March 16, 2018

Worship and Evangelization Outreach / Teresa Venatta

Spiritual direction: Having a ‘soul friend’ on our journey to God

Anam Cara are the Gaelic words for “soul friend.” In the Celtic tradition, an Anam Cara is a teacher, companion or spiritual guide. The ministry of a spiritual director is often referred to in this manner. The beautiful relationship in spiritual direction is like having a “soul friend” on our journey to God.

With an Anam Cara or “soul friend,” we have a sounding board, source of encouragement and witness to our true selves—someone who will listen as we sort out “our inmost self to reveal the hidden intimacies of our life, mind and heart.”

Spiritual direction takes this dynamic one step further. The spiritual director, through compassionate companioning, helps the directee connect fears, longings and desires to a loving and merciful God.

I believe that the desire to share one’s deepest longings for God with a spiritual director starts and ends with two overlapping fundamentals. The first is the Ignatian principle of “finding God in all things and all things in God,” or the recognition that nothing in our lives is considered outside the realm of the spiritual life. The second is that God is loving, self-communicating and wants to be in relationship with us.

The Ignatian fundamental of “finding God in all things” takes our spirituality beyond the walls of a church or religion. It is the growing awareness that God can be found in everyone, in every place, and in everything. This includes the imperfect, mundane, and even the negative aspects of everyday life.

In fact, the deeper truths and lessons from God often come when we embrace life’s greatest challenges. With this understanding comes the realization that all of life is a gift, and as we pay more attention to God in the “stuff of life,” we become more grateful, reverent and devoted to God.

The principle that God is self‑communicating and desires relationship with us is rooted in Scripture and tradition. It is the awe-inspiring truth that we are created in the image and likeness of God, and are invited to live abundantly in God’s presence. Relationships grow when we make them a priority and choose to spend time with a beloved. The same is true for God. The choice to make God a priority in our lives opens us up to God intimately speaking in our hearts.

Spiritual direction can be an opportunity that opens the door to a deeper awareness of God in the ordinary of our lives and in the intimacy of relationship with the divine. Having this “soul friend” who listens compassionately, as we speak honestly and freely, gives the directee the spiritual space necessary to experience God in unexpected ways. The ordinary of life becomes opportunity for encounter. The inward reflection becomes a place for recognizing that we are God’s beloved. Both are brought into the spiritual direction conversation and held sacred before God.

Ultimately, having a “soul friend” or spiritual director helps make us more accountable in our relationship with God. The sacred space created in spiritual direction invites us to see God in all things and grow in intimacy with God. Our worship becomes more authentic and our evangelization more organic.
 

(Teresa Venatta is a discernment companion and spiritual director with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and a parishioner at St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis. She can be reached at spritualdirection@archindy.org.)

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