Guest post by Deacon Dominic Cerrato, Ph.D.
A life lived in faith has only one final goal, intimate communion with Jesus Christ. Without Him, life is empty and stripped of its ultimate meaning. With Him, we gain a sense of fulfillment and purpose. While perfect communion only exists when, at the end of our lives, we see God in the face; the nature of the Christian life is to grow in ever-deepening intimacy with Him during our earthly walk.
Over the centuries, the Church has used several terms and phrases to describe this dynamic such as conversion, divinization, growth in holiness, and cultivation of the interior life. All of these are meant to convey a sense that God, who is Love, desires us more than we can possibly desire Him. Because of this, and in spite of our sinfulness, He draws us to Himself through the passion, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. Beyond this, He established the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, through which the fullness of truth and sanctification subsists.
This said, we live in a pluralistic society that can easily distract us from our final goal and the experience of intimate communion during this life. God, who knows all things, knows this and so provides us with the grace to refocus and reorder our lives. This grace is experienced through such things as: prayer, meditating on the sacred Scriptures, frequenting the Sacraments, active parish life, and ongoing adult formation.
Despite the many ways to encounter our Lord through these pious activities and thus grow in intimate communion with Him, all can benefit from spiritual direction. Here are five basic reasons why spiritual direction might be right for you. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but represents key elements in the discernment of spiritual direction:
- Cultivating a Richer Prayer Life We often forget that prayer, as important as it is, is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. We simply don’t pray for the sake of prayer, but to encounter the God who saves us. As we progress in the spiritual life, we can experience dryness or constant distractions. Good spiritual direction helps directees to enter into prayer in a more profound way, to see it as a kind of dialogue in which we are called to listen first and, only after we listen, speak.
- Greater Awareness of God It’s very easy, amid the hustle and bustle of life, to compartmentalize our experiences of God. We are aware of His presence in religious activities, but God is all around us constantly communicating to us through the often-mundane aspects of our lives. Spiritual direction helps directees to better attune themselves to the nudgings of the Holy Spirit in all areas of their life.
- Transform Faith into Action The interior life does not exist in a vacuum. As St. James reminds us, “Faith without works is dead (Jas 2:17).” The interior life finds it’s expression and realization in the exterior life, the life of choices and actions. The more we are aware of the presence of God throughout the day the more likely we are to order our choices to Him. These not only impact the world outside of us by witnessing to others, it also has an inward transformative effect. Spiritual direction helps directees to consider their actions in light of their faith revealing Christ in often subtle, but nonetheless profound ways.
- Help Make Major Decisions Life this side of heaven often brings us to crossroads; places where we must make major decisions in the course of our lives. These decisions can be about relationships, career opportunities or even the level of participation in the life of the parish. To a greater or lesser degree, these test our faith and the core values that flow from that faith. Good spiritual direction helps to refocus faith, tap into the grace we received at Baptism, and reaffirm our Christian values so that we are better equipped to make these decisions.
- Get Spiritually Unstuck Because the spiritual life is about growing in a deeper more intimate communion with Jesus Christ, it is, by its very nature, dynamic. At times and for different reasons, we may find our relationship with Him as rather static. At it’s worse, we can experience what seems like an abandonment from God resulting in a kind of spiritual paralysis. This paralysis will negatively impact our prayer life, our reception of the sacraments and the way we see Christ in others. Sound spiritual direction can help identify the reasons for this paralysis and provide spiritual and pastoral guidance.
Though spiritual direction is not a requirement of the Christian life, everyone seeking a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ can benefit from it. If you would like to pursue spiritual direction, consult your pastor to recommend a solid spiritual director in your area or contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute about spiritual direction over the phone.
Deacon Dominic Cerrato is the director of Pastoral Solutions Spiritual Direction Services