You think you are quite important: your studies, your research work, your publications, your social standing, your name, your political activities, the positions you hold, your wealth… your age: you’re no longer a child. Just because of all that, you, more than others, need a Director for your soul (St Josemaria Escriva, The Way, No.63).
In most areas of life, we are used to turning to mentors and experts. Whether this be to aid with personal development, to learn a particular skill we lack, or to find an expert such as a plumber, lawyer or fitness trainer, we recognize the need for help in order to grow in some way.
Spiritual direction is the same. It is a means to enable us to develop our soul, without which growth in all other areas will potentially lack depth and consistency with our faith. It helps you work out at a deeper level what you are called to do in each area of your life.
Amongst other things, spiritual direction used well will remove from us any illusions of grandeur we might have, and to ensure we never fall prey to letting ourselves off the hook – to go easy on ourselves when we could have done better. It will encourage that fundamental tenet of leadership: humility. An honest relationship with a spiritual director where we allow ourselves to be accountable, without fear of appearing as we truly are, will shine a mirror on us in a way that is difficult to do without the feedback it provides.
If we wish to grow in spiritual excellence and moral accountability in all areas of our lives (professional and personal), a spiritual director will play a fundamental part in the journey.
How to find a spiritual director
Finding the right director requires effort. In the same way that you wouldn’t choose just anyone to be your spouse or business partner, you should exercise prudence and care in who you pick. They should be someone trustworthy, objective, and of virtuous character.
It is sensible to seek advice, and possibly recommendations, through your local church, a trusted friend, or a family member. A lot of Catholic organizations offer spiritual direction from people who have been instructed in how to do so.
The key is finding someone who has spiritual wisdom and maturity and recognizes the confidential but open nature of the relationship.
What do you do and talk about in spiritual direction?
It is perhaps easiest first to state that spiritual direction is not counseling or therapy – its focus is on spiritual growth and development. The specifics of what you talk about may vary and to a large extent should be determined by you and the circumstances of your life, but it is essential that you be completely transparent in your conversations.
It is very likely that you will want to focus on a particular area that needs improving – perhaps a particular fault that is holding you back. Discussion of your prayer life (or lack of it) can be very useful to help ensure continued focus. Particular situations from our work can be very helpful to talk about – but remembering the director is not there to guide you professionally, but to help you work out for yourself what an appropriate moral response might be. And it is very sensible to leave each session with one or two resolutions – a particular defect or virtue to focus on, or a practical step you need to take to address what’s stopping your growth. Discuss these at your next meeting.
Spiritual direction is a valuable tool in ensuring we live unity of life, to ensure our faith infuses all aspects of what we do.
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