Spiritual direction: you are not alone
This article is reprinted from winter 2010 issue of HOPE
A multiple choice question for the spiritual at heart:
Being a spiritual director keeps you:
1.) On your toes
2.) Up to date
3.) On your knees
4.) Out of trouble
Actually, with not too much of a stretch of imagination, all four answers could be correct. Certainly, spiritual directors need to be alert and attentive to others’ needs; they need to be up-to-date on society’s demands and influences; they need to be in prayer; and, they’re probably too busy to get into much trouble.
But Sister Catherine Livers, who has been a spiritual director for 25 years, says emphatically, “It keeps you on your knees.”
“It seems now that many more people, maybe because of the chaotic times in which we live, are seeking a deeper meaning of life and their relationship with God,” Sister Catherine said.
“It is very humbling to walk with someone on a spiritual journey. For someone to come and share her/his deepest longings or questions or anxieties about life, it does keep you on your knees. I know if I am not listening to God myself, or if I don’t have a spiritual director of my own, I’m not going to be as helpful. It helps me stay honest,” she added.
Sister Catherine has a background in counseling, education, spirituality and parish work. Often, when she has counseled people, she has realized she was receiving questions like who is God, or how do I pray, or where is God in this event in my life. In essence those questions form the foundation of a spiritual director’s role. The key foundation question might be “What am I to learn?”
“They learn to look at their lives as events that come to them and say, ‘What is God trying to show me in this event or this circumstance?’ There is always a lesson. How can I become more knowledgeable of God’s love in this event? Sometimes it isn’t easy,” Sister Catherine said.
“In each person there is an inner voice. A person learns to listen more carefully to silence, or do more reading, or just take a walk and be with nature. We can find God many ways,” she noted. “In our spiritual journeys, we are always growing, we are always learning more and more about God’s love and grace.”
It seems easy to question God’s role and presence in times of stress such as tragedies, severe illnesses, natural disasters and personal challenges.
“A spiritual director can ask questions and help directees see that God doesn’t want them to suffer alone. God is right there walking with them, helping them to face the challenge they are going through. God wants the best for God’s children,” Sister Catherine said.
When the challenge is steep and resolution seems remote, it is time to exercise the knees again. “Let me tell you, you spend hours on your knees asking God to help that person, or finding the right message to share with that person. It isn’t always easy,” she said.
Sister Catherine’s ministry is an educational stimulant and regular consultation with her spiritual advisor keeps her focused.
“I’ve learned to appreciate human beings more. I enjoy walking with a person who is seeking God and wanting God to be more prevalent in his or her life. That is a profound gift. For me personally, it has made me a better listener. I know if I have nothing inside, then there is nothing I can give to help people. I meet with my spiritual director regularly. How can I give to others unless I work on my own journey? I can have blind spots. I expect my spiritual director to be honest with me.”