To answer that question, I’m going to rely on a book that I go through with my directees called Navigating the Spiritual Life, by Dan Burke.
Most of the chapter on this question is spent defining what spiritual direction is not. Let’s review these.
- It’s not a boss/employee relationship - if you’re looking for a closer analogy, then a coach/athlete relationship does the trick.
- It’s not Confession - You’re not meeting with your spiritual director to confess your sins. Yes, if you’re one of the few lucky who can find a priest as a spiritual director can be ideal, and confession could be done at the same meeting. But, direction and confession are two separate matters.
- It’s not Spiritual Friendship - having close spiritual friendships are a blessing on our journey to God. But, the spiritual director will sometimes need to point out difficult matters, and the tendency to be lenient to our friends can impede progress.
- It’s not a Self Help Program - in the spiritual life, the self-reliance that our culture promotes becomes a hindrance and can and will stop progress. St. Bernard says, “He who constitutes himself his own director becomes the disciple of a fool.”
- It’s not Psychological Counseling - If you’re looking for help with deep emotional or psychological issues, call a licensed professional.
- It’s not a One-Time Event - Typically spiritual direction is done over a course of months and years. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
- It’s not Wandering Around with a Spiritual Companion - The Doctors of the Church have given us the gift of understanding the ways to union with God. Our goal is clear - to better know and love God and others.
- It’s not about Apostolic Work - It’s best to leave plans about growing the kingdom of God to meetings outside spiritual direction.
- It’s not just about Prayer - Although prayer is incorporated and central to spiritual direction, it’s not the only part.
- And it’s not just about Action - We must find a balance between Prayer and Action. Often the directee will make resolutions during the meeting, but these should stem from the will of the Father.
Great, now that we’ve defined what isn’t spiritual direction, let’s talk about what it is.
- It’s a relationship between the Holy Spirit, the directee, and the director.
- The focus is on progress on the spiritual path to union with God.
- To quote directly from the book, “The central aim of spiritual direction is to help guide the directee to purposefully, consistently, and substantially grow in their relationship with God and neighbor.”
The analogy that summarizes the relationship best is that of a spiritual coach.
I looked up on the International Olympic Committee website the qualities of a great coach.
A great coach is someone who:
- leads by example,
- is constantly learning,
- loves to share knowledge,
- is an energized motivator,
- wants to understand individual differences in those he is coaching,
- effectively communicates,
- listens empathetically,
- is committed to integrity,
- leads by example,
- and is passional about the “sport.”
Hello, my name is Danny Ryan, and I am a Catholic Lay Spiritual Director. I’ve created this channel for both my directees and those interested in learning more about spiritual direction.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve been in formation to become a spiritual director through the Avila Institute and the Heart of Christ School of Spiritual Direction.
Please subscribe to the channel if you’re interested in spiritual direction and support the channel by clicking on the like button.
My hope is that I can pull together resources to help more people make progress in their spiritual life. If you hear me say anything wise, trust me, it’s probably something heard or read.
Join me to learn more about the narrow path to union with God.