An 18th century paining of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane Frances de Chantal. Wikimedia Commons

Speaking Out: Spiritual directors build faithful path

By  Mary French, Youth Speak News
  • February 26, 2020

I had always thought that having a spiritual director was for the elite of souls. For those who were practically saints, or those who had lived long, dramatic, faithful lives and were now looking for further advancement in their spiritual journey during their later years.

After being offered the opportunity for spiritual direction in college, however, I have learned a little more about what it means to have a spiritual director.In a world filled with confusion, their role as spiritual guide is much more personal and important than I had ever imagined. Now, I am surprised that more young people I have met do not have one. 

So what is a spiritual director anyways? Put simply, spiritual directors help you develop your relationship with Christ and become the best-version-of-yourself, moving beyond a life of mediocrity to the ultimate calling of sainthood. 

St. Francis de Sales gives an excellent description of a spiritual director’s role in his book Introduction to the Devout Life.

“We require this faithful friend, who will guide our actions by his warnings and counsels ... in all our sorrows, our sadness, our falls, he will be as a treasure of wisdom to us; he will be as a physician to give ease to our hearts, and help in our spiritual diseases.”

This pool of wisdom is so valuable. I often find myself reflecting back on words that my spiritual director told me, even months afterward. Being able to talk to someone who has dedicated their life to the study and service of God, but at the same time knows you, is such an incredible blessing. Opportunities to find spiritual directors are everywhere and can be as easy as asking your parish priest if he would be open to it, or if he knows any good spiritual directors. 

At once, trusting yourself to the advice of someone else is a daunting idea. To this note, de Sales adds something very important:. “He (the spiritual director) must be filled with charity, knowledge and discretion; where any of them are lacking, there is danger.”

Interestingly, the role of spiritual director is not confined to priests or religious, although they do commonly take this role. De Sales points out the most important thing to remember when discerning who we give this important role to in our lives: it must be one who can be trusted to judge situations based on their love of and knowledge of God, rather than just giving their own subjective opinion. For this reason, most chose wizened mentor figures as their spiritual directors.

But why can’t we choose instead trustworthy, faithful friends our age to fill this role of helping us on our journey to Christ? Sometimes it can be hard to see how living out our Catholicism in the midst of the world’s social and societal constructs is possible, especially as a young person. For this reason, having faithful friends is perhaps as important as having a spiritual director. But the two cannot be seen as equal. 

Here’s why: Spiritual directors can be helpful in forming our path to sainthood and vocations. There is great comfort in having a spiritual director who has not only been through the stages of discernment, but has also studied the faith for years, dedicating their life to knowing God. Having this mentor figure, alongside good friends, is very important to our spiritual growth.

During our meetings, my spiritual director always began with an important question: “Do you still want to become a saint?” 

It is important to remember that saints are not some pie-in-the-sky perfect people; they were just like us. Remembering this can be hard, especially as we juggle through the messes of this topsy-turvy world around us. 

Finding a spiritual director that you can trust to help you on your spiritual journey may be something not only helpful in our age, but perhaps even necessary.

(French, 21, is a third-year liberal arts student at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College in Barry’s Bay, Ont.)

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