Seeking Spiritual Direction
February 2013 — Vol. 2, Issue 6
Fr. Jim Gallagher, C.S.C.
Discernment is not something to be done on one’s own.
First off, this is because discernment is not primarily about making a decision about what we would like to do. It is seeking to come to understand God’s call in our life and in particular moments of consequence. Thus, at the heart of it, discernment does not exist, unless the Lord is involved in the process – making it something that cannot happen in isolation.
As well, we are members of the larger Body of Christ. Thus, our relationship with the Lord is not just between the individual and the Almighty; it is an individual in relationship with the Almighty in the context of the community. We come to our best understanding of our call when we bring others who know us and who know the Lord into the process of discernment.
This is the reason why spiritual direction is so often recommended to those in discernment. What better way to find our way to the Lord than through the direction of one who has trod the path before us. It provides one the opportunity to dive deeper into the work of discernment than what you can do on your own.
In truth, though, spiritual direction is about more than just discovering one’s vocation. At the heart of it, direction is meant to help one grow in relationship with the Lord. So it is not only for those who are seeking to discern their vocation, nor is it something necessarily to end once one finds one's vocation. It is helpful for all who seek to grow in their relationship with the Lord.
Indeed, the first level of work in spiritual direction is to learn to deepen one’s relationship with the Lord. This is the work to which we are all called no matter what our vocation. Each of us is called to an ever-deepening relationship with the Lord. Attending to this is also what allows us to grow in our capacity to hear and respond to the Lord’s invitation.
Within this context of growing in one’s relationship with the Lord, it is also appropriate then to bring up issues related to the discernment of vocation. An experienced spiritual director can ask questions that cause us to reflect on the areas of our prayer and our life that might best illuminate God’s call or draw out the things that are holding us back. As well, it can often be hard to pick up patterns in our life or in our prayer that can help us in our discernment. Through regular conversations with a spiritual director, they will often be able to see the patterns that we miss ourselves.
The trick then is to make the commitment to find a director. If you read this and have no idea where to find an experienced spiritual director, a good place to start is your pastor. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your pastor should be your director; it means that he will often know individuals in the area who can serve as a director. Set up a time to meet with your pastor or a trusted mentor in the faith and talk over your desire for direction. See if they can give you a good lead in your area.
Another thing to keep in mind when looking for a spiritual director is that they need to be someone with whom you feel comfortable sharing your life in Christ. Any spiritual director will know this. So don’t feel that you have to continue to meet with someone, or don’t worry about hurting their feelings if after the first or second meeting there is something there holding you back. Keep looking until you find someone that you can trust and can help you grow in your relationship with the Lord.
There are many parts to discerning one’s vocation. One of the most important parts is spiritual direction. If you do not have a director, look into finding one. Along those lines, feel free to be in touch if we can be of assistance as your strive to find a good director.
Prayer from the Tradition
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