Navigating the Faith: Spiritual Direction

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Salvation is an experience of friendship and relationship with God.    – John English, S. J.

William A. Barry, S.J. and William J. Connolly, S.J. describe 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 the relationship.”  The New Orleans Archdiocesan Spirituality Center has a simpler way of phrasing this: “Spiritual direction is a deepening awareness of God’s presence and movement in one’s life.”  An individual, the directee, meets regularly with a spiritual director for the purpose of examining his or her relationship with God.

Spiritual direction is a spiritual discipline which has been a source of nurture for Christians for centuries, going back to the earliest days of the Church. The apostles wrote letters of spiritual guidance to nurture the growing communities of Christians in the first century AD. This practice was continued by the Patristic writers in the second century. By the fourth and fifth centuries thousands of Christians were seeking out the desert fathers and mothers for counsel.  Monasticism grew from this desert tradition, with monastic communities providing spiritual direction for the faithful through the Middle Ages. Ignatius of Loyola received the foundation for his Spiritual Exercises in the sixteenth century. Spiritual direction has experienced a resurgence in the twentieth century due to the writings of spiritual authors like Thomas Merton and Evelyn Underhill.

The role of the spiritual director in the process of spiritual direction is to listen to a person’s experience and to help clarify it. The director affirms and encourages by recognizing the work of grace in the directee, and at times, challenges by pointing out resistances and blind spots.  Thus the director does whatever will facilitate the directee’s attempts to live out his or her faith in dialogue with God and so grow into a deeper union with Him.

It is important to delineate what spiritual direction is not. Spiritual direction is not counseling, therapy, or spiritual companioning or friendship. All spiritual direction is strictly confidential. The spiritual director will never speak about a directee to anyone.

There are three certified lay spiritual directors in the Diocese of Shreveport:  Dianne Rachal, Joe Bernal and Katherine Bernal. Dianne Rachal is Director of Worship and completed the two-year Emmaus Spiritual Direction Training at Our Lady of the Oaks in Grand Coteau.  Joe and Katherine Bernal recently completed the two-year Archdiocese of New Orleans Spiritual Direction Internship, and are parishioners of St. Paschal Church in West Monroe.

Our diocese currently has five interns in the Archdiocese of New Orleans Spiritual Direction Internship in Grand Coteau. These interns will complete their training in August 2017.

As a directee continues to meet with a spiritual director, the directee seeks to expand his or her experiences of the Lord, moving into a seamless recognition of him each moment of the day. The Lord then becomes a part of each experience and relationship that one has. The spiritual director provides support and encouragement, helping the directee stay on this path of ongoing discernment of God in daily life.

by Dianne Rachal, Director of Worship

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