Christian spiritual direction is “the help given by one Christian to another which enables that person to pay attention to God’s personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with this God, and to live out the consequences of the relationship.”
(William A. Barry, SJ and William J. Connolly, SJ, Center for Religous Development, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA)
What is spiritual direction?
Spiritual direction is a time-honoured term for a conversation, ordinarily between two persons, in which one person explores with another spiritually mature and skilled person about the ways in which God may be encountering her or his life, directly or indirectly.
In our postmodern post Christendom age, many people dislike the term "spiritual direction" because it sounds like one person giving directions, or orders, to another. They may prefer "spiritual companionship," or some other expression. What we call it doesn't make any real difference. The reality remains that the experience is conversations about life in the light of faith.
Although spiritual direction has had a burst of new life in the last 20 years or so, it is really quite ancient. Across both the Hebrew and the Christian Scriptures, we find people seeking spiritual counsel and in the early church, people flocked to hermits in the desert for spiritual counsel. Across the centuries we find striking examples of directors, most from the Catholic tradition. Today, spiritual directors come from many traditions.
It is often offered as a one-to-one, or group experience, in private sessions with spiritual mentors who have most likely completed extensive formation for the ministry of spiritual direction.
What spiritual direction is not ...
Spiritual Direction is not counselling, pastoral care, psychology or therapy, although, there are times when aspects of these helping disciplines may appropriately occur within spiritual direction.
How often do you meet?
This is arranged between you and the director. The time between visits varies, but people seeking spiritual direction (called either pilgrims or directees) usually meet with their spiritual director on a monthly basis and take a break over the Christmas/January period.
How long do I stay in spiritual direction?
Spiritual direction is normally a long-term process – a thoughtful reflection on your faith journey. To help clarify this and to increase your discernment you may, however, have several different directors over many years.
It is helpful to review any new spiritual direction relationship after a few visits to ensure you are comfortable with the process and the director. At some centres, it is policy that sessions finish at the end of each year and are renewed as desired by the pilgrim at the beginning of the next year.