Another way to help us to listen to God in our prayer and in our lives is to seek out spiritual direction. Speaking regularly to a spiritual director is a time-honored practice, especially when someone is discerning their vocation, making a major life-choice, or a week-long retreat.
How can a spiritual director help us? Ideally, a spiritual director accompanies us on our journey, helping us to recognize God’s action and invitation in our lives. As we share our prayer and experiences with a spiritual director, the director helps us to understand more clearly how God is speaking to us in our prayer and our lives. The more honest we are, the more insight the spiritual director can offer to us. An essential part of spiritual direction is our openness about our lives and what is happening interiorly. At first, it can be difficult or feel awkward to speak about our spiritual lives, our deeper thoughts and feelings, and what happens in our prayer life, but it is important to be open with a spiritual director.
Finding a good spiritual director can take time but is worthwhile. Here are some characteristics to look for in a spiritual director:
—Approachable—someone you can honestly speak to
–Available–a spiritual director only has time to meet with so many directees, and in many places, spiritual directors are in short supply. If a spiritual director tells you that they are not available right now, or it becomes too difficult to arrange a meeting, it is probable that they are already directing too many people to fit in another person. You can ask them for a recommendation for another director.
—A good listener—a good spiritual director offers guidance and direction, but most often listens to our experiences and then points us towards what is significant about that experience
—Spiritual experience and maturity—someone who is faithful in living their faith, is proficient at prayer, and growing in their own spiritual life. Ideally, a spiritual director has significant experience in the spiritual life and also training in spiritual direction.
—Accompanies rather than leads.
How can we find a good spiritual director?
- Look for a priest whose homilies or personal conversations you find helpful. (Parish pastors can often be too busy to offer spiritual direction, but sometimes an associate pastor may be available.)
- Ask for a recommendation from your pastor or another priest you trust.
- Call a Catholic retreat house and ask for recommended spiritual directors in your area.
- Make a retreat and follow up with the retreat director, or with someone the retreat director recommends.
- Connect with a religious community that offers spiritual direction: Jesuits, Benedictines, Oblates, etc.
Having a good spiritual director accompany us on our spiritual journey helps us to learn the principles of the spiritual life, recognize God’s unexpected action in our lives, avoid obstacles and self-deception, and go beyond being stuck in a rut or discouragement. However, while finding a good spiritual director to be very helpful, our true Spiritual Director is Jesus Christ, who guides us in hidden ways through the action of the Holy Spirit. And Jesus is always with us, guiding us.