Once a month I drive to a retreat house in a nearby city to meet with my spiritual director. I commented yesterday that all the fog seems to clear away when I’m with someone who listens and sees with the ears and eyes of Saint Ignatius. Well, someone who is trained to hear and view things through the lens of the saint from Loyola.
Earlier this week, the local spiritual directors invited me to a house meeting of their number. Mainly, it was to assess the situation of need in our university parish. We import directors from the Jesuits and a few women religious orders to visit us and connect with our more inclined students about once a month.
Myself, I began in direction more than thirty years ago. I smile (but I don’t cringe) as I think of how I was in my twenties, and how patient my earliest directors were with me. In a few of our undergrad students I see a growing maturity. We are fortunate in our parish to be able to cultivate the deeper interior life in some of our own. The need is likely greater than those we are reaching.
At the house meeting, we also talked about retreats. This is an area in which I think we could do better work. If I were staying in the parish, it might be time to take a deeper peek at retreats. How do we move away from the “standard” of youth ministry found in so many high schools and parish settings? Away from the talkiness and socializing?
Then it occurs to me that while my experiences in direction are not about socializing so much, as a directed person, I do talk a lot. Most recently, my director encouraged me to talk more to God. I didn’t say it explicitly, but often in daily prayer I just sit. Or use my imagination. It is rare that I get a significant message in return.
Any director worth her or his salt will tell you the task of a director is not to direct as much as it is to listen. In my experience, the obscuring clouds of my life clear away. It is so surprising to me that one or two simple well-placed comments can do so much.