Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Training in Spiritual Direction

I spent four grueling years working towards a Masters of Arts in Catholic Theology because for most of that time the job I had required that I have that degree. Unfortunately for me, because of a pastoral change, the new parish priest decided that the parish didn't need someone with a Master's Degree, and for other personal reasons it became apparent that it was time to move on from that position. It took a year of prayer and discernment for me to come to that decision, but I was able to do so.

After in my final year of Grad School, with the help of my Spiritual Director and more prayer and discernment I tried to determine what I should do next. He was the one who cautioned me not to move until the Spirit moved me, and it wasn't until someone suggested to me that I would make a good Spiritual Director that it even occurred to me that I should even pursue that avenue. Every time I prayed about Spiritual Direction, the Spirit would well up within me and I would feel moved in that direction, while when I prayed about any other vocational choices I would feel no movement of the spirit at all, and believe me, I had been exploring options, even to the point of applying for a job as campus minister at a local university.

I searched for a Spiritual Direction training program and found one that met my needs. While it was an ecumenical program it was at a Catholic institution, and it was grounded in the Catholic faith. It began with the history of spirituality dating back to the desert fathers and leading up to an in depth study of John of the Cross, Ignatius and Teresa of Avilla as Spiritual Masters. Because of the ecumenical nature of the program, it also included a few sessions on Quaker discernment and Praying the Labyrinth.

What I have learned is to take everything in with a discerning heart. The program offers this information for our edification. Considering the fact that when I do begin my career as a spiritual director I will be working with Catholic directees the chance that I will use the Quaker spirituality that I am learning will come into play is probably not very likely. I will be more likely to be guiding my directees toward the historical tradition of the Church. But having said that, I am glad that I have been exposed to the other spiritualities and to the other people in my program who aren't Catholic because I have learned a great deal about spirituality and prayer from them.

I look at it as the same reason as having had to study philosophy when I was in Gradual School. Some of the modern philosophers were for the most part trying to explain the ontological arguments while excluding any reference to God. Studying these philosophers didn't harm my faith, but rather it strengthened it by helping me to understand and define what it is that I do believe. I can be exposed to these things in my training program without accepting them as Big T Truth as I do the tenets of my Catholic faith and Tradition.

Suffice it to say I am not going to emerge from this training program spouting some "new age" spirituality when I have a deep well of two thousand years of Tradition and Spirituality from which to draw.


No comments: