An Homage to Spiritual Directors

I had my first spiritual director what I was 14 years old. I was a freshman in High School, my first year as a seminarian in the Catholic Church. I was too young to know what to do with a spiritual director, what their role in my life was, or how to grow because of what they did to help.

I would spend eight years in the Catholic seminary, every year of which I was asked to form a relationship with a spiritual director. By the time I left seminary, I had come to rely heavily on their gift to help shape and direct the health of my spiritual well-being.

Part counselor, part coach, part guru, and part confidante, every SD I have ever had the joy of working work had one thing in mind: exploring honest answers to the question “how is it with my soul?”

I am now thirty years into my ordained ministry. Over the years I have had opportunities to work with these remarkable leaders, whose calling and gift is to maintain the spiritual health of the church and those who serve within it.

A few years ago, I prepared a address to a group of leaders in the Conference of churches where I was working. My opening line read “It is time for the Spiritual Directors, the shamans, and the sages to find their voice among us. It is time for us to listen to what they give voice to.”

Before the remarkable church historian Phyllis Tickle died, she reminded the church that we are going through a new time of Reformation. The previous Reformation shifted the Church on its axis. These shifts, which she argued happened about once every 500 years, begin when questions about authority surface. We call into question that which we grant the authority to resolve our questions about truth and morality.

Its happening again, she said. Since the time of Luther, the reformed traditions granted that authority to scripture. She says we have learned new things about those writings that, while they remain sacred to us, are no longer going to allow us to say the Bible is our only source of determining truth and moral judgment.

What will replace it?

Her guess was the Holy Spirit.

She says we are entering a time when the sacred movement and dance of the Spirit of the living God and the risen Christ will assist the Church in its deliberations. The art of discernment, the playful and creative ability to sense the impulses of the Spirit of God in prayer and through contemplation, will stand alongside our renderings of our sacred texts and speak to us about our pathways to grace, to justice, to faith, to hope, and to love.

And so, it is time for the spiritual directors, those who direct our spirits, who open us up to matters oft unnoticed in the hectic and chaotic world we move through, to emerge. It is time for us all the develop disciplines of discernment and contemplation so that the Holy Spirit, who has not abandoned the church and remains its life-blood, can speak to us through the cacophony of voices vying for our attention.

Gentle traveler of these some times weary ways, let your spirit open up on your walk through this world. May there be joy in your spirit on this, your journey Into the Mystic.