Navigating the Faith: Spiritual Direction

0917spiritualdirectors

by Dianne Rachal, Director of Worship

While our diocese does not have an abundance of lay spiritual directors, the number more than doubled in August as four more people completed two years of formation. Brenda Lites and Susan Tousignant, St. Jude in Benton;, Marie Rinaudo, Cathedral of St. John Berchmans; and Mike Van Vranken, St. Joseph in Shreveport, graduated from the Archdiocese of New Orleans Spirituality Center Formation Program on August 9, and are now certified spiritual directors. They join Joe and Katherine Bernal of St. Paschal in Monroe and Dianne Rachal of the Catholic Center.  These spiritual directors are trained in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, as retreat leaders, and in one-on-one spiritual direction.

What is Spiritual Direction?
Throughout the history of the Church there have always been men and women who listened to those wanting assistance with their prayer.  From the desert fathers and mothers of the 4th century, through numerous saints and founders of religious orders, mystics and confessors, the Church’s sacred tradition of spiritual direction has been nurtured and safeguarded, remaining a venerable and vital spiritual practice for many today.  Spiritual direction is concerned with helping a person directly with their relationship with God. Spiritual directors help people grow in their prayer life, nurture their relationship with God and enable one to become more attentive to God in daily life.  In nurturing one’s relationship with God, the most fundamental issue in that relationship is: “Who is God for me, and who am I for God?”

Spiritual direction is help given by one Christian to another which enables that person to pay attention to God’s personal communication, to respond to this communication, to grow in intimacy with God, and to live out the results of one’s relationship with God.  Spiritual direction has always aimed at fostering union with God.

What is Spiritual Direction Not?
Spiritual direction is not counseling – spiritual directors are not trained therapists, counselors or psychiatrists.  While spiritual direction can be a helpful adjunct if one is in therapy, it can never take the place of counseling or professional therapy.

Spiritual direction is not pastoral counseling provided by ordained priests and deacons, nor is it spiritual companioning where two people agree to meet and mutually support one another in their spiritual lives.

Who is Spiritual Direction For?
Everyone who is in a relationship with God would benefit from spiritual direction. Are you considering a major life change:  Vocation?  Marriage?  Career move?  Does God feel far way, even though you pray daily?  Do you feel that everyone else has a fulfilling prayer life, and that somehow you are missing out on something?  Are you troubled about the “worldliness” of your life, and concerned about the will of God for you?  Are you angry with God?  If any of these questions resonate with you, spiritual direction can help you draw closer to God and discern His will for you. A trained spiritual director helps one address God directly and listen to His response. Spiritual direction focuses on what happens when a person listens to and responds to a self-communicating God.

What is Spiritual Direction Like?
The spiritual director and the person agree to meet for a specified length of time, usually an hour, and  decide the frequency of meetings.  A spiritual director maintains complete confidentiality with respect to everything that transpires during the meeting. The person coming for spiritual direction communicates what is happening in their prayer life. Sometimes a spiritual director will give the person a scripture or spiritual writing to pray with and reflect on, and the person shares what surfaced during reflection. The spiritual director may suggest spiritual practices such as journaling, contemplation or lectio divina.

The spiritual director always listens intently, helping the person notice God’s presence, God’s movements, God’s will in the life of the person. The person coming for spiritual direction is open in sharing their prayer experiences with the spiritual director, and more importantly, open to receiving God’s communication. In spiritual direction, God is the director.

As Christians, we are a pilgrim people on a journey moving ever closer to eternal life, accompanied by Jesus Christ who shows us the way, and growing in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit who is the love of God the Father.  Spiritual direction helps us develop and deepen our relationship with the Triune God.

For more on information contacting a spiritual director, attending an informational meeting about becoming a spiritual director or taking spiritual direction classes, see the sidebar.

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