About Spiritual Direction
‘Journeying in’ is about finding God within ourselves. This is a stimulating, but no easy task. We are made in God’s likeness and need to know ourselves ever more succinctly to understand how we might be more authentic in our honesty about ourselves. This leads to discovering more of God’s purposes for us in this life and is an individual and lifelong journey. The journey will doubtless be very exciting but also sometimes perplexing, and for this reason help is at hand in the form of spiritual direction.
A Prayer of Surrender by Thomas Merton
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think
that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
What is Spiritual Direction?
Spiritual Direction, also known as Spiritual Accompaniment, is the practice of sharing our faith journey with a guide who is specifically trained in that ministry and who abides by an agreed code of practice. That training prepares the guide to be alongside another through the ups and downs of their journey with God. Historically this practice was the preserve of priests, and the Religious – monks and nuns, but in the last half century it has become more readily available to all.
“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, Trappist monk, USA
Who would seek Spiritual Accompaniment?
Who would seek Spiritual Accompaniment?
As our journeys of faith deepen we pass beyond the stages of just accepting God’s love and mercy and begin to question more closely how our relationship with him deepens and might deepen further through a relationship with Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit. The desire to discern and follow God’s purposes for us as individuals grows, and questions arise for us which we cannot always answer satisfactorily alone. As those questions press in on us we find we cannot make sense of the changes which transform our lives as we journey on. The road is well trodden before us, but little spoken of until we start to seek out help and share our own insights and experiences. Then we begin to discover more about ourselves, and our journeys usually encounter highs and lows as we fumble and stumble into the light and darkness of the great mystery which is God. This can be a testing time for even the strongest, thus help on the journey from one who has already experienced these feelings is paramount. Clergy are normally required by their Diocesan Bishop to be in Spiritual Direction, and all Directors must be in direction themselves.
Not everyone is called by God into this kind of relationship, and there is no problem if we do not feel it is for us. But for those who feel a pull to explore this way of journeying with God in greater detail, then Spiritual Accompaniment will be for them. The great writers on the classical spiritual life insist that a guide or director is essential as the journey is tortuous and has many pitfalls. That is true of many religions, not only Christianity.
How does Spiritual Accompaniment Work?
A directee would usually meet every six to eight weeks with their director or accompanist. During a session, which might last around an hour or slightly longer, anything whatsoever might be discussed which would be held in total confidence between the two, provided that there is no breach of the law on the safety of others. It is made clear from the outset that should a disclosure be made of a criminal nature which indicates that children or vulnerable adults are at risk, the law requires that to be passed on to the authorities concerned. Should that happen, a director would always advise the directee that it is legally necessary, otherwise whatever passes between the director and the directee is absolutely safe.
Who are Spiritual Directors?
In time gone by, spiritual directors were almost always priests or religious, but with the decline in numbers of those devoting themselves to religious orders, more lay people have been trained for the ministry, and not all priests are trained in the specific skills which accompaniment of others requires. Most practitioners have experienced at least a two year training course, and will, in future, need to be validated before they are recommended by the networks and directories of professionals in the field. Priests may have the skills but ordination as it is today does not automatically prepare a person as a spiritual director. Spiritual directors sign up to a code of practice which requires, among other elements that they are in spiritual direction themselves and also submit to supervision. Supervision does not entail any disclosure of the content or identities of spiritual direction, but addresses any issues which the director themself might be experiencing in their own journeys as the result of listening to others.
What does it cost?
Usually there is no charge. However, there are a few people on our lists who do ask for a fee and this may be commensurate with the directee’s means. If the direction takes place in a location where there is a need to pay for the space, then a donation towards that might be requested. The amount will depend on the circumstances of the situation.
How will I know if God is calling me to have a Spiritual Director?
Like all vocations, God will let us know himself what he wants of us. If you find yourself feeling interested, then direction might be for you. If you are called to this then you will feel moved to be in touch and take it further. There is no harm in speaking with a director if you are unsure as there is nothing to lose by an initial chat and no binding commitment on other side if a relationship with a director and directee proves not to be working.
How Do I Find Out More?
Epiphany Network is the body in the Diocese of Truro which holds the names of those who offer Spiritual Direction, both inside the Diocese and in neighbouring areas. The convenor is Rev’d Hilary Spong firstname.lastname@example.org 01726 883315 and further details and a form to apply for a spiritual director are available from her. there is a person specifically assigned to suggest possible matching of directors with directees and facilitate their initial communication.
Spiritual direction is the facilitation of one’s spiritual formation through a covenanted relationship with another, formalized in regular meetings for inquiry, conversation, and reflection around one’s personal experience. The spiritual director is one who, by virtue of personal holiness and spiritual maturity, helps the spiritual directee to pay attention to the presence and work of God in her or his life. Rev. Douglas Hardy, PhD USA
The marks of a spiritual director are love, kindliness, and a real compassion. The language used is that of healing and growth rather than that of judgment, condemnation, and punishment.
The pastoral roots of the Anglican tradition mean that its practitioners are counsellors, confessors, and physicians of the soul, not judges.
“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
Web Sites and Helpful reading
Books which might be helpful
- Holy Listening The Art of spiritual Direction by Margaret Guenther (1992)
- Spiritual Direction, A practical Introduction by Sue Pickering (2008)
- Spiritual Direction Guidelines The Retreat Association (2016)
- Spiritual Direction for Every Christian by Gordon Jeff (2007)