Friday, 25 January 2019 06:00

A Look at Spiritual Direction

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This article will briefly explain spiritual direction in its essence, the responsibilities of the person being directed (the directee) as well as the director, and then close with some guidance for seeking out spiritual direction. While the content being covered in this article is introductory in nature, the information may prove beneficial for those already in spiritual direction as this article can provide an opportunity for individuals to reflect upon their experience of direction, and allow for adjustments to be made in any matters where either party (director or directee) may have lost focus.

The foundational reality which spiritual direction builds upon is the fact that the Lord, in His great love for each person, pursues each individual and is presently at work in their lives. The Holy Spirit communicates to each person, inviting them always into deeper communion with Himself. As one finds themselves desiring to enter into a more active relationship with the Lord, desiring to take steps to draw nearer to Him and become more faithful to what He desires for their life, guidance from one more versed in prayer and the spiritual life becomes important. Seeking guidance from a regular confessor provides beneficial exposure to a regular spiritual guide, however one may soon find that there are often time constraints with the Sacrament of Reconciliation (so that the priest might make himself available to others also seeking the Sacrament), which prevents more focused and regular discussion from taking place concerning one’s prayer life.  A separate forum becomes necessary.

Spiritual direction is the forum where an individual can receive aid from a trusted guide and companion (the director) in reflecting upon the circumstances of their life and prayer, and best discern what it is that the Lord is communicating to them. Spiritual direction is not a substitute for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but a powerful companion to the Sacrament. It allows for the Lord to shed light on the areas of a person’s life which need to be confessed/mentioned/said in the Sacrament. Neither is spiritual direction a substitute for mental health counseling or other sorts of psychiatric care. In certain cases, an individual may even need to focus on mental health counseling or psychiatric care prior to reaching a place where they are free enough for spiritual direction to become effective for them.

Within the context of spiritual direction, the primary spiritual director is always the Holy Spirit. The secondary, or human, spiritual director thus finds themselves in the role of facilitating the relationship and communication between the directee and the Holy Spirit. The director accomplishes this by listening to the directee as they share the circumstances of their prayer life, discerning the will and action of the Holy Spirit, then guiding the directee in further cooperating with it. The director is in a position to become familiar with the prayer and spiritual life of the directee, while maintaining a more objective viewpoint because they themselves are not in the midst of the circumstances.  The director is to remain outside of the circumstances and so be less vulnerable to being swayed from focusing on the greatest objective good for the directee, which is the Lord’s will. This reality of the director being tasked to be with, and yet apart, creates a unique relationship dynamic which often requires a learning and a growing accustomed to, especially because the sharing which takes place in the relationship is ultimately one-sided. The spiritual director places themselves at the service of the directee and the Holy Spirit, understanding the proper order of the relationship, and trusting in the faithfulness of the Lord to provide the graces for such a relationship to be sustained. The directee and director enter into a partnership with the common goal of the growth of the directee’s relationship with the Lord, with each working to better fulfill their role in order to facilitate the flourishing of the directee.

It will be beneficial at this time to further examine the responsibilities of both the directee and the director. In order for spiritual direction to prove beneficial, the directee must first and foremost be committed to a daily routine which incorporates times of quiet prayer. These times of quiet prayer allow for meditation on Sacred Scripture so that the Lord may speak to them through His Word. Meditating upon the Divine Word allows the individual to receive the Lord’s self-revelation and grow in intimacy with Him. The Light of the Lord’s self-revelation becomes a purifying light which touches upon every aspect of the individual’s life, the graces received in these times of meditation are intended to overflow and permeate every aspect of their daily life, and the fruits of this prayer life become the subject matter reviewed in spiritual direction. The directee’s faithfulness to these daily times of meditation are essential for the fruitfulness of spiritual direction.

The director must also be committed to their own life of prayer. The director’s devotion to their relationship with the Lord allows them to grow more familiar with the way the Lord moves in a soul, as well as the tactics of the devil. The director’s faithfulness to their relationship with the Lord also allows the Lord to continue His purifying work in them, freeing them to be most present to a directee during times of spiritual direction.  Having grown in their own spiritual maturity and healing, the director can focus on the Lord’s will for the directee and be less tempted to impart their own emotions and pre-dispositions when relating to what the directee is sharing. It is also a responsibility of the director to pray for their directee, thereby becoming an effective intercessor with insight into what the Lord is currently working in the directee.

When first seeking out a director for spiritual direction it is important to begin with prayer. Ask the Lord to lead you to the director which He most desires for you. Trust that it is the Lord Himself Who has placed the desire in your heart for a deeper relationship with Him, and that He will be faithful in providing a spiritual director. It is useful to reflect upon your experience of individuals whom you admire for their virtue, individuals whom you believe to have a strong faith and relationship with the Lord. Think of priests, deacons, and religious who may prove to be apt spiritual guides, and reach out to these individuals to see if they are available for spiritual direction. Laity could also be approached in such a fashion, but it may be less common for a lay person to be comfortable with the role of spiritual director; entering into spiritual friendships of accountability with these virtuous individuals may be a beneficial alternative. Do not become discouraged if those you approach are not immediately available, but continue praying and seeking. These very same priests, deacons, religious, and laity can also be asked for recommendations of others who may be approached to inquire about entering into spiritual direction. Inquiring with one’s diocese may also prove to be beneficial, as the diocese may have compiled resources to help individuals in finding a spiritual director, even a list of recommended spiritual directors in the area.

Spiritual direction is a valuable tool with a rich history. I pray that each Christian seeking to draw nearer to the Lord receives the great grace of a faithful spiritual director who can help guide them to recognize the movement and work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Chris FernandezChris Fernandez was born and raised in south Florida. Chris studied at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, FL where he obtained a bachelors degree in aerospace engineering. In 2013, Chris received a certification in spiritual direction from Our Lady of Divine Providece, School of Spiritual Direction, in Clearwater, FL. Then in 2019 he received a masters degree in theology, with a concentration in spiritual theology, from Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, CT. Chris is a lay member of the Home of the Mother, currently living in Jacksonville, FL with his wife and three children.

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