Only a few years after I became Catholic, I started working for our parish office. I spent at least two years exclaiming in shock and delight about the many different “secret handshakes” of our Catholic faith.
My entry to the Catholic Church was preceded by my ego and my pride. I walked into each RCIA class and even the vigil Mass saying, “I don’t have to do this.” I refused to do any extra reading or research (and the internet was not what it is now). If Father couldn’t answer my questions then I’d know that the Catholic Church was a hoax.
I defined a “secret handshake” as anything that seemed to be just common knowledge to everyone except…well, the rest of us (namely, me, the new Catholic).
One of the “secret handshakes” I discovered was spiritual direction.
I resisted it for a long time. For one thing, there was the discomfort (and the joy! The relief! The clean slate!) of Confession to get used to.
For another thing, who am I to need spiritual direction? At the time, I was a parish secretary and a wife. Period. I have since grown into my various additional roles of mother and aunt, publications editor and ministry scheduler, chief bottlewasher and diaper-changer, chauffeur and encouragement expert, writer and blogger.
Looking at the current list of my roles, I suddenly realize, with a clarity born of the computer screen in front of me, just why I needed spiritual direction back then when life was far simpler and much less colorful!
Life holds, for each of us, a wonderful tapestry of opportunity. It’s helpful to have someone who is firmly founded with God and on our side—but not necessarily in the midst of our personal chaos—to give us perspective.
My confessor doubles as my spiritual director. Over the years, some of the insights he’s tossed my way have floored me. He’s a priest I admire and love very dearly, and maybe that’s why I’m able to take his advice and suggestions to heart.
I’ve recommended to many of my friends and family over the years that they consider spiritual direction as an indisputable part of their schedule. Without fail, they ask me, “Why?” or give me a look akin to what my seven-year-old gives me when I suggest cleaning her room would be a fruitful exercise.
Spiritual direction is the “secret handshake” that I believe is probably most underused by the average Catholic. After all, you’re just a normal person. You’re not Saint So-and-so, and you’re not in a religious community, and you’re not doing anything more important than just living your life.
The work we each do, in our witness to those in our everyday lives, should not be underestimated or downplayed. God put you where you are. God will give you the graces you need to do the important work he has in store for you. Why not take this opportunity during Lent to reflect on your own spiritual direction and find a director to guide you in your spiritual life?
This “Finding Faith in Everyday Life” column originally appeared in The Catholic Times.
image credit: MorgueFile
I “auditioned” a spiritual director about a year and a half ago. At the time it wasn’t quite right, but I keep wondering if I should try again. I mean, how bad can it be to spend an hour talking about yourself with someone required to listen? Sounds pretty awesome to me. Well, and the spiritual benefits. Those too.
As St. Josemaria Escriva (founder of Opus Dei) puts it in point no. 59 in The Way “Here is a safe doctrine that I want you to know: one’s own mind is a bad adviser, a poor pilot to steer the soul through the storms and tempests and among the reefs of the interior life. That is why it is the will of God that the command of the ship be entrusted to a Master who, with his light and his knowledge, can guide us to a safe harbour.”
That Escriva, he NAILED IT. I should read more of him! Thanks for taking the time to share that!
Great post. One of the best things I ever did was start going to spiritual direction. He is also a priest I love and admire a lot and he changed my life in many ways. He also discerned that I was called to be a spiritual director and I have been one for about 16 years. A blessing, for sure. I am in beginning stages of writing a book about spiritual direction, both from the viewpoint of receiving it and from giving it. Thanks, Sarah.