It is very important to remember that some of the Reformers were profoundly
skeptical about traditional Catholic or Orthodox spiritual life and practices, including anything monastic, and veered their
approach to discipleship away from such things. This is why there is very little context today in some denominations for the
discussion of spirituality, mysticism, contemplation, asceticism or spiritual direction or guidance.
Bear in mind that
Spiritual Direction it is a charismatic gift given directly by God to its bearer, and has little or nothing to do with ordination
or the jurisdictional authority of church leadership positions. In the Charterhouse, as in the desert hermit tradition, not
every monk is recognized as capable of Spiritual Guidance. The few that are, receive authorization by the Prior to use their
charism as Confessors, Novice Masters, Vicar of the Prior or as the Procurator.
Ideally a spiritual director has lived
spiritual experience and a vigorous faith-filled "contemplative prayer life". Clearly a praying person seeks God, wants to
please God and do God's Will. Has knowledge of the developmental patterns of the spiritual life. Requires an openness to carefully
listen to you, and with you, to what the God is saying to you in the movements of your own spiritual growth; and helps you
understand what God is asking you to do about it. A person who is discerning of the spirits mixed in with the Movement
of the Holy Spirit in you, your life, your spirituality, and your prayer, i.e. Spiritual Discernment. And someone you can
implicitly trust and have confidence in to get to know you really well and understand you and your spiritual intentions, and
understand your personality type, your character with it's strengths and weaknesses, and your temperament, and be sympathetic
to how this all works together in you and your life, but also, not blind to or overly condoning of their dysfunctions.
While St. Gregory the Great tells us this is the ultimate pastoral ministry, it is nothing one can be ordained
to, since it is a charismatic gift. What he exhorts Pastors to do is prepare for the gift by living a life worthy of it and
by praying for it for God's Sake, for God's Glory in the wellbeing of souls. So, this is also got to be someone whose advice
and guidance you are going to willing take and follow or even OBEY for the Love of Christ!
Our Spirtual Director also
needs to be someone who can lovingly but firmly hold you spiritually and morally accountable and take you to task for continuing
in consistent spiritual growth and the elimination of what is contrary or inconsistent to it in your life. Can help you understand
the deeper meaning of your spiritual reading and study, someone with whom you can process things you find striking, or that
stand out in a special way to you, through which God is talking to you or calling to your attention. An individual who
understands that Spiritual Direction is a specialized, stylized, extremely respectful, somewhat lopsided, Sacred relationship
of unequals, who must keep a certain detachment from each other and from becoming overly familiar conventional buddies and
chums, on the one hand, and yet have a loving open communication and confident trust on the other hand. Since their is a special
intimacy and vulnerability involved in this relationship, great care needs to be exercised to keep it exclusively at the service
of God by maintaining all its focus on God at work in the directee/mentee. And importantly, someone who has sufficient time
to devote to your direction.
Possible plausible candidates for your spiritual director/ soul-friend would be whomever it is that God
leads you to who fits more closely these qualities in relation to your spiritual growth. While it is ideal to have a live
person you can physically meet with, church history is replete with examples of epistlatory spiritual direction relationships,
which in our day and age also include cyber and telephonic spiritual guidance relationships. Do whatever works! Guidance is
where and how you find it!
While you may find this a bit daunting at first glance, once you have absorbed the gist
of the qualities and especially begun to understand the spirit of spiritual direction or guidance, people you have met or
know, either physically or through you cyber fellowship, will start to come to mind, or may even jump out at you.
The above is based on the ideals. In reality, various potential directors have these qualities in varying
degrees of strength or obviousness. This is why there is so much stress on Mentorship in contemporary spiritual direction,
rather than the Spiritual Mother/Father master and disciple model, mostly to be found only in contemplative monasteries and
religious orders with a tradition for spiritual direction like the Discalced Carmelites, Jesuits, Dominicans, etc.
with all human relationships, there is a time of introduction and initial engagement. There will be a trial period to see
if the fit exists and works for both of you. If it does, go for it! If it doesn't, move on and keep on looking.
that the goal of all spiritual direction is to train the directee to become so sensitive and attuned to the movements of the
Holy Spirit in one's real life. The Carthusian Statutes tell us that we need, from moment to moment, to be willing and desirous
to seek and know what God's will is, and to do just that, purely out of love for God. When this happens, the fruition of all
our asceticism and contemplative prayer and sacrifice will be achieved in this hallmark of Mystical Marriage, where there
is only One Will, One Love, in Perfect Union with God. And Thomas Merton wrote that ultimately, the Holy Spirit is the spiritual