When I first started spiritual direction a few months ago, I found that I was not being entirely hoenst with my spiritual director. I would gloss over many things that I didn’t feel were important to me and I just went through the motions of the meetings. To tell you the truth, though, I didn’t feel comfortable with my spiritual director either. While he was conservative and caring, I felt that I was being given answers that I had already heard. I felt that I wasn’t being challenged. Maybe, I just wasn’t comfortable being around him. Whatever it was, I stopped going after four or five sessions and started looking for someone else.
I suppose my need for a spiritual director became stronger when I sensed a call to the religious life. Many vocation directors will tell a directee that they need to have a spiritual director. For a long time, I felt that I could do it with God being my spiritual director. It worked for a good while, but then another Catholic blogger told me that God uses other human beings to direct us as well.
A few weeks ago, I called a sister that I have known since my high school days. She and I have always gotten along well. I’ve tended to call her every once in a while to see how she and the other sisters are doing. While we do discuss spiritual topics, we never really delve deeply into them. When I called her this time, though, I really opened up my heart. I spoke to her about everything that was going on in my life from my incomplete thesis to questions about whether I should go through St. Louis de Montfort’s program for Consecration to the Immaculate.
Sister, of course, answered my questions and comforted me. It helped me a great deal to understand where I was going from someone else’s perspective and to speak to someone that I have known well for a number of years. As I spoke, I felt the Holy Ghost working in my heart and when I hung up the phone, I wanted to jump around for joy because I felt that my prayers had been answered.
I’m sure that there are many people out there, who are seeking a spiritual director also. The thing about finding a spiritual director is that it is a mystery. God knows what each of us needs at particular points in our lives and He will lead us to the spiritual director that we need. We can do our part by calling diocesan offices and asking our parish priests if they know of anybody that is willing to take another person on. But I also recommend that before you take the plunge that you seriously pray about this. Ask God to help you discern whether you reall need a director or whether your longing for one is motivated by other feelings.
Also, remember that your spiritual director is a human being just like you. We would be very lucky indeed if we could have a St. Francis de Sales or St. Ignatius Loyola for our directors, but that is very often not the case. These are real people with their own problems, neuroses, and concerns. We should treat them as such, but we should also treat them with respect since they are the instruments that God uses to instruct us as we grow in our discernment and in our faith.
Also, do not treat your spiritual director like a psychotherapist or the session itself as psychotherapy. The role of the spiritual director is to help you understand how God is working in your life through the seemingly trivial events that occur around you every single day. Of course, it is a good idea to discuss certain issues that you have, but that would entirely depend on your director. For the most part, they need to hear about your entire life in order to make some correct spiritual diagnoses, but it is not truly necessary for you to tell your director about how sick you felt when Aunt Sally served her meatloaf on Christmas Day unless God was trying to use that even to tell you something.
Indeed, you should interview your spiritual director when you first meet them. It is a good idea for you to know exactly what kind of person is going to help you to understand God’s will. Let them tell you about their spirituality and prayer life as well as anything else such as how long they have been directing people and in what capacity. Certain things will raise warning flags, but don’t run away from the director if you feel comfortable. Stay there and meet once or twice, then make up your mind. If you don’t feel that the director is doing you any good, tell them the truth and get it over with. Then ask God to help you find someone else and He will.
Indeed, spiritual direction is something that is rewarding for both the director and the directee. Both people grow as a result of the interaction that they experience and God showers numerous graces and lights on both as well. In many ways, the director can become a dear friend or mentor. He or she can be the person that pushes you beyond what you thought God wanted and into a new you. The only thing that you must do is be honest. Be honest above all else and God will take care of the rest.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!