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RE: [IP] Trained Spritual Director

Bonnie Richardson [mailto:email @ redacted] wrote:

> Hey Jim, 
> Would you enlighten me on what this means?  What training, by 
> whom, what do
> you do?  How do you direct?  What exactly does that job title 
> do?  and How
> do you get to be one. 

Well, here's a brief answer: 

A spiritual director in the most general sense can be just about anyone who
can help another person with his/her spiritual life.  At the simplest level,
it can simply be someone who one trusts and who will be honest in the
interaction about a relationship with God.  At the most complex, it is
someone with considerable education in theology, psychology, psychiatry,
sociology, etc.  Those are the two extremes . . . I fall in the middle in
that I have a good education in theology and spirituality (I can discuss
that another time if anyone's interested), and I completed an intensive
program in direction from the Pastoral Studies Institute, now housed at St.
Luke's Episcopal Church, Atlanta, under the direction of Fr. John
Westerhoff, formerly a professor of theology and pastoral care at Duke,
Fordham, and Harvard Universities.

Outwardly, a relationship with a spiritual director looks much the same as
the relationship with a pastoral counselor or therapist.  And the
interactions are similar as well.  There are two fundamental and critical
differences.  First, spiritual direction is not about solving problems,
particularly if those problems involve interpersonal relationships.  That
would be practicing therapy or counseling, and usually requires a license to
do so.  Second difference is more intangible.  In a counseling or therapy
session, the counselor and client have a conversation, and if it's pastoral
counseling, it includes the intention that it takes place in the presence of
God.  In spiritual direction, it's really more the directee and God having a
conversation in the presence of the director, with the intention (and
assumption) that God will use the director to speak to the directee.
Ultimately, the real director is God, not the human person sitting across
from the directee.

Spiritual direction is an ancient ministry which was first attributed (at
least in Christian times) to St. Anthony of Egypt, and developed by the
Desert Fathers of the Egyptian desert around the Fourth Century.  For most
of the time since, spiritual direction has had most of its expression in
monasteries and convents.  It's generally considered essential for those
called to the deeper contemplative life, whether as a religious or not, and
probably useful to anyone who is seeking a deeper relationship with God.

As you might guess, it would be very easy for a spiritual director to insert
his or her own biases and prejudices into such a relationship, which is why
one needs to be careful in selecting a spiritual director.  Both the
director and directee must be careful to prepare themselves, and to
intentionally build the trust necessary for such a relationship to be
fruitful.  That's also why it's not a highly publicized ministry.  

I guess it wasn't quite a short as I planned.  8-)

Jim Handsfield
mailto:email @ redacted OR
mailto:email @ redacted

The opinions expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent those of
my wife who runs this house and makes more important decisions than I do.
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