Why do we need spiritual direction?
We find ourselves in a very peculiar moment with all kinds of restrictions and almost cut off from social life. It might be providential to tackle this question in this context. Maybe, for some of us, the spiritual direction we used to have, is somewhat hindered at the moment ? Maybe we feel we miss it, or we are limited to virtual meetings. Shortage often reveals us treasures we overlooked until then.
Spiritual life: to be on the way
In §7 of our Statutes about Life in the Spirit, we read that we are called to an intense life of union with God. It is not insignificant to speak of a life of union with God, of a spiritual life. This life is made, above all, of experiences of God which nourish our relationship with Him, with ourselves and with the world. Experiences more than thoughts. It is therefore a complex reality, made up of intersubjectivity and growth dynamics. Thus we might have to face various questions : Indeed, how am I to know if a specific experience is not merely the fruit of my imagination or of what I wish for ? Is it really God working in me or only my psyche ? Am I deceiving myself? We cannot avoid such questions when we start speaking, not about God but with Him. It is precisely in this field of life and experience that we need to be directed. Who needs to be spiritually directed ? Anyone who N°21 – MAY 2020 Bulletin n° 21 – page 2 leads a spiritual life and thus, experiences God : from the eldest who has been walking on this path for a long time, to the last one who has just begun to take his first steps.
The purpose of spiritual direction
What is the object of spiritual direction ? My experience of God ! It sounds obvious but is not always so in practice. Speaking about our experiences of God is no easy matter. More or less consciously, we can feel resistances, and it is understandable, because it is our life at its most intimate. We might be tempted to focus on other things : worries, doubts, hopes and projects, questions, ideas, and so on…We are seeking from our spiritual director empathy, cheering up, comfort, solutions to our problems, confirmation of our decisions (or wanting someone else to decide for us). Now, « the roc we are seeking is not another person, but it is the Mystery we call God and this Mystery is available to everyone in his heart, intelligence, and soul. » (W.A.Barry and W.J.Connolly).
Above all, it is the spiritual director’s business to lead the conversation and to prevent being invested with a role that is not his own. But, as we are being directed, we also have our share of responsability. If I adhere to the need to be directed in my spiritual life, I can prepare for it and be present in a more conscious way.
When we say that the object of direction is one’s spiritual life, it obviously is not limited to our prayer life. The same §7 of our Statutes urges us to seek for continual prayer, that is, to seek God in all things. Prayer becomes continual when attention is directed to the Beloved not only during the time dedicated to prayer but also during the time spent working, or relating to our loved ones, or relaxing, etc. Thus, any event in my daily life can be evoked during a spiritual exchange, but the focus will not be on the event itself, nor even the way I reacted and felt about it, but through all of this, on the experience of God I was able to make in these specific circumstances. « It follows that, for us, an experience is no longer an isolated event, but an expression of the continual relationship God fosters with each man. » (W.A.Barry and W.J. Connolly)
In fact, if we really believe in a living and ever present God, it means that this same God is alive and present in every event of our daily life. Thus, the point of a spiritual direction is to convey and bring to one’s consciousness this experience of God. Therefore, only an experience of which we become fully conscious enables us to answer the calls God addresses to us.
Discernment of spirits
The essential role of spiritual direction is therefore to help us in the discernment of spirits. In direction, we survey all our experiences of God in order to deepen them and discern their nature together. Then we deepen and discern the response to these divine calls which can arise in us. Because, « when we speak about life, we cannot keep silent about the danger of death. The promise is not fulfilled without conditions. Life can fade, become paralysed, choke, and eventually die. In any case, it does not remain motionless, because life never stops ». (A.Louf)
The main purpose of this approach is to allow God to act directly on his creature, to facilitate the encounter with God so that he can do the essential part of the work. The spiritual director is there to help us head straight towards God and to pay attention to what God wants to tell us without any other intermediary.
So why should we have a spiritual director?
– Because we believe in a God who is truly real, meaning « present, interested, involved, ready for true interaction, taking the initiative, in action, connected, eager, ready to answer » (R. Marsh) and we want to live truly by this faith.
– Because we need a brother or sister in faith, to dare take a closer look at our experience of this real God, to gradually rely on the personal knowledge we can have of him, and to come face to face with this God who has become real to us.
– Never to stray from the central question of all human life: Who is God to me and who am I to him?”
« In order to enable us to reach our fullest humanity, it is necessary that, from this place in us where God dwells, something may rise up in us to the conscious level and gradually take root in it. » André Louf
To go further…
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Find the previous articles in our “Life of prayer” series.
(publication edited by brothers and sisters of the Community of the Beatitudes – © rights reserved).