The gift of spiritual direction
July 12, 2021 | posted by Dr. Tim George and Nancy Groom, spiritual directors serving in Odessa and Ingram
The gift of spiritual direction
Spiritual direction has become increasingly familiar to Catholics. One definition describes it as “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). This definition, which guides the formation of spiritual directors for the Archdiocese of San Antonio, has several key concepts.
Spiritual direction enables us to pay attention to God’s personal communication. We are a busy people, and we don’t always take time to “pay attention” to God, who continually reaches out to us. Spiritual direction can help us attend to His voice.
Spiritual direction assists us in responding to this personally communicating God. It is not enough for us simply to hear God’s voice; He is asking us to answer Him. Spiritual direction can facilitate a more open response to the God who loves us.
Spiritual direction enhances growth in intimacy with God. God desires a relationship with each of us, which can remain superficial or can grow into a profound intimacy. Spiritual direction invites us to deepen our walk with God.
Spiritual direction guides us in living out the consequences of a divine relationship. God does not ask us merely to “live in” intimacy with Him, but also to “live out” our intimacy with Him. Spiritual direction helps us discern and carry out what God teaches and asks of us, whatever that may entail.
Spiritual direction is not about fixing a personal problem -- this is the work of counseling. Nor is it a lesson on Church teaching -- this is pastoral care. Spiritual direction is specifically about growing closer to God. In the context of the director’s prayerful listening presence, the Holy Spirit -- the true Spiritual Director -- can lead us into an ever greater oneness with God and abundant fruitfulness for His Kingdom.
A person’s prayer life is the pathway to a deeper walk with God. St. Teresa of Jesus wrote in her autobiography, The Book of Her Life, “Contemplative prayer in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.” Prayer, the lifeblood of our friendship with God, is at the heart of spiritual direction, along with any aspect of our daily lives. “The ministry of Spiritual Direction can [help people] to prayerfully listen for the movements of the Holy Spirit in all areas of the person’s life (not just in their formal prayer life).” (Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Direction, Spiritual Companion: Guide to Tending the Soul). God cares about everything that concerns us.
While spiritual direction is not new, it has found a resurgence since Vatican II. More importantly, it is no longer confined to the clergy but has opened up to the laity as well -- we can all benefit from spiritual direction. To meet this growing desire, an increasing number of clergy and laity are being formed as spiritual directors. Under the auspices of the Diocese of San Antonio, a well-respected three-year Spiritual Director Formation Program is available through St. Peter upon the Water in Ingram for anyone sensing God’s call to become a spiritual director. This formation includes teaching in the areas of Scripture, theology, and spirituality, as well as praying the Church’s prayers and practicing the art of spiritual direction. First envisioned and developed by Auxiliary Bishop Mike Boulette almost 20 years ago, this program forms spiritual directors attentive to the Holy Spirit and ready to help others respond to God’s invitation to intimacy.
The Archdiocese of San Antonio has long benefited from this three-year program, which over the past 15 years has presented129 spiritual directors to the archdiocese -- directors who presently serve in many parishes and diocesan ministries. On June 12, 2021, 40 participants of the most recent cycle of this formation program were presented to the Archdiocese as newly formed spiritual directors in a Celebration Mass at Holy Trinity Parish, officiated by Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, MSpS. Increasing numbers of our parishes are now blessed with well-formed spiritual guides for the faithful.
In addition, on May 15, 2021, nine newly formed spiritual directors were presented to Bishop Sis and the Diocese of San Angelo after completing St. Peter upon the Water’s San Angelo Satellite Spiritual Director Formation Program. These new directors more than double the number of spiritual directors available in the San Angelo Diocese.What a gift these new directors will be to this diocese!
Because of the pandemic, spiritual direction, which is usually experienced as face-to-face, has also been practiced as virtual spiritual direction during St. Peter upon the Water’s most recent Formation Program. This new “version” of spiritual direction is a viable choice for those living in remote areas who hope to grow by “meeting” regularly with a spiritual director.
God invites all of us to an ever-deeper relationship, and perhaps now is the time for you to find a spiritual director to guide your own spiritual journey. If there are spiritual directors in your parish, your pastor may help connect you with one of them. Otherwise, St. Peter upon the Water carries a listing of formed Catholic spiritual directors in the San Antonio Archdiocese and beyond, and you can contact them at (830) 367-5959.
Also, if you are sensing God’s call to become a spiritual director and you would like more information about the St. Peter upon the Water Director Formation Program that begins in September 2021, you can reach them at (830) 367-5959.
Prayerfully consider how God may be inviting you either to find a spiritual director or to discern His call to be formed as a spiritual director. The gift of spiritual direction is offered to us all!
Dr. Tim George and Nancy Groom are spiritual directors formed through the Spiritual Director Formation Program offered by St. Peter upon the Water. They have served as members of the Formation Team, and for the past three years Dr. George has led the Satellite Director Formation Program in San Angelo.