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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Spiritual direction is one of many ministries in the Church which supports the members of the Mystical Body of Christ in their life of discipleship. From the Congregation for the Clergy: “The Priest, Minister of Divine Mercy, an Aid for Confessors and Spiritual Directors,” we read:
The Christian life is a “journey.” It is a living in the Spirit (cf. Gal 5: 25) in harmony, relation, imitation and configuration to Christ by sharing in his divine sonship … Spiritual direction assists us to distinguish the spirit of truth from the spirit of error (cf. 1 Jn 4:6) and to clothe ourselves in the new man created in true holiness according to the justice of God (cf. Eph 4:24). Spiritual direction is of special assistance in discerning the path of holiness and perfection.
In considering the ministry of spiritual direction, you begin from where you are in your quest to live the Gospel message of Jesus Christ through your Catholic faith. For someone just beginning the spiritual journey, spiritual direction offers insight and reflection into the fundamentals of committed prayer and what it means to live a sacramental and communal life of faith. For those a little more advanced, spiritual direction focuses on a deepening life of prayer and a more serious discernment of one’s gifts in service to God and His Church.
If you are curious as to whether or not you are ready or called to begin spiritual direction or even if you are already engaged in spiritual direction, we hope the following information will be helpful to you.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R.
Archbishop of Indianapolis
“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2)
It is important to understand that spiritual direction is not psychological counseling. Father Albert Haase, O.F.M. offers the following caution relating to the ministry of spiritual direction (November, 2007, issue of St. Anthony Messenger)
People in need of psychological counseling because of some emotional pain or trauma are ill-advised to seek out spiritual direction, at least initially. Counseling deals with coping mechanisms and making the necessary changes in life so the client can function on a daily basis. It is only then that the person has the self-possession and stillness to listen to the Spirit. With those two qualities, one can begin to work on the awareness and articulation of near occasions of grace.
It is also possible that in the course of spiritual direction, some emotional trauma or pain may be brought to the surface. Within the course of ongoing spiritual direction, counseling may be needed and suggested. It is important to respect your spiritual director’s guidance and/or recommendation for the need for professional counseling.
“What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What should I do for Christ?”
(Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola 53)
Fathers William Barry and William Connolly, in their book The Practice of Spiritual Direction, define spiritual direction as:
Help given by one Christian to another which enables that person to pay attention to God’s personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with this God, and to live out the consequences of that relationship.
Echoing this thought, it is good to keep in mind that the real director in the spiritual direction relationship is the Holy Spirit. Given this, the primary relationship is between the Holy Spirit and the directee, the secondary relationship between the director and directee.
To further understand the ministry, below are some general thoughts as to what spiritual direction is (or can be) and what it is not.
Spiritual direction is (can be):
Spiritual direction is not:
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself”.
In striving to live your Christian faith more fully through the ministry of spiritual direction, the primary responsibility is on you, not the director, as you work to become more aware of God’s presence and action in your life. Spiritual direction is a practice wherein the repetition or frequency and the seriousness of intent are what help the practice bear fruit. A normal rhythm for spiritual direction is an hourly meeting once a month. It is up to you to schedule and plan for the sessions. It should also be noted that spiritual direction is not a replacement for other essential spiritual practices, namely participation in the sacraments and parish life. The dialogue with your spiritual director arises from your prayer, awareness of God in your life and other life experiences.
As you begin spiritual direction, here are some questions a spiritual director is likely to ask you:
“Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way; the love of Christ must come before all else”
Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 4:20-21
While the primary responsibility of the direction experience is on the directee, there are certain expectations and ethical behaviors that are appropriate to expect of a spiritual director, which include, but may not be limited to:
“Where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt. 18:20)
The process of choosing a spiritual director is important and should involve careful consideration and prayerful reflection. Interviewing potential directors can offer you confidence in selecting someone you are comfortable with both in who they are as an individual and as someone acting as a minister of the Catholic faith. The thought of asking questions of a spiritual director may be intimidating but a good director will welcome your questions.
The following are possible topics that might be part of an initial conversation with a potential spiritual director. These are not intended to be a checklist and the discussion would vary depending on the person and what you may or may not already know about them. They can serve as a reflection of what is important to you in working with someone in a spiritual direction relationship. Prayerfully reflect on the questions and pray before and after the interview. Ask and trust the Holy Spirit to guide you in this discernment.
You might consider:
Some individuals prefer to have a spiritual director similar to themselves in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, etc., while for other individuals this is not an important consideration. You should feel free to talk with several potential directors during the discernment process. It may take two or three sessions to determine if the director is a good fit for you at this time.
“With all my heart I seek you.” Psalm 119: 10
Following are some general thoughts to consider as you enter into the ministry of spiritual direction:
“Come to me…and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28)
Following are some general thoughts when considering where you meet for spiritual direction:
The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. (Psalm 28:7)
Thoughts and opinions about charging for spiritual direction run the gamut. Daniel Burke, in his recent book, Navigating the Interior Life, pg. 52, offers insight on the subject to consider:
St. Paul in his first letter to Timothy indicates that those who lead well, with respect to the souls in their care, are worthy of “double honor” (1 Tim5:17). This honor Paul speaks of is no less than material honor. Yes, our priests and religious are often called to vows of poverty.
However, this does not mean that they always have all they need to live and carry out their respective apostolic work. Lay people as well give of their time. Regardless of where the money goes, our generosity is a reflection of the health of our souls, and for the health of souls we should be particularly generous with anyone willing to invest their time in our spiritual well-being. What I am not speaking about here is whether or not directors should charge a fee. My emphasis here is that regardless of whether or not they charge a fee, our disposition should be one of generosity.
That said, financial matters should never, never, never be a barrier to your spiritual growth. There are creative ways to generously respond…If there is no material way to support them, then it is always prudent to offer a specific commitment of spiritual sacrifice on their behalf.
In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, a typical offering is in the range of $25 to $50 per direction session. Be sure to thank the spiritual director for their time and pray for your spiritual director.
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Mt 7:7)
We hope that this information on spiritual direction has been helpful to you. Suggested places to begin your search for a spiritual director, or a referral to one, would be your parish Priest or Parish Life Coordinator, Deacon, Pastoral Associate, Director of Adult Faith Formation or Catholic retreat houses in your area.
Benedict Inn Retreat and Conference Center
1402 Southern Ave.
Beech Grove, IN 46107
Mother of the Redeemer Retreat Center
8220 West State Road 48
Bloomington IN 47404
Mount St. Francis Center for Spirituality
101 St. Anthony Drive
Mount St. Francis, IN 47146
Oldenburg Franciscan Center
PO Box 100, Oldenburg, IN 47036
Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House
5353 E. 56th St.
Indianapolis, IN 46226
Providence Spirituality and Conference Center
3850 U.S. 150
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, IN 47876.
St. Meinrad Archabbey Guest House and Retreat Center
200 Hill Drive
Saint Meinrad, IN 47577
(800) 581-6905 or (812) 357-6585