Spiritual Direction is “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 and William J. Connolly, The Practice of Spiritual Direction)
What Is Distinctive about Ignatian Spiritual Direction?
Spiritual direction is a feature of many Christian traditions. In fact, forms of spiritual direction are found in all religions. What distinguishes Ignatian spiritual direction from other approaches? The Irish Jesuit Brian O’Leary lists these elements.
A theological vision rooted in the Spiritual Exercises. The theology of the Exercises is optimistic. It affirms the goodness of the world. But it also is acutely aware of the pervasive problem of evil. At the same time it is contemplative and service-oriented.
Flexible. The Ignatian spiritual director does not impose a program on the directee. The manner of the direction is adjusted to fit the person’s personality, life history, and spiritual experience. The director “cannot know beforehand what he or she will suggest.”
A partnership. Ignatian spiritual direction is a partnership. It thus demands mutual respect and openness to the other’s frame of reference. It follows Ignatius Loyola’s admonition, “Let it be presupposed that every good Christian is to be more ready to save their neighbor’s proposition than to condemn it.”
What do you really want? Ignatian spiritual direction attempts to uncover the deepest desires of the human heart. Typically, these are smothered by superficial desires for transitory things. Our most profound desires are shaped by the Holy Spirit and point toward new choices for spiritual growth and fruitful service.
Rules for discernment. Ignatius Loyola’s rules for discernment of spirits permeate Ignatian spiritual direction. These are methods for identifying inner movements, reflecting on them, and understanding where they come from and where they lead us.
Discerning with Spiritual Direction
In spiritual direction you reflect deeply on the experiences of your daily life. Gradually, as you contemplate and discern, you may begin to recognize a deeper connection, presence and grace in your life. You may come to realize how God is truly with you every day and everywhere.
Spiritual direction is not actually about being directed. Rather, it is a contemplative companionship where you are encouraged to grow your relationship with God. God is the true director.
Gifts of Spiritual Direction
You may come to spiritual direction for a variety of reasons, including to:
Meet with a Spiritual Director
The privilege and responsibility of a spiritual director is to journey with you as you deepen your relationship with God. Think of that person as a guide or a companion. Most spiritual directors have formal training and are seasoned in the art of spiritual direction. You and your guide will meet at the parish at a convenient time, usually once a month for an hour. Whether your relationship with the spiritual director continues for many years or only for a short period of time, it is very important to be comfortable with the spiritual director you choose. What is shared between you is held in strict confidence.
Opportunity to do the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in Daily Life
St. Ignatius designed a retreat called the Spiritual Exercises to help people deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and grow in the inner freedom to discern where God is truly calling them. The Spiritual Exercises can be made at a retreat house for an intense 30 days or done in daily life. Ignatius realized that busy people at home need an alternative. This retreat in daily life takes 8-9 months and is done with a guide. You commit to an hour of daily prayer using Ignatian contemplations and meet weekly with your director. It is a significant undertaking but richly rewarding.
For more information or to make an inquiry about spiritual direction or the Spiritual exercises, contact:
Deirdre Banscher email@example.com
Fran Knoll firstname.lastname@example.org