Quite recently Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the importance of spiritual direction for all Christians. You can read his full text here.
I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but I find the Pope’s advice quite timely in light of Harold Camping’s recent failed “end of the world” prediction which received so much worldwide media coverage.
One of the many noteworthy things the Pope said about spiritual direction is that “A guide can help defend oneself from facile subjectivist interpretations, making available his own supply of knowledge and experiences in following Jesus.” What the Pope is saying when he speaks of “facile subjectivist interpretations” is that we can think that we know the Lord’s will based upon our own simplistic thoughts and feelings – and yet still be rather misguided. As the Scriptures point out, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8) And so, a spiritual director helps us to discern the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives, how the Lord is speaking to us, and how we can most effectively grow in faith, hope, and love.
One of the many thoughts I had on May 22 – the day after the world didn’t end – is that I seriously wondered whether Mr. Camping had a good spiritual director, and here’s why. Had I gone to my spiritual director and shared with him that the Lord told me when the world would end and that I wanted to tell everyone about it through a major media blitz, I probably would’ve been told something like this:
“Paul, you might be right but you are probably wrong. First of all, your prediction is inconsistent with Scripture, and God would never contradict himself. In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus himself actually said ‘No one knows the day or the hour.’ Second, though the world could end at any moment that the Lord chooses, you definitely should not make a major media campaign out of your thoughts – because if you end up being wrong (as I suspect you are) you would not only embarrass yourself but discredit your ministry.”
I want to join the Pope in recommending a spiritual director to all of my readers, not only so that we can avoid future end of the world prediction fiascos, but also so that we can stay rooted in reality (remember: God’s Truth > our thoughts & feelings) and grow in holiness. As our Pope advises so clearly, “Everyone, in fact, and in a particular way all those who have received the divine call to a closer following, needs to be supported personally by a sure guide in doctrine and expert in the things of God.”
To find a good spiritual director, you might want to ask your pastor – or a pastoral leader like your youth minister – for suggestions or recommendations. You should also give any spiritual director a fair chance; at least a couple of meetings – but if it isn’t working out for either of you, you can always look for another director. I think the most important thing I could recommend is that you do your best to be transparent, since a spiritual director can only help you to the extent that you are completely honest about your struggles, hopes, and fears. Finally, keep in mind that although some spiritual directors are willing to help you for free, others might suggest a fee; make sure you have that conversation upfront before you even set your first appointment.
If you take this important step in faith and pursue a spiritual director, you won’t regret it. Trust me. Trust our Pope. Trust God. I assure you, it won’t be the end of the world; rather, it will open your heart to a whole new world of grace.