Pope Benedict XVI last week promoted the practice of spiritual direction. Spiritual direction, basically, is having a coach to help you progress on your spiritual journey. As much as living the Christian life seems simple and easy enough at first glance, when the rubber hits the road, the journey has plenty of pitfalls, tribulations, challenges and moments of losing focus.
A spiritual director, many times a priest but by no means limited to the priestly type, has a goal to remind you of your committment to growing closer to God and your call to respond to the grace given to you through your actions in the world. Direction usually takes place in an hour-long session that has elements of prayer, faith and life-event sharing, listening, laughing and, often enough, those moments of being completely stuck upside the head with a 2×4. The direction should challenge you, motivate you, but most importantly, help you remain faithful to the commitment that we undertake as believers.
Personally, spiritual direction is an exercise that I do not take on often enough–much like physical exercise– I know I need to do it more, but always seem to have “something better” to do. Sometimes that legitimate, but more often than not, it’s just an excuse. One of the first things that many hear in spiritual direction is that you won’t “fall into” a better relationship with God. You must be intentional about it. You have to make time for God. God is there for you always, ready to give you as much time as needed, but He can’t give you something you won’t accept. Funny how free will works, eh?
I encourage everyone to look into a spiritual director. Ask your local priest if your diocese has a list of qualified directors (the Diocese of Austin does) or if there’s a priest/deacon/lay minister that you would like to try out, ask them. Not every director is right for every person. If it doesn’t work for you, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with parting ways and finding a director that is a better fit for you… it took me a few times to get it right.
You don’t have to go it alone; get a coach.
Benedict XVI Recommends Spiritual Direction
VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 16, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Everyone — priests, religious, laypeople — and especially youth, should have a spiritual director to help them in the Christian life, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope affirmed this today when he reflected on Symeon the New Theologian during the general audience held in Paul VI Hall.
The Holy Father mentioned how important spiritual direction was in the life of the 11th century monk, and affirmed that the invitation to seek guidance in the spiritual life “continues to be valid for all.”
The Bishop of Rome encouraged especially young people, but also priests, consecrated persons and laypeople”to take recourse to the counsels of a good spiritual father.”
He mentioned that a spiritual guide should help to grow in knowledge of oneself and lead a person “to union with the Lord, so that one’s life is increasingly conformed to the Gospel.”
“We always need a guide, dialogue, to go to the Lord,” Benedict XVI affirmed. “We cannot do it with our reflections alone. And this is also the meaning of the ecclesiality of our faith, of finding this guide.”