Spiritual direction is a form of counseling that helps persons grow in their relationship with God. The spiritual director helps the directee to be more open and responsive to God’s Self-communication and Self-revelation. “This divine Self-communication completely satisfies our longing for human fulfillment and transforms us entirely in God, enabling us to transcend human modes of knowledge and love to assume God’s ways of knowing and loving…Because it is so intimately a part of our own daily experience, God’s Self-revelation is the basis of our own personal values, our direction in life, and our unique individuation as persons. We best attune ourselves to this revelation through interior prayer and respond to it with ever-increasing faith. Spiritual direction helps us become increasingly aware of God’s presence in our lives through prayer and more disposed to accept God’s gift of Himself in greater faith, hope, and love” (Culligan, 1983, p.37).
Veneta Lorraine-Poirier (2003) offers an understanding of spiritual direction “as the interaction between one person, trained to listen for the movement of God, and another who desires to develop and cultivate an intimate, personal relationship with God. This process requires commitment to openness and honesty. The focus of spiritual direction is on the sensate, affective experiences in a directee’s life and their effect on the directee’s sense of who they are, who is God, and how they relate with others” (p.53). A unique aspect to the spiritual direction relationship is the reliance on God to assist the directee accomplish what he or she is not fully capable of doing on their own. “This highlights one aspect of spiritual direction that makes it truly unique from other healing modalities: the belief that only by grace – God’s intervention – are we able to be truly free” (p.60).
The relationship between director and directee is guided by the initiative of the directee’s desire for transformation in regards to his or her relationship with God. The directee brings to each meeting the experience of their physical, spiritual, mental, social, environmental, and occupational life and conveys those experiences to the director who carefully listens for the movement of God within the directee’s description. This assumes some reliance that the directee will be able to “see,” “hear,” and “feel” those quiet (and sometimes not so quiet) messages and promptings by God and further that the directee will be able to recognize their importance and bring them forth to the spiritual director to assess and look for the manifestation of God in those revelations and experiences. This assumption within the relationship also calls on the spiritual director to engage in relevant investigation and questioning to illuminate those areas not yet “seen,” “heard,” or “felt” by the directee and to adequately examine those experiences for the movement of God. This is where the awareness and openness of the directee becomes crucial to the spiritual direction relationship. If this endeavor is met with success, the spiritual direction relationship moves forward and the director is able to offer methods and means to deepen the relationship with God that is desired by the directee. Without the proper awareness, openness and psychological faculties necessary for such methods the directee is likely to be unable to fully transform themselves and their relationship with God.
As with all of my blog entries, I have asked my dear friend Michael Solomon, Seminarian studying for Boston, at St. John’s Seminary, to review my post for any errors or possible misinterpretations of the content. His most recent reply is of great importance. While this blog has focused on the relationship between the director and the directee, there is one more relationship that can “make or break” the spiritual direction experience and its effects: the spiritual life and relationship of the director with God. The following is what Michael brought to my attention.
I would put some focus into, not just the relationship between director and directee; but the relationship of the director and God. That is, the interior life of a director. This is by far, one of the biggest travesties in spiritual direction. Directors may not have the adequate spiritual life to not just guide, but to “see into” a situation regardless of what the directee says or doesn’t say. If the director has a deep interior life then this won’t be an issue. It can be the difference between opening wide the doors to Christ and shutting the door on Christ.
This can have a deep psychological impact on the directee if the spiritual director doesn’t have an adequate interior life. Because, unbeknownst to the directee, the director doesn’t have the wisdom to “see into” the issue at hand thus causing irreparable damage to the directee. Rather than receiving peace about the current situation and what to do next, the directee may think he or she is crazy, inadequate or just not “cutting it” and will never amount to anything. The directee will just “flounder” or in a way take steps backwards because the director only knows one way of doing things and because the directee’s soul is beyond the knowledge of the director, the director will tell the directee they must go back to a way of praying because they’re not praying now, when all along the directee just needed the peace to know that they need to keep going and withstand the current trial.