What is spiritual direction?

The term Spiritual Direction may raise various responses in the mind of anyone who has not experienced this form of spiritual guidance, so perhaps it’s easier to look first at what it isn’t. So, spiritual direction is not new, nor is it advice giving, counselling, preaching, teaching, moral guidance or authoritarian!

Spiritual direction seeks, through the help and support of a spiritual director, to help a person draw closer to God, to see (or discern) God in the midst of everyday difficulties whether large or small and to discern him at work in their life.  Fundamentally, spiritual direction helps the individual to move away from concern with their own sinfulness to understanding that their life, with all its imperfections and shortcomings, is in fact the area where God’s call and direction is constantly apparent, if only they listen for it. God’s call is perceived through the act of discernment, regularly practised by the individual.

The main point to emphasise is that God is the Director, not the person (spiritual director) who is accompanying the individual on their prayer journey.  Regular Bible reading, meditation and prayer are all essential if God’s call is to be heard. It can also be helpful to keep a prayer journal to note thoughts, indications or queries which arise day by day as these can be raised and discussed with the spiritual director at the next meeting. Pictures, art or poetry which attracts the individual’s attention can all be important parts of a journal. The journal style will reflect the individual and the way in which God speaks to them.

When seeking a spiritual director diocesan or regional networks are invaluable as it is preferable to choose as director someone who is not well known to the individual. The important qualities to look for in a director are humility, knowledge, experience and evidence of attentiveness to God’s leading in their own life. This last point is particularly important because a spiritual director will always be pointing towards God, the supreme leader and Director. A spiritual director will not be seeking to direct but rather to be an honest, supportive, Christian and caring companion and a signpost on an individual’s spiritual journey.

If you live in Sussex you can be linked up with a spiritual director who lives reasonably close to you via the Spirituality Adviser to the Diocese of Chichester, Canon Dr Andrew Mayes, St Peter’s Rectory, 86 Belgrave Road, Seaford, East Sussex BN25 2HE 01323 892964 E mail andrew.mayes@gmail.com

Jan Vernon-Smith

January 2013

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