What Is Spiritual Direction? (From Spiritual Direction International)
“Spiritual direction is the process of accompanying people on a spiritual journey. Spiritual direction exists in a context that emphasizes growing closer to God.
Spiritual direction is the contemplative practice of helping another person or group to awaken to the mystery called God in all of life, and to respond to that discovery in a growing relationship of freedom and commitment. (James Keegan, SJ, Roman Catholic, USA, on behalf of the 2005 Coordinating Council of Spiritual Directors International)
What is Christian Spiritual Direction?
- Most people would agree that spiritual direction means companionship with another person or group through which the Holy One shines with wisdom, encouragement and discernment. Some, however, expect this companionship to be of a professional nature, with a trained, supervised, and perhaps even certified spiritual director. Others see it as spontaneous and gifted, strongly resisting signs of professionalism.
- Spiritual guidance can happen authentically in a vast variety of forms. The many forms can be divided into two major groups: Formal spiritual direction and informal spiritual companionship. Formal spiritual direction includes relationships that are explicitly defined as spiritual direction with a clear separation of roles between directors and directed. Meetings are usually scheduled in advance on a regular basis, and a directed normally has only one formal director.
- Informal spiritual companionship is characterized by a lack of structure and role definition. These relationships are not considered exclusive, and most people have several such companionships. Meetings tend to be irregular and spontaneous. There is nearly always some atmosphere of mutuality, and each person retains his or her own locus of discernment. There is no notion of providing a service, and fees are out of the question. (Gerald May, MD. Excerpted from Shalem News, Volume xxii, No. 1, Winter, 1998, "Varieties Of Spiritual Companionship”)
Spiritual direction is, in reality, nothing more than a way of leading us to see and obey the real Director — the Holy Spirit hidden in the depths of our soul. (Thomas Merton, Trappist monk, USA)
We define Christian 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. (William A. Barry, SJ and William J. Connolly, SJ, Center for Religious Development, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA)
The greatest teacher is silence. To come out of interior silence and to practice its radiance, its love, its concern for others, its submission to God's will, its trust in God even in tragic situations is the fruit of living from your inmost center, from the contemplative space within. The signs of coming from this space are a peace that is rarely upset by events, other people and our reactions to them, and a calm that is a stabilizing force in whatever environment you may be in. God gives us everything we need to be happy in the present moment, no matter what the evidence to the contrary may be. A good spiritual director helps us to sustain that trust. (Father Thomas Keating, Summer 1997, Part II lecture notes)
The whole purpose of spiritual direction is to penetrate beneath the surface of a person’s life, to get behind the façade of conventional gestures and attitudes which one presents to the world, and to bring out one’s inner spiritual freedom, one’s inmost truth, which is what [Christians] call the likeness of Christ in one’s soul. This is an entirely supernatural (spiritual) thing, for the work of rescuing the inner person from automatism belongs first of all to the Holy Spirit. (Thomas Merton)