June 05, 2006

More Thoughts about Spiritual Direction

I've received a request for information about spiritual direction. Some weeks or months ago, I posted a few comments about the beginnings of spiritual direction. Here they are again, followed, however, by some additional thoughts about the role of a spiritual director.

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When a Catholic asks me for spiritual direction, my first response is to give the following list of essential basics..


Keep: The Ten Commandments of God.

Keep: The Five Commandments (or Precepts) of the Church.

Know: Your Faith as an Adult Member of the Church.

Practice: The Spiritual and Corporal (Bodily) Works of Mercy.

Pray daily.

Worship God at Mass every Sunday.

Catholics who are already living these basics need a much better spiritual director than me. In fact, such Catholics already have God the Holy Spirit as their personal director.

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Now . . . some continuing, NON-infallible thoughts.

A spiritual director can serve as an observer of how a Christian lives out the basics I've already described. The director's comments about what he observes (or hears from the Christian) can be tailored to the particular Christian's personality, state in life, situation, circumstances, culture, etc.

The director is not a psychotherapist; if the Christian seems to need professional psychotherapy, the director ought to encourage the Christian to seek it.

The director is not there to make decisions for the Christian.

The director, in my opinion, serves as an assistant to the Christian's discernment of what is true and good. In other words, the director accompanies the Christian in exercising the specific virtue of prudence.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us:
1806 Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; "the prudent man looks where he is going." "Keep sane and sober for your prayers." Prudence is "right reason in action," writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle. It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.

It is NOT the role of the director to exercise the virtue of prudence on behalf of (or instead of) the Christian. The Christian himself must exercise prudence. However, from time to time the director may challenge the Christian concerning what may be prudent or not.

A director is as liable to error as any other human being. However, he can serve as an "outside party" for a Christian who wants to hear more than his own voice.

Regarding Virtue.

We aren't judged by God on whether or not we became "mystics" or had "mystical experiences". Rather, he wants to know if we believe, if we serve his glory and the authentic good of others (and such service is the stuff of real love). Those concerns are the starting line and the finish line of spirituality. Without those concerns, we are self-deceived, and any so-called "spirituality" we might practice or seek is simply conceit-filled false self-inflation.


Blogger Theocoid said...

Thanks for this post, Father. I just started with a spiritual director, who recommended that I read Fire Within by Thomas Dubay. Now half way through, I was beginning to wonder just how I would possibly incorporate these disciplines into my life. Your last paragraph helps me to grasp the goal more concretely.

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Stephen said...

Reverend Father, I was looking for some other information when I came across your blog and I thought it would be approriate to comment on this. There are six precepts of the Church: 1)Go to mass on Sundays and Holidays of Obligation, 2)to go to confession at least pnce a year, 3) toreceive Holy Communion during Easter time, 4) to contribute to the support of the Church, 5) to fast and abstain on the days appointed, and 6) to observe the laws of the Church concerning marriage. These are the fundamental laws of the Church besides the Ten Commandments, the law of human nature.
Now virtue to which we are all called and for which these laws are made are of course essential to perfection and our salvation. But believing is not enough; that is only the first virtue, for all virtues rest on Faith, Hope, and Charity, and St. Paul expounds on this in Corintians 1, 1-13. Our Lord also told His desciples of the Two Great Commandments: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thine understanding; and thy neighbour as thyself" (Luke 10:27).
One can never love a thing unless he firstly knows what that thing is, and then has the hope for attaining that thing, and finally truelly desires that thing (love). To reverse this order or to leave any part out is to be no better than the protestants who have separated themselves from the Church for that is essentially what the protestants have done to justify themselves.
May God bless you, Father.

4:04 PM  

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