An information and orientation meeting for people interested in becoming spiritual directors is being offered Saturday, Sept. 16, 9 a.m.-noon at St. Mary Church in Longview.
The meeting is intended to introduce people to the two-year spiritual direction training course offered by the diocese in the hope of attracting more people to that ministry.
Training will begin in January, with sessions held once a month at St. Mary. The course also will include two annual retreats at the Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House in Dallas.
The diocese has been training spiritual directors since 2011, and has certified about 25 people through the program, said Susan Wells, one of the program’s coordinators.
Priests, deacons, religious, and laity are all welcome to attend the session and to take part in the training.
“All of us here are seeking God,” said Wells. “A spiritual director is simply a companion on that journey, someone to walk with you and, when the need arises, to help you keep your focus on the point of your journey, which is a deeper relationship with God.
“We all walk that journey in in our own ways, but, when we walk it alone, it’s easy to get distracted or frustrated and lose focus,” Wells said. “It’s really, really easy for all of us, no matter how good our intentions, to say, ‘I’ll think about God tomorrow. I’ve got too much to do right now.’
“But having a companion, someone to pray with you, someone to help you discern the movement of the Holy Spirit in your life and to help you discern the obstacles that are getting in your way, is really helpful. We all need people to remind us that, no, God has to come first or nothing else will make sense. We all need someone to check in on our progress and to pull us back onto the path when we’ve gotten a little lost or distracted. We all do better with company on that journey.”
Spiritual directors, she stressed, “are not counselors. They’re not there to help you solve your problems, and they’re not confessors. They’re not there to ‘fix’ your life or to absolve you of your sins.”
What they are, Wells said, is companions and often something very like a focal lens.
“Spiritual directors are trained in listening, in the discernment of spirits, in prayer,” she said. “We train in the Ignatian tradition, which is a practical spirituality, based in personal experience, in seeing God in everyday experiences. Ignatian spirituality focuses on seeing God now, on fostering an active awareness of God’s movement in every aspect of life, and encouraging an immediate response to him.
“It also focuses on discernment of spirits, on seeing clearly what moves us closer to God or further away, on recognizes the obstacles we put in our own way. And having someone with us who can fix that focus on our lives, when so often our own vision is clouded, really helps to pull our focus back to where it needs to be, which is on God.”
But the benefits of spiritual direction are not at all one-sided, Wells said.
“What we’ve found through the years that we’ve been doing this and in talking with the people who’ve been through the training, is that spiritual directors benefit just as much from being a companion as the people they’re accompanying,” she said. “Walking with someone else on their journey often helps us in our own. As we pray with others, our own prayer life deepens. As we help others discern the movement of the Spirit in their lives, we learn to see it more clearly in our own. As we help others draw closer to God, we are inevitably drawn closer to him ourselves.
“And that is, or should be, the point of everything we do, really,” she said. “Everything we do should be oriented, and should keep us oriented, toward God.”
St. Mary Church is at 2108 Ridgewood, Longview, Texas 75605-5199. For more information about the orientation meeting or spiritual direction in general, contact Susan Wells, 903-235-5693 or firstname.lastname@example.org.