became a blogger. He transformed my heart and that of my husband and there is new growth everyday.

    Sometimes I still wonder if we should have seen a counsellor, but whenever I go before Him I know that I did what He wanted me to do. This may not be right for everyone and, certainly, we do have a priest we talk to occasionally when we are perturbed about something, or need direction, but ultimately I believe that our relationship with God, our communion with Him is what is vitally important and, of course, staying true to the doctrines and the Magisterium of our Church. I agree that there are times it is necessary to seek counsel, but I have seen this abused by someone close to me.. she seldom prays about anything for herself and goes with her every problem to someone else.

    Thank you for a very thought-provoking post. God bless!

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  7. Spiritual direction is not the same thing as counseling and should not be used as such. The directee meets with the director on a regular basis, usually once a month. The directee talks about what is on his or her mind and where he or she might see God's presence in his/her life. The director listens to the directee and also to the Holy Spirit and helps the directee see where God is acting in directee's life. We often need someone who is objective to see what we cannot see.
    The director is a companion on the directee's spiritual journey. Spiritual direction often helps to bring a person closer to God because of the focus on God's presence and taking the spiritual journey seriously. If the directee is not praying on a regular basis, then he/she is wasting the diector's time.
    Often a director will help someone discern where God is leading him or her.
    Spiritual direction is NOT about problem solving or counseling.
    As you can see, I can go on and on.
    Read in DA Burkes response above - the Pope's quote.

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  8. Is the Spiritual Director appointed by the church or priest? What training is available for Spiritual Directors? And what "restrictions" do they have - e.g. like a priest, not to speak/repeat something heard in Confession?

    Thanx.

    God bless.

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  9. Very interesting post, Mary. It's very difficult to get a spiritual director where I live. I have often wondered if I would have fallen into a lot less traps spiritually with regular direction. Thankfully, the Lord has led me to a number of people who are mature spiritually and I have been able to learn from them. We used to have a retreat center run by the Oblates in the town next to us and it was very easy to get spiritual direction but not any more. Like Esther, I consider myself Padre Pio's spiritual child and I have received immense help and direction through his intercession. I still hope to find a regular spiritual director close by though.

    Great post, Mary. I can see that this is a subject of interest for many of us by the comments that have been left.

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  10. Victor,
    Spiritual directors do follow ethical guidelines. Everything is confidential.
    If you check out Spiritual Direction International (http://www.sdiworld.org/), you can get a lot of information there about training and ethics etc., but please note that it is not just a Catholic spiritual direction website.
    A spiritual director is called to this ministry. It is really a charism. As far as where directors may minister, it would be up to their diocese and/or their pastor.

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  11. I agree with everything Colleen said. I have had two outstanding Benedictine spiritual directors who helped me very much. Now I have none, but God has not left me bereft of spiritual direction. We all need spiritual direction because of our tendency to fool ourselves about many things in our lives. We need it to develop sound spiritual practices. Weekly confession and regular prayer time as well as time in front of the Blessed Sacrament and reading spiritual classics helps if you don't have a human being around to help you. Commending yourself to the care of a particular saint as some have commented on is a great idea. I would love to have a spiritual director again, but for now that seems to be out so I rely on everything I've learned in the past and being faithful to spiritual reading and meditation. A daily examination of conscience is also really important.

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  12. Well said, Barb. You said it better than I did. Thanks.

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  13. Colleen, you explained it perfectly! In fact, I listen to Relevant Radio (Catholic radio) all the time and you explained it exactly as the priest did when the show was about this very topic!

    I do think that there is a problem in that many people DO make the mistake of equating "spiritual direction" with "counseling" and they are two very very different things.

    I also happen to think that most emotional, mental, and even some physical issues, conditions, and ailments have a "spiritual" foundation and that many who are in counseling are actually in need of spiritual direction, instead.

    Wonderful post Mary, thanks ... and for the record, I assumed it was Mary333 writing as well...maybe we need a screen-name code for you two:) LOL

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  14. Judy, thank you! And I agree with your statement on some people needing spiritual direction instead of counseling. And sometimes both!
    Spiritual direction is a gift, not only to the director but to the directee. And it is a favorite subject of mine in case you can't tell! :)

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