SPIRITUAL DIRECTION SERVICES
So you’ve chosen to work with a spiritual director because you want to examine your spiritual life.
Spiritual direction is the contemplative practice of helping another person or group to awaken to the mystery called God in all of life, and to respond to that discovery in a growing relationship of freedom and commitment.
Although I believe it is appropriate at times to discuss psychological and relational difficulties in the context of spiritual direction, spiritual direction is not therapy. If I believe you are in need of mental health treatment, you will not be receiving those services from me and will be referred to a mental health professional. I do not offer advice, even if asked by you. Similarly, you recognize that spiritual direction is not financial advice and any decisions and actions you may take in that regard are done without my advice or recommendation, and are purely your responsibility.
I will hold our conversations in strict confidence. Our time together is sacred. I will not reveal the content of our conversations unless I am required to do so by law or court order. On the other hand, you are free to share whatever you choose about our conversations with anyone.
THE ROLE OF THE DIRECTEE IN SPIRITUAL DIRECTION
Understanding spiritual direction, what directees do and how they get started help us to have realistic expectations of direction and to be prepared for our visits with our director. An article, Honoring Near Occasions of Grace by Albert Haase, O.F.M., explains direction and the role of the directee very well. The following are excerpts from that article.
When I am the directee, I am challenged to become aware and articulate what God is doing in my life.
SACRED & SENSITIVE DISCUSSIONS
The term ‘spiritual direction’ is imprecise and inaccurate. It incorrectly implies a teacher-student relationship in which the teacher (the director) instructs the student (the directee). It suggests taking notes, learning techniques and maybe even bending to another’s opinion or will. Worse, it indicates that the director knows how God acts in every person’s life, as if the directee’s task is simply to accept the director’s perspective or point of view. Though there may be the occasional session when a director offers an invitation and advice culled from his or her own experience, the primary focus is clearly not on the director but on the directee.
When I am the directee, I am challenged to become aware and articulate what God is doing in my life. The burden of spiritual direction is on me, not the director, as I struggle to answer the question, ‘What is God up to in my life?’ That question, as mysterious as an apparently unanswered prayer, as exhilarating as the arrival of a new child or as riveting as one’s first love letter, has been sole topic of spiritual direction through the centuries. Grace – what God is up to in one’s life – is like that mysterious impulse that gathers geese in a flock to begin heading south for the winter.
Commitment to spiritual direction requires dedication and devotion to the process of attention, discovery and articulation. As the directee, I make the commitment to spend some time every day tuning into the Spirit in my life. I attend to the action of God in daily events, as well as in hopes, dreams, feelings, reactions and desires of my heart. Having discovered just how real and close God’s grace and action are in my life, I claim, celebrate and discuss the implications and challenges with my spiritual director. Spiritual direction is hard work for me as the directee. It challenges me to become sensitive to and take seriously a dimension of life that some people only give a cursory nod to once a week. It also dares me to be open and honest about the many voices and spirits that vie for my attention and distract me from my awareness of God. Honoring near occasions of grace is the essence of spiritual direction.
Speaking of the near occasion of grace that are in my life – as well as the near occasions of sin – is countercultural. In a world that talks glibly about the weather, the quarterback at last night’s football game, the sates at the department stores and the traffic on the way to work, spiritual direction truly stands out as a unique and sacred discussion. It revels in the closeness and the reality of God’s action in my life, even as it reveals some of my less-than-laudatory actions and feelings.
NAMING & CLAIMING GOD’S GRACE
Spiritual direction is a process that occurs on an ongoing, regular basis. There are a number of reasons why people want to commit to naming and claiming God’s grace in their lives: To learn how to be attentive to God’s grace. Some people are not naturally reflective. Others, especially those going through midlife transition, begin to hunger for a deeper experience of faith. But they don’t know what to do or how to get there.
In spiritual direction, the director can offer suggestions and sometimes even share time-honored techniques that have helped directees throughout history grow in sensitivity to God’s presence in their lives. As the spiritual direction-directee relationship grows and develops a history, the director also becomes the memory and reminder of how God’s grace has touched the directee’s past. To deepen awareness of God’s grace. Some people practice a daily awareness of consciousness …being awake and aware of the movement and music of the Spirit in one’s life… The very act of naming these near occasions of grace is a way of growing in deeper awareness and gratitude for them.
To explore what obstructs our attention to God’s grace. Spiritual direction … is also a time to confront near occasions of sin. Sometimes a directee has developed habits or deliberately makes choices that hinder him or her from being attentive and freely responding to God’s grace. To find the grace offered in loss, grief, anger or fear. In spiritual direction, as the directee struggles with anger of a loss or the fear that arises in a time of transition, he or she learns to surrender and trust in the mystery of grace.
All change is stressful. Moving to another city, changing jobs, having surgery or becoming single naturally raises worries and concerns. Such experiences can result in the feeling of being abandoned or forgotten by God. Spiritual direction challenges the directee to be sensitive to God’s grace even in the midst of life’s changes and adjustments. To make important decisions in the light of God’s grace. … The directee becomes aware that grace comes with the responsibility of response. This leads to the topic of discernment, the holy task of deciding how to live ones’ life in response to the action of God.
Such decisions include lifelong commitments such as marriage, lifestyle changes, and involvement in some form of ministry, outreach or apostolic activity. With the director, the directee discerns and decides how best to respond to God.