Recall the moment as early as Chapter 6 in Mark’s Gospel when Jesus commissioned the Twelve Apostles and sent out “two by two”. They were to take only one tunic and staff, but no money or a sack. They were to go where they were welcomed and to shake the dust from their feet where they were not. More astoundingly, we hear that they drove out many demons and healed the sick. So great is the power of redemption from its very first installment.
As we take leave from our “High Holy Days” and move into the “Ordinary Time” of our days to plans for vacations and other forms of retreat, who accompanies us and empowers us to continue God’s work in our midst? One such companion for this type of journey is a Spiritual Director.
One of the invaluable aspects of my religious education was the encouragement to seek spiritual direction as part of my program of study. This type of relationship with a person was both complementary and distinct from classroom learning, practical or professional experience or even the personal experiences with one’s family, friends, or individual self.
At first, selecting a spiritual director was intimidating. There were ample contact lists and religious traditions from which to select a person. It was also easy enough to arrange a mutually convenient time to meet each other. But, having never experienced such a dynamic before, I didn’t know what was supposed to happen next. So, I began by starting.
I met several different types of people during that initial period. They all seemed competent, willing, and available. Yet, each came (as did I) with a set of assumptions. Each encounter was an opportunity to work through those assumptions to get to the essential part of spiritual direction, often simplified by flat statements such as “How is your prayer life?” or “How is your relationship with God?”
I suspect, for the average person, these questions might sound trite. But consider what kind of life one would have if no one ever asked you such questions and further, no one ever journeyed with you as you began to respond, not so much to those simple questions, but to the presence of God growing in your life. Imagine how impoverished life would be if you never spoke about nor were ever asked to talk about God in your midst.
Each of us has a wellspring of spirituality that we are able to access at varying degrees of comfort and freedom. Spiritual direction allows one to concentrate without other distractions or obligations upon us. Much like one might have a personal trainer in a gym to isolate and develop certain muscles, spiritual direction enables the growth of the whole person by re-focusing our outlook and experience of our lives back into right relationship with God and others.
While God is the center from which the power of spiritual direction is focused and from which it flows, there are certain skills that a good spiritual director has and can pass on to those working with him or her. Chief among these skills are the abilities of a deep listener: empathy, non-judgment, and open discernment.
Over the years, I have welcomed and stayed with as many spiritual directors as I have met, thanked and never crossed paths with them again. Each encounter was a generous gift. Overall, the depth of my spirit increases so that the prayers and people in my life become a better relationship with God.
It is easier to get up off the ground and shake off the dust again and again. But to journey “two by two” casting out demons and confronting our own unhealthy situations is perhaps the longer, more important journey we do with each other and with persons blessed to journey with us.
Copyright 2013 Jay Cuasay
About the Author
Jay Cuasay is a freelance writer on religion, interfaith relations, and culture. A post-Vatican II Catholic father with a Jewish spouse, he is deeply influenced by Christian mysticism and Zen Buddhism. He was a regular columnist on Catholicism for examiner.com and a moderator and contributor to several groups on LinkedIn. His LTEs on film and Jewish Catholic relations have been published in America and Commonweal. Jay ministered to English and Spanish families at a Franciscan parish for 13 years. He can be reached at TribePlatypus.com.