What's your Spiritual Direction?
Okay I'll admit it, I enjoyed the pun in last week's title, so I wanted to do another one for this week. Everyone loves to hate on puns, but I think they're an underappreciated form of humor! Oh well. Either way, this week we're talking about spiritual direction (and no, it's not the Catholic version of One Direction). Spiritual direction is an underused and highly effective tool in the life of a Catholic. Here's what it is and why you should care.
Spiritual direction, in a nutshell, is a conversation between two Catholics intended to help one of them see where God is leading them. There's more nuance to it than that, but that's the most basic explanation. It involves two participants: the Director and the Seeker. You and I are the Seekers, Catholics who use spiritual direction to help us see God's workings in our lives. The first step to beginning spiritual direction is finding a qualified Director.
A Spiritual Director can be any number of people. Priests, deacons, religious Brothers and Sisters, even laypeople! The important thing is that they're qualified. Usually there's some training involved in becoming a spiritual director. After all, helping someone examine their life and opining about where God is leading them is no small task! I'd recommend asking someone you trust (like a priest, parent, or other devout Catholic) for help in finding one.
Okay, cool, but what does it actually look like? In my experience, spiritual direction is a discussion at heart. My first spiritual director was Fr. Bob Abbatiello, and he did a great job of putting me at ease and helping me get comfortable. That comfort is really important, because it's vital that you trust your spiritual director and feel able to share some personal stuff with them.
Most of my sessions with Fr. Bob followed a simple formula. We'd meet up, sit down, and chat about what life's been like since we last met. After catching up, we'd move into the meat of our discussion: my spiritual life. Fr. Bob was great at challenging me to see where God was leading me, even if it wasn't where I wanted to go.
I have a pretty strong personality, so it's unusual that someone will challenge or push me in that way. But you know something? It's exactly what I needed. That's another key aspect of spiritual direction: relationships. You might meet with a couple of different Directors before finding one that gels with you, and that's okay. It's important to find someone who A) matches your style and B) is willing to challenge you.
But why do we need a spiritual director? Why does this even matter? It matters because we are all on a journey. We hope and pray that that journey leads to Heaven, but it isn't easy to get there! This road we're taking (the road called life) is full of twists and turns. Sometimes there's fog or roadwork or branching paths and we're not sure which way to go. You know what comes in really handy in those situations? A guide!
Have you ever been on a trip with a school or group out of the country? When I was a senior in high school, I went on a trip to Quebec and Montreal with Xavier's French Department. The trip was a BLAST, but that's not the point here. Because we wanted to see the good parts of the cities and not get lost, we hired a guide.
Without the guide, we might've eventually gotten where we wanted to go. But because we weren't alone, we hit all of our stops quickly, safely, and without getting lost. The same holds true for spiritual direction. Can we navigate through life safely and eventually make it to Heaven without a spiritual director? Absolutely! But it helps a heck of a lot to have someone backing you up.
I know many of you might not be familiar with spiritual direction, and that's okay! It's criminally underused by Catholics, and it can do wonders for your relationship with Christ. This is the thing about our faith: there are SO many little tips and tools that many of us are unfamiliar with! I'd recommend spiritual direction for anyone looking for a way to deepen their faith, discern God's plan for them, or just chat with someone who shares the love of Christ.
Like I said earlier, you should ask someone you trust like a parent or priest to help you find a spiritual director. It's really important that the person you choose has been trained and knows the ins and outs of the process. I pray that some of you will take me up on this and give spiritual direction a shot. Even if it's tough to take the first step, I promise you it's worth it!
I hope you're all doing well as we begin to emerge from quarantine, and I look forward to seeing you soon.