Saturday, August 22, 2009

Spiritual Direction

I've been hearing about Christian spiritual direction for a few years now and been intrigued. Suddenly, it seemed to me, lots of people were getting trained as Spiritual Directors or finding themselves a Spiritual Director. Naturally I've been trying to find out more about it. I even browsed the website of Spiritual Direction International, a membership organization with people from many nations and faiths, not just Christian. Then, I decided to just let the Holy Spirit lead and he did. Spiritual direction came up when I was going through the year long Choosing Christ in the World version of the Ignatius Spiritual Exercises. In fact, at my training last couple of weekends to become a facilitator for the Ignatius Spiritual Exercises (where I function as a Spiritual Director in the context of the Exercises only), our workshop leader discussed it in detail. I also received a handout with relevant quotes from the classic book in this area: The Practice of Spiritual Direction by W. Barry and W.J. Connolly. I provide a quick summary below.

Christian spiritual direction is the practice of pointing people to God, helping them identify the habits and patterns of their relationship and resistance to him. The Spiritual Director does this both by listening to the person and praying for them. The Spiritual Director follows the leading of the Holy Spirit and does not try to provide solutions or fix problems. Rather, he/she helps the person being directed listen to God, hear him, and engage in a growing relationship with him. This is done through regular meetings at which the person directed shares with the Spiritual Director their relationship with the Lord via details such as their prayer life, etc.. The Spiritual Director listens, encourages and fosters a contemplative attitude that helps the person become more aware and attentive to what is happening in their daily life and around them. Specifically, the director encourages discernment and noticing how the Lord is with them 24/7. Doubt, discouragement, bordeom, depression, avoidance of prayer are some examples of resistance to relationship with God. Finally, and most importantly, "...Spiritual directors consciously ally themselves with the indwelling Spirit..." and their "only purpose is the development of the relationship with the Lord." (Barry & Connolly, The Practice of Spiritual Direction, p. 140, 142)

1 comment:

  1. The purpose of spiritual direction is rightly oriented, isn't it? Psychology is oriented on mental health and functional living, and has many tools to achieve that -- but mental health and functional living without a spiritually rich life are ultimately empty and disappointing. Try as it might, psychology can't move an individual past a certain point.

    On the other hand, in the case of one who is not specifically in need of intervention with psychological tools but has only mild disfuntions there, achieving the goal of a rich relationship with God and a rich spiritual life will eventually produce greater mental health, richer relationships, and healthier living. And they will be full.

    I am so excited about the growth we have each seen as we have used the Ignatian exercises, and am very glad to be walking with YOU in community after our God, Anita!


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