A Baptist pastor, an Anglican priest and a Catholic spiritual director all walked into (hey this sounds like the beginning of a great joke :) only...it’s the story of my life! Actually, there have been several of these amazing Godly men who have walked into my life and along side me on this pilgrim’s path. The Baptist pastors were there for me as part of my earliest formation years. They taught me to love God, love His Word, and to “preach it!” The Holy-Spirit filled, Pentecostal and Anglican priests were there to set my heart and soul on fire by the power of the Holy Spirit, to introduce me to the beauty and excitement of the spiritual gifts, and to learn to be a humble and efficacious conduit of God’s power and love as part of a healing prayer ministry. And the Catholic priests have been there most recently to help me to discover the treasures of the sacraments and liturgy, and to guide me as spiritual directors into a deeper walk with our Lord.
You most likely know what a pastor and priest are, but what is a spiritual director? When I speak of mine, I am often met with squished-up, inquisitive faces wondering what I am talking about. A spiritual director is just that… one who guides you in all things spiritual. Officially: Spiritual direction is a "gathering together" of two in the name of Jesus, the spiritual director and the directee, to help a person to develop a closer relationship with God and to better discern how the Holy Spirit is leading in his/her life.
You may ask… why do I need that? Well, personally, just as I consult with a financial expert to help me make major decisions about budgeting, or a pilates instructor or coach to help guide me in keeping physically fit, or a teacher to help instruct and inspire me in an academic endeavour… a spiritual director helps me to discern in the area of my spiritual life. He or she is a sounding board for my soul. Not all spiritual directors are priests, and not all priests are spiritual directors. But if you find the right one, he or she can be the most powerful Anam Cara (Spiritual friend or guide) in the truest sense of the word.
I have had four in my life and all seem to have arrived at just the right time. God gave them to me as gifts along the road to heaven. And as St. Teresa of Avila says, “all the way to heaven, is heaven.” I try to remember this when things seem, well, otherwise.
The most impactful one so far was the spiritual director and priest who, just five years ago, brought me “across the Tiber”, as they say. This dear priest answered more questions than anyone should ever have to answer in a life-time. If there was a question out there, I am sure I asked it. And he always did his best to answer, not only with insight, but with patience, love and humor. To him and all he has brought me into, I will be eternally grateful. I knew the moment I met him that there was something different about him. He told me it was the Eucharist and encouraged me to discover it for myself. And then he guided me step-by-step along my quest of discovery. He asked me a series of questions and helped me to discern my path, which by the way, was full of misunderstandings about the Catholic Church and chock full of deep rooted fears. Prayerfully, we were able to work through them. He should win an award. AND… happily he will--hopefully one day in heaven!
A good spiritual director will challenge you to be a more purified soul, and therefore a more effective tool in the hands of our loving Lord. He/she will help you discern the relationship between the nudges of the Holy Spirit in your life and your own longings and desires. He/she will hold you accountable to being the best version of yourself, and encourage you to become an even better you.
If you have ever thought about taking your faith more seriously, pray about finding a spiritual director. Many diocese have contacts. Or start by asking around. Your own parish priest may be willing to meet with you or know of someone who would. Just as each person has his own personality, so of course, do spiritual directors. Meet with one on a “trial basis” to see if it is a good fit. if not, thank him and keep searching. What’s important is that you find one you feel comfortable with and then… let the Spirit... direct.
There have been numerous famous spiritual directors throughout history. Many of them guided and encouraged the great saints to become the beautiful souls that they grew to be. Here is a selection from the spiritual direction of Saint Claude de la Colombière, who was spiritual director to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.
“You must abandon yourself to the leading of God with no other intention than that of pleasing him, and when you know that you have this intention deep in your heart, you must not waste time in reflecting about yourself and about the degree of virtue you have attained; occupy yourself with him whom you love and bother very little about yourself.”
And here is sublime wisdom passed along by St. John of the Cross, spiritual director to St. Teresa of Avila:
"Where there is no love, put love -- and you will find love."
You will never regret one step you take that leads you closer to Jesus. And you will not regret having sought out help to get you there. If you do not have or cannot find a spiritual director, or if you just want to read more, I highly reccommend this website: http://spiritualdirection.com
It has been very helpful in my own walk and I pray it will be for yours too.
“Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.” Proverbs 13:10
I know Your Holy Word states: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” Proverbs 12:15. Therefore, I ask that You would please help me to find holy guides to lead me closer to You. I want to put my trust in You and step out to go deeper. I want to have a teachable heart and to have my spiritual eyes and ears wide open to You. Please dear Lord, if it be Your will, help me to find that person or persons. May every step I take be one that leads me up the Holy Mountain, closer and closer to Your most beautiful and Sacred Heart.
I ask this in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.