Would Yoda Have Made a Good Spiritual Director?

YodaBandWWhere would Cinderella be without her fairy godmother? Frodo without Gandalf? The English students without John Keating in Dead Poets Society?  The Karate Kid without Mr. Miyagi? Or Luke Skywalker without Yoda?

Great movie mentors, although often idealized, remind us how important mentors are in our own lives. Mentors are the people who have walked the difficult path before us, people who have shared or currently share in our situation or something similar. How they have walked their path ignites in us a longing to be like them. They approach challenges with a quality or grace that appeals to us. Sometimes it is simply their courageous example that shows us the way; at other times it might be their wisdom that gives us hope that we too can overcome the obstacles in our path. Although we don’t have to personally know someone for their words and example to mentor us, the ideal mentor not only knows us, but “gets” us, and offers us insight to help us see from a different perspective. A mentor can be encouraging, challenging, or even discouraging at times, but their wisdom and insight is the fruit of their life experience.

We can be mentored in many areas of our lives, from a career, to living our Catholic Faith, to a certain scientific or artistic discipline, to simply becoming a better human being. A mentor may be a parent, grandparent, or other relative, a teacher, an expert in a particular field, a boss, a co-worker, a pastor, a spiritual friend, or someone with vast life experience. The best mentors are those who are comfortable with themselves, who have integrated the various aspects of their lives, and are deeply spiritual human beings.

A spiritual mentor is wise in spiritual matters not just from study but from his or her lived experience. Consulting with someone wise in the ways of God can be invaluable for our discernment journey. We should seek advice when we are ready—after we have already been praying about our discernment and done whatever research we need to do—and are at a point where we need some insight as to how to proceed. Perhaps we are stuck in indecision or fear, or perhaps we simply lack the knowledge or insight needed take our next step forward. It’s important to be really open to what our mentor has to say.

One form of mentorship that is part of the Catholic spiritual tradition, as well as highly encouraged in discernments, is spiritual direction. If we are seriously engaged in our spiritual life, we may want to seek regular spiritual direction. But especially when we are discerning a larger matter (such as our vocation), we would be wise to seek a spiritual director, who is often the most helpful mentor in a discernment.

In an earlier post: https://coauthoryourlifewithgod.com/2015/03/04/spiritual-direction/, I talked about how to find a spiritual director. In my next couple posts, I’ll talk a little bit about what it is like to go for spiritual direction for the first time, and some tips for how to make the most of spiritual direction.

To get back to the title question, yes, I think Yoda would have made a good spiritual director for Luke and perhaps does offer him some spiritual direction. Above all, Yoda does what a good spiritual director does: to find God in the directee’s own experience. Yoda encourages Luke to get in touch with and trust his own experience of “the Force.” And while “the Force” seriously lacks as an image of God from a Christian worldview, for the fictional world of Star Wars “the Force” does seem to refer directly to God’s Providence at work in creation.

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In the meantime, what questions do you have questions regarding spiritual direction? If you contact me with your questions, either below in the comments, or via email, I’ll answer them in an upcoming post.

Spiritual Direction

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.