Thursday, January 1, 2009

Spiritual Direction

While browsing the Curt Jester this morning I found a link to this article. I think it is important that we work at finding a quality spiritual director if we truly want to grow in our faith and find where God is leading us.

When looking for a good spiritual director, it is standard practice to interview the potential S.D. first. The idea is not to weed out those who are going to challenge you or disagree with you. The idea is find one who holds and practice the Catholic faith as taught by the Church and is able to actually help you grow in holiness.

Ask the following questions politely. There is no need to be offensive or defensive. You are not an Inquisitor. You are not hunting heresy. If it turns out that the potential S.D. is some kind of New Age kook, you are obligated to keep that assessment to yourself. The obligation to confidentiality binds both the director and the directee.

A few cautions up front:

1). Do not be impressed with S.D.'s who have credentials in spiritual direction. Most spiritual direction programs in the U.S. teach their students amateur forms of guru-ism and occult gibberish.

2). Do not be impressed by titles like "Father," "Sister," "Brother," or "Doctor." Anyone holding any of these titles can be dodgy.

3). Do not be impressed by celebrity or ecclesial status. Abbot Father Dr. Alred Boniface Schultz of the St. Labyrinth Benedominican Monastery, author of 46 books on meditation and a national speaker, can be as big a moonbat as anyone.

4). Do not be impressed by the potential S.D.'s personal piety, orthodox theology, solid publishing record with the best Catholic houses, or his/her reputation for brilliant spiritual direction. Every director/directee relationship is different. What works for you, might not work for me. And being a good S.D. takes more than unwavering allegiance to the magisterium.

5). Do not be impressed by a potential S.D.'s willingness, even eagerness, to take you on as a directee. In fact, I would interpret any sort of "salemanship" on the part of the S.D. as creepy and immediately disqualify him/her.

Questions (with the qualification that he/she may say, "'Nunya."):

--Tell me about your spiritual life, your daily spiritual routine, your prayer life.

--What are your strengths as a S.D.? Weaknesses?

--Tell me about your experience as a S.D. How many years? What sorts of directees?

--How would you describe your relationship to the Church? The local bishop? The Holy Father?

--What do you think of commonly used spiritual direction tools like the Ennegram, labrynith?

--What do you think of personal devotions like the rosary, novenas, etc.?

--What authors/books do you regularly read and recommend?

--Have you had any spiritual direction training? Where and what kind?

--What's your understanding of the sacraments, esp. Mass, confession, marriage?

--How do you understand the relationship btw God and creation?

--How do you understand holiness, goodness, morality, sin, etc.?

--Do you use fasting or other sorts of penance in your direction?

--My biggest spititual difficulty is X. How would begin to approach this problem?

--My greatest spiritual gift is X. How would you direct me to use this gift?

--Generally speaking, from what sources do you pull from for inspiration as a S.D.?

Keep in mind that you are being interviewed as well. I have turned down potential directees b/c I didn't have the particular gifts to deal with their challenges. I have also been "fired" as a S.D. for being too theologically orthodox and for being "too hard."

Do you want someone who will "kick butt and take names"?
Or someone who will be more of a gentle listener, a guide?
Or someone who will function as a teacher, a model?
Or someone who will sympathize but challenge nonetheless?
Or someone who maintains an emotional distance and directs you?
Or someone who will "get in there with you" and fight?
Or someone versatile enough to shift among these as needed?

You really have to know yourself before choosing a S.D. But you also have to be open to change and growth. I find it very difficult to get a good S.D. because I need a "kick butt and take names" kinda director. I need someone who can look me in the eye and tell me how full of crap I am. Not many of those around these days. . .sigh. . .
I would encourage you to check out both The Curt Jester and Domine, da mihi hanc aquam blogs for some great insights to our faith and some occasional humor :)
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