November 19, 2011
Of the writing of books on spiritual direction, there is no end, at least in recent years. The broad and timeless ministry of spiritual guidance has received renewed attention in the more specialized ministry of spiritual direction.
While direction, even in its most specific sense, has a long history, it has now taken on a popular appeal that it perhaps has never had. The reasons for this new appeal are many and are beyond the scope of this paper, although they may include the turn to a more individualized or personal spirituality (even among those most committed to traditional faiths and religious institutions, for whom it is a complement rather than a competitor to “institutional” or communal religious practice), a greater focus on both the spirituality and ministry of the laity (especially in the Roman Catholic church), and the recent emergence of a Protestant (especially Evangelical) interest in the field (multiplying the audience for literature and training programs in direction, as well as bringing fresh perspectives to the ministry).
The literature on spiritual direction is vast, offering varied perspectives and no end of practical guidance for directors. However, there are notable limitations in most books on direction, often caused by ambiguity.
In this blog series, I will describe two ambiguities that limit the study and practice of spiritual direction, offering clarifications and distinctions in response.
The first is the confusion over what spiritual direction is, which I will attempt to remedy by offering a distinction between “spiritual direction” as a specific ministry characterized by a formal and non-directive methodology and “spiritual guidance” as a broader ministry.
The second confusion I will address is an ambiguity about the necessary capacities of spiritual directors. I will suggest this ambiguity results from the lack of a developmental perspective on the ministry and formation of spiritual directors. Responding to this need, three broad stages in the development of a spiritual director will be discussed. Two areas of capacity (listening skills and discernment) will be treated as examples of such stages.
The goal of this series is to develop these distinctions to a degree that they may serve practicing spiritual directors in clarifying their ministry, pastors in understanding their broader ministries in relation to direction, and both directors-in-training and those offering training to directors in viewing more clearly understanding and articulating the roles and abilities of a director.