August 16, 2019

Worship and Evangelization Outreach / Teresa Venatta

Spiritual direction and the traditions of listening

Author Rachael Naomi Remen said, “Listening creates a holy silence. When you listen generously to people, they can hear truth in themselves, often for the first time. And in the silence of listening, you can know yourself in everyone. … Listening is the oldest and perhaps the most powerful tool of healing.”

As a spiritual director, this resonates with me. The ministry of spiritual direction is that of honoring a directee’s life story in the “holy silence” of listening.

Through the loving accompaniment of a spiritual director, the directee can find the safe space to connect their unique journey with God’s love and mercy.

The basic premise of spiritual direction is universal. However, there are several traditions that carve out certain niches in this ministry. The following are two noted traditions.

In the Benedictine tradition, a theological vision is rooted in the Rule of St. Benedict, and hospitality is viewed as a form of prayer and worship. The practice of hospitality in spiritual direction opens both the director and the directee up to receive God in unexpected ways when the director welcomes the directee as Christ.

When we let down the barriers of our souls, an opening is created where God can enter. Exploring the call to continual conversion in our lives is part of the spiritual direction relationship—freeing the directee to be authentic and fully alive in embracing life as it is given.

We are fortunate to have two spiritual direction internship programs within our archdiocese to form spiritual directors in the Benedictine tradition (the Benedict Inn in Beech Grove and Saint Meinrad School of Theology in St. Meinrad). Most of our archdiocesan spiritual directors were formed in the Benedictine tradition.

In the Ignatian tradition, a theological vision is rooted in the spiritual exercises and is fundamentally optimistic. It affirms the world, but is also acutely aware to the problem of evil.

The exercises are a compilation of meditations, prayers and contemplative practices developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola to help people deepen their relationship with God—traditionally accompanied by a trained spiritual director.

Ignatian spiritual direction is a flexible partnership of mutual respect and openness. It is a space to uncover and explore the directee’s deepest desires with the understanding that our most profound desires are shaped by the Holy Spirit and point toward new choices for spiritual growth and service.

Often the exercises are used in a time of personal discernment. They introduce methods for identifying inner movements or stirrings, and provide space to reflect on where they come from and where they are leading.

Often Ignatian spirituality is summed up in the phrase, “Finding God in all things.” Interestingly, this isn’t found in Ignatius’ writings but is something one of the early Jesuits recounted the saint saying.

Spiritual direction in the exercises is an opportunity for the directee to reflect on their life—to see where God is, as every moment is an invitation to experience God. We are also fortunate to have spiritual directors in the archdiocese who are formed in leading the spiritual exercises.

In both of these traditions, there is an understanding that something deep, mysterious and sacred is taking place in our lives right where we are. The more attentive we can become, the more we will see and hear it.

Spiritual direction provides the reflective space to discover and uncover God’s presence in our lives. If spiritual direction has been something that you would like to explore, reach out and we will help you discern your options.

(Teresa Venatta is a spiritual director and discernment companion with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. She can be reached at

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