What is spiritual direction?
Spiritual Accompaniment, also known as Spiritual Direction, is a process to help you come closer to God. Through conversation with a spiritual companion in an atmosphere of trust, you can be helped to arrive at a deeper awareness of the presence and movement of God in your everyday life. As you share your dreams, struggles, triumphs and fears, you open up to the deepest and wisest source of freedom and joy.
A spiritual companion helps you notice, savour and respond to the movement of God in the spiritual practice of ordinary life. The companion is a listening and supportive person who creates an environment where you can look honestly at your relationship with God.
The operative word in is “relationship”. Spiritual accompaniment is always aimed ultimately at fostering union with God. The spiritual journey is about the movement towards unity of self in God, the movement towards wholeness (holiness).
Differences between spiritual accompaniment and counselling
It should be noted that there are distinctions between spiritual accompaniment and therapeutic relationships. In general therapy and counselling deal primarily with problem areas of one's life and attempt to bring healthy resolution to issues. Spiritual direction is concerned with finding and responding to God - in the midst of pain or disorder as well as in the rest of life. Problem solving is not the primary focus of spiritual direction.
Finding a spiritual companion
It will probably take some time to find the right person for you. If God is in the felt need for a director, however, then it is safe to assume that the Spirit will eventually provide the resources you need. The key is to remain patient yet diligent in the waiting, to trust God in the process, remaining attentive to the direction of the Spirit in all of life.
Choosing a spiritual companion
In a companioning relationship, it is important for there to be a mutual sense of the rightness of the relationship and a concern for open, honest, clear communication and a reverence for the unique way God is working in the individuals involved. Coupled with this is a mutual dependence upon the Holy Spirit at work in the relationship. Human specifics of age, sex, denomination and so forth, may assume more importance at one time in a person's life than at another. Basically it is only necessary that the two persons experience the kind of "fitness" that allows them to be free for their common purpose together without undue attention to their relationship. It is helpful to set up five or six meetings and then evaluate how things are going. After that, periodic evaluations are useful so that what was begun as a right thing does not continue past its time.
The spiritual companion
Spiritual companions may be clergy, single, married or committed to the religious life and they may seek their livelihood in a variety of occupations. What is paramount is that the director is responding to an invitation from God to participate in this ministry; that the gift of direction has been called forth by others; and that the director has sought to enhance the gift and sharpen skills through means appropriate to her or his particular needs.
The primary responsibilities of the companion are prayer for those accompanied and openness to God for what is truly called for during the sessions. This assumes that the companion is taking seriously his/her relationship with God through intentional prayer, attention to solitude and regular spiritual direction.
Further, as a means of accountability in this ministry, and growth as a companion, companions avail themselves of supervision in a one-to-one or group setting with other directors. Whatever way this supervision happens, confidentiality is observed and anonymity of those accompanied is preserved.