Thursday, November 20, 2008

Spiritual Direction

When you read the lives of the saints, it seems that they all had spiritual directors. St. Francis de Sales, one of the most famous spiritual directors, councils Philothea on the necessity of having a spiritual director in order to live a devout life:

"And so I say to you, Philothea, if you desire heartily to follow a devout life, seek a holy guide and conductor. Seek where you will (so spoke the devout Avila), and you will never so safely find the will of God as in the path of humble obedience, so well trodden by all the Saints of old."

I am supposed to meet with a priest for spiritual direction tomorrow. I've never met him before, so I don't know what to expect. I haven't had a lot of luck with spiritual direction in the past. I've met with several priests once, but have never been able to develop a relationship whereby I was actually guided to growth in the spiritual life.

This is a little different than confession. When I go to confession, I receive a penance, such as four Our Fathers and four Hail Marys. But with spiritual direction, I'm trying to identify my root sins and devise a plan of action to develop the opposing virtue. It involves more of a commitment. (What am I saying, every time I recite the Act of Contrition during sacramental confession I "firmly resolve with the help of Thy grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin." Isn't that a commitment? Yes, but it's a more ambiguous negative commitment to not do something. Spiritual direction involves a commitment to do something concrete on a regular, repeating basis.)

And good St. Francis de Sales is pretty serious about following the advice of the Spiritual Director:

"And when found, he should be to you as an Angel; do not regard him as an ordinary man, nor trust in him as such, nor in his human knowledge, but in God, who will Himself guide you through His appointed channel, prompting him to do and say that which you most require; therefore count him as an Angel come from heaven that he may conduct you thither."

Tomorrow will be a first meeting. A chance for me to discern whether this is the guide that God has sent for me. I sincerely hope that it is. I've been guiding myself for a long time, and it hasn't gotten me any closer to where I want to be. Just as a man who represents himself in court has a fool for a lawyer, so too the man who has himself for a guide is led by a fool.

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