The Nature and Purpose of Christian Spiritual Direction
Deacon Tom Vicknair -
Patricia Redding -
WHY Spiritual Direction?
Reflective Christians believe that a deep hunger for God exists in the hearts of modern society; people everywhere are seeking to know God personally and intimately through spiritual direction and formation. All of us long for the divine and human connection that can only be achieved through an intentional and meaningful spiritual life.
Contemporary Christians search for mentors to help them understand the difference God's presence has made in their lives. The ministry of spiritual direction is the companioning of others in their quest to recognize God more fully in their lives. The spiritual director accompanies those seeking to grow in awareness of God's presence and love.
Spiritual direction is a ministry of deep listening. The director and seeker listen and become attuned to the Holy spirit in every aspect of life.
WHAT is Spiritual Direction?
Spiritual direction is a sharing of the relationship that a person has with God. Christian spiritual direction reminds us that Christ is central to our individual and corporate spiritual growth. Christ is the one who not only points the way to the fullness of life, but who invites us to rest in him as he himself rests in God. In this resting with Christ in God, we are nourished and loved into the fullness of life.
As Christians, we claim both the Holy Spirit in our hearts as well as being immersed in God through creation. We are creatures of divine heritage. If life is a journey into our true selves as Thomas Merton suggests, then it is a journey into wholeness (holiness). Spiritual direction is the experience of reclaiming our full nature as children of God. As we journey into this wholeness, we begin to experience ourselves as beloved friends of Christ, are able to see life as a seamless garment, and understand the unity of life.
Through prayer and action (the two focal issues in spiritual direction), we can fully develop our relationship with God and others. Our relationship with the world reveals the transcendent, loving source of our living God; our relationship with the world keeps us deeply aware that all reality reveals God's living, vital Spirit. The spiritual director works with the directee in Christ to find a greater cooperation with God's Spirit. Spiritual direction helps us toward integration of our spiritual and human worlds.
What Spiritual Direction IS NOT
- Spiritual direction is not psychotherapy or pastoral counseling.
- Spiritual direction is not the sacrament of reconciliation.
- Spiritual direction does not seek to replace the proper roles of pastor, counselor, or confessor.
- Spiritual direction is not a friendly chat or the opportunity to give advice.
Spiritual direction is best experienced as a focused conversation with emphasis on the spiritual nourishment of the seeker. Knowledgeable guidance encourages the seeker to rely on the Holy Spirit as well as him/herself. The spiritual director invites the seeker to a deeper life of Christian discipleship, guiding others in their own attainment of interior freedom and obedience to God's Word in their life.
What are You Looking For?
If you are seeking beliefs, observance, or texts to learn about or identify with a particular faith community, then your are seeking religious education or formation.
If you are seeking to understand and deal with anxieties and their causes, you are seeking psychotherapy.
If you wish to know how the wisdom of religious tradition might help you understand and respond to life issues, then you are seeking pastoral counseling.
If you have a desire to deepen your relationship with God in order to recognize the Spirit's invitation to you to respond to God in prayer and in life, then you are seeking spiritual direction.
Who is Ready for Spiritual Direction?
Spiritual direction is one path among many. The following questions may help determine one's readiness for spiritual direction.
- Do you have a capacity for silence and desire to pray in solitude? Do you have a capacity to take responsibility for your own life? Are you moving toward accepting yourself?
- Are you beginning to "find your own voice?" How receptive are you to a renegotiation of your view of yourself, the world, and others?
- How aware are you of your own addictions and limitations? Of what are you not free?
- Do you want to know God's will for your life?
What to Look for in a Spiritual Director
- A prayerful person
- Someone knowledgeable through personal experience & study
- One who is reverent and non-judgmental
- An attentive listener
- A person in touch with his/her own brokenness and sinfulness
- One who has the capacity to nurture and invite change
- A person who respects the seeker's need to take responsibility for their own growth
- One who acknowledges that the Holy Spirit is the director of all souls and relies on the work of the Spirit in the directee's life.
A Brief History of the Ministry of Spiritual Direction
Christians have always sought out those who could help them grow closer to God and to be of service to God's people. These spiritual companions have responded to the needs, sufferings, and realities of the times and cultures in which they live. The have been called various abbas and ammas, meaning fathers and mothers, soul friends, spiritual directors, spiritual companions and even spiritual midwives.
The abbas and ammas were men and women of the 3rd and 4th century who fled to the desserts of the Middle East and northern Africa. Many sought them out for wisdom in leading them to a deeper response to God.
In the 6th century, monasticism offered a specific rule of life to those who wanted to make spiritual progress. The abbot or abbess usually instructed the monastics, directing them in prayer, fasting, behavior, and attitude.
The Beguine women and Beghard men of the 13th century were one of the many groups of lay men and women who embraced living in the world and offering spiritual guidance to others.
The Spanish mystics -Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and Ignatius of Loyola - can be credited with giving us an unsurpassed theology for spiritual direction and pastoral application of spiritual direction.
The 20th century has witnessed a resurgence of interest in spiritual direction. Key movements present new ethical, moral, cultural and spiritual questions regarding relationships with God, self and others.
How Can I Learn More or Find a Spiritual Director?
The ministry of spiritual direction is centuries old and is part of our Catholic tradition. This ministry is new to STAOP. If you desire a companion to journey with you as you develop or deepen your relationship with Christ please contact Deacon Tom Vicknair or Sherri Petrek.