Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Part 2 on spiritual direction/director

This Christian life is truly a journey, and as such, there are many twists and turns on the Narrow Road (The Good Red Road). It is the twists and turns where we learn about ourselves and others who walk the road with us.

After sharing the original thoughts on spiritual direction/director, I received several loving responses, (all from Sisters in Christ, I might add), and their collective heart and mind prompts me to share a Part 2 to this topic. So, using the imbedded email string method to begin here is my reprise:

“Hi Carol,

Christy expressed similar thoughts, and herewith my response to her which applies to your thoughts as well:

"Hey Christy, thanks for your thoughtful feedback! Just the kind of thing I was hoping for, and I agree there is a lot of rhetorical confusion in the term "spiritual director". I too prefer the term spiritual friend, soul friend, or even the term Anam Charra from the Celtic spirituality experience. And, I think we can often do this for each other, as long as we "tune in" to the Spirit on each other's behalf. It requires "holy listening", which is another very good and beneficial discipline to engage in. I continue to pursue this area, and am finding some very thoughtful and useful things in some "unlikely:" places, (e.g. the Northumbria Community.)

I suspect much of what you have experienced in your personal relationship with a "soul friend", I have experienced over the years through the Renovare Community and its resources; books, retreats and more. I think if we leave the term loosely defined, then we can all find our "spiritual director" (so to speak) as God leads.

Thanks again for your input. I'm hoping to put something together on this for general use, and it's clearly a work in progress as people respond and "guide" me into other places to look."

And further, another response to Karen’s response with a similar tone:

"Brian likes to use "extreme" language sometimes to make a point, (a little like Jesus in his parables.) However, he also realizes that spiritual friends in community are often critical to our personal growth."

As you can see, Brian was not speaking generally for a large audience, but to me as a personal friend, and using exaggerated language to make a point. I understand his cautions, and find similar cautions from Barry and Connolly in The Practice of Spiritual Direction. Personally, I have found soul friends to be an important part of being in community with Christ and His church. But even these Jesuit directors admit that the nature and specifics of spiritual direction don't always call for a personal spiritual director per se. I think being open to God's leading and provision, as always, is the correct path for our growth in knowledge and communion with Him. That may take on many different forms depending on the person He has created.

One other interesting observation, I'm not surprised that three women of spiritual depth responded to me on this subject, and I've yet to hear from any men? Hope that doesn't reflect poorly on us?! :-)

I recently spent a weekend at St. Columba House in Inverness, and both Fr. Thomas and Arlene provided brief times of spiritual direction to any who were interested. I am open to such personal spiritual direction, but clearly only as God leads . . . it appears to be a truly Holy Spirit guided part of our Christian life.

only by Grace,


----- Original Message -----

Hi, Pat,
Thanks for sharing your musings and excellent Bible study.

I have to admit that I was offended by Brian's lumping of spiritual direction with papacy--clearly a stereotyped and negative label meant to demean.

In my experience, the confusion over spiritual direction can be tied directly to the name: direction. However, in practice, it doesn't use direction at all, but rather prayerful listening for the movement of the Spirit in someone's life. My spiritual directors have quite literally changed my life by taking me deeply into God's plan and movement in my life. It was never directive nor invasive, but most beautifully sensitive to Christ's spirit.

So, herewith my musings back at you. I hope that Brian will remember that Christ's prayer was for us to be one, as He and the Father are one. I find labeling and name-calling to be the antithesis of that kind of openness to the family of Christ. I copied Arlene on this so that if I am misunderstanding or miss-stating anything, you two can set me right!

In His name,

Carol is a trained spiritual director, as are a couple other Sisters in Christ, so their input is invaluable. I obviously felt a need to “defend” Brian to some extent, as his intention with me personally was well aimed, (if a little harsh?) I haven’t personally taken any formal spiritual director training, but have studied it and read what I consider the broadly accepted literature on the subject, as well as researching some of the schools and institutions associated with the practice of spiritual direction.

My conclusion, (although nothing is ever concluded in this life of following Christ), is that there are many ways God can guide us in spiritual formation and transformation; circumstances, situations, books including His Holy Word of course, His Spirit, and people. And, since God is omniscient and Creator, He can and does certainly use any or all of those to speak to us. We are all on the same road, but our journeys are as different as ourselves . . . the uniqueness of His creation. It is good to share our journeys, for in that sharing we also find direction for our own journey.

If you are curious about spiritual direction, there is a wealth of information out there, including online (sometimes a dangerous place!) I have found two books to be immensely helpful in a general sense; The Practice of Spiritual Direction by Barry and Connolly (Jesuit priests), and Holy Listening by Thomas Hart. For those of you who are cyber inclined, you might want to check out for a new approach to spiritual direction.

I would also like to recommend a couple other resources that I have found helpful in pursuing this walk with Christ; The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a’ Kempis (Tylenda version), and St. Ignatius’ “Exercises”. The Imitation is very useful as a daily devotional, the Exercises take a little more time and focus, but are very good for the spiritual life.

Now, in all this talk of spiritual direction and discipline we can lose the command of our Savior to “Go”. I love the “Rule” of the community of Northumbria in this regard;

This is the Rule we embrace. This is the Rule we will keep: we say YES to AVAILABILITY; we say YES to VULNERABILITY.

We are called to be AVAILABLE to God and to others:

Firstly to be available to God in the cell of our own heart when we can be turned towards Him, and seek His face;
then to be available to others in a call to exercise hospitality, recognizing that in welcoming others we honor and welcome the Christ Himself;
then to be available to others through participation in His care and concern for them, by praying and interceding for their situations in the power of the Holy Spirit;
then to be available for participation in mission of various kinds according to the calling and initiatives of the Spirit.

We are called to intentional, deliberate VULNERABILITY:

We embrace the vulnerability of being teachable expressed in:
a discipline of prayer;
in exposure to Scripture;
a willingness to be accountable to others in ordering our ways and our heart in order to effect change.

We embrace the responsibility of taking the heretical imperative:
by speaking out when necessary or asking awkward questions that will often upset the status quo;
by making relationships the priority, and not reputation.

We embrace the challenge to live as church without walls, living openly amongst unbelievers and other believers in a way that the life of God in ours can be seen, challenged or questioned. This will involve us building friendships outside our Christian ghettos or club-mentality, not with ulterior evangelistic motives, but because we genuinely care.

I love the call to a contemplative life, but also an active life motivated by and in the love and God. I know personally that I am a true “work in progress”, and I find myself slipping and stumbling more than I wish. But, I am learning and growing as God picks me up and dusts me off. I am trying by Grace to cultivate the character of Christ, including especially humility. (It is a hard work that doesn’t come naturally, but God is faithful.)

I personally find devotional resources extremely helpful in my journey, using many of the Renovare resources and authors to serve as spiritual directors. I have even come to appreciate the Book of Common Prayer, and personally use a version called Celtic Daily Prayer, which rings true with the heart of who I am and my ancestral history. With such resources, and our Bible close at hand, we join the church worldwide in continuous worship and prayer.

In closing this Part 2 on spiritual direction, I want to thank my Sisters in Christ who lovingly admonish and encourage me. They help me stay upright and facing forward (toward God) in my journey.

Once again, only by Grace,


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