CNS had a feature with a hodgepodge of Pope Francis answering questions, but his comments on spiritual direction caught my attention:
In the other diocese I had, I always asked the sisters who came to me asking advice, ‘But tell me, in your community or congregation isn’t there a wise sister, a sister who lives your charism well, a good sister with experience? Ask her to be your spiritual director.’
(Spiritual direction) is not a charism exclusive to priests. It’s a charism of the laity.
That makes the most sense. There are clergy–but not all of them–who are excellent directors. But no spiritual director is dependent on the charism of Holy Orders to be a skilled director.
The Holy Father seems to think it valuable to find people within religious communities to serve members. Superiors are on notice for this: get people trained. Why wouldn’t one say the same thing for parishes?
Why aren’t clergy the answer? Pope Francis offers a significant distinction:
A spiritual director is one thing and a confessor is another. I go to a confessor, say what my sins are, feel condemned, then he forgives everything and I go forward.
But with a spiritual director, I have to talk about what is in my heart. The examination of conscience isn’t the same for confession and for spiritual direction. For confession, I have to look at where I was lacking, where I lost patience, if I was greedy — that kind of thing, those concrete things that are sinful.
But in spiritual direction, I must examine what is happening in my heart, where the Spirit is moving, if I felt desolation or consolation, if I am tired, why I am sad: These are things to talk about with the man or woman who is my spiritual director.
It would seem we need to somehow move away from the therapeutic models of direction and confession. These are not magic moments for mentor and student. Who can help a person look past the distractions and peer into her or his own heart?