"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, new life in Christ… Spiritual direction is a matter of establishing that same personal relationship that the Lord had with his disciples, that special bond with which he led them, following him, to embrace the will of the Father (cf. Lk. 22:41) that is, to embrace the cross."
—Pope Benedict XVI
Spiritual Direction is a time honored tradition in the Church dating all the way back to the 4th century, when people sought out the guidance of the spiritual fathers and mothers of the desert. Many Christians felt deeply the need to seek out the accompaniment of a spiritual guide in attending more fully to the presence and working of God in their lives.
In this tradition of spiritual direction, perpetuated and enriched by the experience and writings of many saints, we recognize that the Holy Spirit is the true director, always seeking, inviting, and calling us to enter more fully into relationship with the Lord, our Creator and Redeemer, to grow in intimacy with him, to understand more fully his will, and then determine how to follow Him in a concrete way.
Why Is A Spiritual Companion Helpful?
A companion on our journey with God helps us to realize how God's spirit is truly with us every day and everywhere. We discover that God has been desiring and waiting for us to seek this closer relationship with Him. In this desire the Lord has for us to walk with Him, and reflecting on the events of the Resurrection and Pentecost, and our baptisms, we can see God sending forth his Spirit to the disciples and all of us as his Church, a community of persons.
It is in this authentic dimension of community, or ecclesiality, that we find the path of spiritual awareness. With the accompaniment of a spiritual director we can:
- Grow in relationship with God, deepen our self-awareness, grow in our relationship with others and creation.
- Discover the deepest desires of our hearts and how we experience God
- Find affirmation and encouragement on our spiritual journey
- Discern more clearly the movements of the Lord in our hearts, our thoughts and feelings, vocations, states of life, and how he is inviting us to respond
- Discover our blind spots where our ways of thinking might be getting in the way of listening to the Lord
- Bring to the Lord our struggles, disappointments, places of suffering, to discover the presence of God in them and grow in understanding, moving towards forgiveness and healing
- Have accompaniment in discerning and making decisions that will lead us to the fullness of life with God and to eternal life
- Learn how to pray (especially for those who don't have much experience of God)
In spiritual direction, the director and person coming for direction work together in a safe and confidential atmosphere with the grace and guidance of the Holy Spirit. In this relationship, the directee is always free – a person does not lose their personality or abandon their responsibility, but with accompaniment discovers greater insight so as to be able respond more freely to God.
God has created each of us uniquely and individually, with different personalities, gifts and struggles. There is no set formula for spiritual direction, it is about discovering the unique way that God desires to work in each of our lives and help us accomplish His Will.
"And real happiness will come, not in gratifying our desires or in gaining transient pleasures, but in accomplishing God's will for us: even as we pray every day: "Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.”
—St. Bernard of Clairvaux, On Loving God