Thursday, November 02, 2006

Spiritual Direction

We once had an old acoustic guitar hanging round the house. I can't remember where it came from but it sat in the corner of the lounge because there was nowhere else to store it. On the rare occasion anyone picked it up it made such an awful sound that they would soon put it down again. On one occasion, however, a young Spanish priest was visiting. He picked up the guitar and began plucking the strings, listening careully to the noise each one made and adjusting them patiently. It seemed to take him ages listening, adjusting, plucking and listening again. Eventually he came hunting us out in the kitchen (to which we had fled) with a great smile on his face. "Listen to it now", he said. He sat down, put the guitar on his knees and began to play the hauntingly beautiful Concierto de Aranzuez. I was astounded. Could this really be the same guitar? Could a little bit of tweaking here and there really bring about such a change?

That story is a good model for Spiritual Direction. The purpose of Spiritual Direction isn't to transform us into something we're not. Its purpose is to enable us to work on ourselves to bring out, with God's grace, the fulness of our potential. We have a baptismal call to holiness. That call is already planted within our nature, we don't need to be someone else to fulfil it. What we need is to grow in virtue and weed out those things that hinder the action of God's grace within our souls.

A Spiritual Director's task is to help us in this. For example, a Spiritual Director cannot tell you that you have a vocation to be a priest. He can encourage you to pray and give you advice on how to improve your prayer. Through your prayer you will begin to perceive the call more clearly which is what you can then discuss with your spiritual director. Having determined the nature of your specific vocation in the Church he can then help you embrace that call with generosity.

Experience suggests that not everyone is getting the most from Spiritual Direction. It requires effort, commitment and sincerity from the person being directed: they have to prepare themselves well and sometimes bring up things that they find hard to talk about. It also requires prudence and wisdom from the Spiritual Director. Sadly, in some cases Spiritual Direction has become an occasional cosy chat with a priest we find more or less congenial. If this happens we are really wasting out time because Spiritual Direction is no longer leading us to encounter Christ and conform our lives to Him.

I wonder would it be worth a few posts on this blog about how to benefit from Spiritual Direction? Let me know what you think by posting a comment or sending me an email.


C T Lamb said...

The general principle of spiritual direction, as I understand it, is that being obedient and receiving direction from someone 'further along' in the spiritual life is a way of being obedient to God? This rule, I believe, was put forward by both St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross.

Anonymous said...

Yes - would definately find some further posts on this very useful.

Thank you