The classic Roman Catholic approach to spiritual path nicely illustrates the supportive style of spiritual direction. Here, as noted by Barrette (2002), the Holy Spirit is evidently understood to be the True Director, and the role of the spiritual director is to help the person attend to the Spirit. The core of the Ignatian approach to spiritual direction-one of the greatest gifts of the Roman Catholic tradition to the rest of us who seek to offer ourselves in relationships of spiritual nurture-is helping someone distinguish the presence of God. William Barry, Ignatian director, points toward this core in the title of his book, Finding God in all Things (Barry, 1991).
Identifying spiritual growth the guidance is non-authoritarian and supportive style as the classic Roman Catholic method to spiritual direction might come as a surprise to Protestants who think of spiritual direction as Catholic, highly directive and authoritarian. But this only displays ignorance. The predominant way in which spiritual direction has been practiced for 2000 years in the Western church has been the supportive manner described by Barrette (2002). This classic approach also forms the core of the educative and reconstructive tactic.
How could one trust a spiritual director who is not, first and primary, aware that the True Director is the Spirit? As noted by Barrette, the director’s primary function is explanation and discernment-“clarify what God wants in the person’s life and discern between the evil and the good spirits creating movement in the person” (2002). It is not, in the words of Thomas Merton, to serve as a “magical machine for solving cases and declaring the holy will of God” (Merton, 1960).
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