Spiritual Direction

The Art of Accompaniment

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.’
Ps 32:8

When coming on retreat to Dowry House, you may find it helpful to reflect on your faith experiences while being accompanied by a spiritual director. If you would like to arrange for spiritual direction, or simply to know more about it, please contact the sisters on 01328 821293.

What is spiritual direction/accompaniment?

Spiritual direction is deeply rooted in the Christian tradition, finding its origins with the Desert Fathers. One way of defining spiritual direction is as ‘help given by one Christian to another which enables that person to pay attention to God’s personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with this God, and to live out the consequences of the relationship.’ (William A. Barry and William J. Connolly, The Practice of Spiritual Direction). When we come for spiritual direction, the focus is on our experience of God or anything that points to him. This sacred space of spiritual direction, which is on a one-to-one basis, presupposes the freedom to explore any spiritual issue that you want to work through. We can open ourselves in trust to our director, knowing that anything discussed in spiritual direction is kept strictly confidential.

With this in mind, it is important to say what spiritual direction is not. It is not pastoral counselling or psychotherapy; neither is it a dependent relationship in which the director answers all our problems. Having said this, there are times when we may need to look at our personal struggles within the context of spiritual direction, so that we can see how God is still working in us through these difficulties.

Who is a spiritual director?

Some of us may struggle with the word ‘director’ and would find the terms guide or companion more helpful. In fact, the real ‘director’ is the Holy Spirit and a spiritual director’s role is to assist us in attending to God’s presence, in recognising and responding to the direction of God in our life. Through his or her compassionate listening, the spiritual director is there to help us reflect on our relationship with God and so discern vocational choices, thus enabling us to see a particular situation in the light of faith. There are no judgements or expectations on the side of the spiritual director.

You may find a spiritual director in a priest, a member of a religious community or a lay person who is single or married. Spiritual directors vary in their approach depending on their experience and training; for example, some are trained in Ignatian spirituality, whereas others may be more Franciscan or Carmelite.

If you want to see your spiritual director regularly, it is usually suggested to have a meeting once every 4-6 weeks. The custom is for a donation to be given.

Is spiritual direction for everyone?

In everyday life, we find ourselves constantly having to make decisions; some decisions are straight forward like choosing cereals for breakfast, other are not so easy – especially if they can dramatically change the direction of our lives. In these moments when we stand at a crossroads, we need the help of others. Similarly, in our spiritual journey, we may also find ourselves at a crossroads or simply desiring to grow deeper in our relationship with God. It is then that we find how invaluable spiritual direction is for our spiritual growth. We will notice how this accompaniment enables us to develop a discerning heart that seeks the will of God in the daily circumstances of life. Everyone on the spiritual journey needs direction.

How do I find a spiritual director?

A good way to begin this search is to pray to be guided by God towards the right person. Sometimes this is a smooth and blessed journey of knocking at the right door; at other times, it can be a journey of perseverance in approaching various people recommended to us. It is important that we find a spiritual director with whom we have a good rapport and feel able to build a relationship of trust. For this reason, the first meeting with a spiritual director is still exploratory and allows for mutual discernment about continuing or terminating further meetings. During the first meeting, we may want to explain what we seek from spiritual direction and ask the director’s faith denomination, method of spiritual direction and enquire about a donation. It is worth giving the director and ourselves a possibility of few meetings before evaluating them and whether or not a donation is required.

In seeking a spiritual director you can:

  • ask a team member at Dowry House or another retreat centre in your area
  • approach a religious community or ask your parish priest for suggestions
  • find someone online at www.sdiworld.org/find-a-spiritual-director