Read the reflection Thoughts on Ignatian Spirituality and Spiritual Direction

Read the reflection Thoughts on Ignatian Spirituality and Spiritual Direction I have been very fortunate over the past year and into this year to be training in Ignatian Spiritual Direction. The name of the programme is ‘Te Wairua Mahi’ (The Work of the Spirit). Spiritual direction is about the work of the Spirit present and active in our hearts and being able to have someone to listen and talk to about that.

I don’t know if you have ever considered spiritual direction. Sometimes it’s difficult to find someone. However, there are people from different faith traditions who are registered to carry out this work. Not all of course follow the Ignatian model. esuit congregation and is famous for developing the Spiritual Exercises. As people work on fitness at the Gym through various exercises so it is by following the process that St Ignatius developed, we work on our spiritual fitness. His Spiritual Exercises have helped and supported many people for hundreds of years discern the direction of their lives and it is a tried and true way that people grow closer to God. You may have heard of the 30-day retreat process where the Exercises are given continuously in a retreat centre away from the normal bustle of life or you may have heard of the process more suited to people who do not have that kind of time called ‘Retreat in Daily life’.

The Exercises are presented to those wanting to enter the process but over a much longer time. They meet with a spiritual mentor daily but live at home and carry out their normal daily activities reflecting on their relationship with God and recognizing God’s presence with them through the ordinary events of their lives. I love the fact that the Exercises can be available to people in all kinds of ways to suit their circumstances. There is so much to learn which is daunting at times and I am far from an expert but knowing that God wants to communicate with us and the person who is seeking spiritual guidance is reassuring and a source of confidence in this ministry. It is a privilege to be present to someone seeking to deepen their spiritual lives and to open themselves up before another including their vulnerability. To truly listen to another person, to enable them to share their story, their blessings and their struggles and to give them time to deepen the significant experience of their lives is an incredible gift to offer someone. As a director seeking to know and love God too and knowing one’s own vulnerability and humanity is humbling when it comes to this work. However, it is an important prerequisite to being present and engaged with the person sharing their life which is not always easy to do. It is important to be a compassionate listener. We had a Jesuit priest, ‘Monty Williams’, who lives in Canada speak to us.

This is what he said about spiritual direction. He spoke of being a space for God’s hospitality in one’s own experience of prayer in order for others to engage their own space and emptiness where they too can encounter God’s hospitality. We are dealing with our own call to recognize and be recognized and what happens when we accept that recognition. Being present in an empty way so that those being directed can actually relax and not feel threatened and have a fuller life. Where they discover that their monsters can come out and be accepted and transformed. And that is exactly what spiritual direction is. I am not sure what your reaction is to Monty’s insight into spiritual direction or if you fully understand it. It needs a bit of unpacking I think but I can really relate to words like hospitality. God wants to share hospitality with us, be present with us, wants to be at home in us, wants to share with us, befriend us, connect with us. Pretty profound eh? And yet why am I surprised? God is a total outpouring of love and has gifted us with Jesus who walked and lived among us and knows us intimately. What can be more connected than that? I can really relate to Monty saying being present to someone and being able to actually relax and not feel threatened and have a fuller life. I am sure you can too. What a gift to have someone like that in our lives. I don’t like the word monster that he refers to but sometimes we do have monsters to deal with and being able to be in a safe place with a spiritual guide to expose them, begins the healing process and enables us to experience being freed. During our training I have been inspired to express myself in song.

The various compositions connect with Ignatian ideas. We often talk about what is going on in our prayer with a spiritual director. St Ignatius was big on imagination and placing ourselves in the bible scenes where we can see Jesus and have him speak to us directly. When I was a teacher at secondary school I would often lead ‘Guided meditations’ along these lines for the boys. During our prayer other images can come to us too and I remember asking for the grace to experience God’s love for me and the image of my mother holding me as a baby powerfully emerged. It was a profound experience of God’s love and it moved me to tears. It was a blessing and consolation. St Ignatius invites us to trust these images. Maybe you have had images that have come up for you that touched your heart like this. Treasure them as God’s gift to you. I would like to finish with the song I wrote simply called ‘Trust’.


Trust in me Trust the image, trust your tears Trust Trust in me Let the silence calm your fears Be still and know I speak to your heart Be still and know I am here. God bless you all.