spiritual direction

Saint Ignatius says that the devil attacks those in the way of perfection, not by solicitations to evil, but by snares and deceits, presenting evil under the guise of good. In this all spiritual masters agree, and it is the foundation of spiritual direction. This is not something abnormal. Spiritual therapeutics are a necessary reality, because even in those seeking perfection spiritual diseases occur. To assume that all direction is medicinal, though not infrequent, is an error. Normally the spiritual director is not a physician, but a guide, and he must guard against two extremes, credulity and scepticism. The former would make the guide as open to deception as the one seeking guidance. The latter would make him incapable. The soul coming to him would discover in itself a knowledge of the higher way far superior to his. "Believe not every spirit; but try the spirits, if they be of God." (1 John 4) He should accept unreservedly as the foundation of his ministry the fact of the good spirit working in the soul for its perfection, the evil spirit plotting against the soul for its destruction. The soul qualified for serious direction will, ordinarily speaking, be going forward earnestly in perfection. If not actually in the way, it will, at least, be moving toward it. Each individual case will demand individual care according to its actual state. To profit by direction the soul must manifest its condition with perfect simplicity. The director, familiar with ascetical and mystical principles drawn, not from psychology, but from approved theologians, will study the spiritual influences affecting the soul. For this Saint Ignatius gives most useful rules. Thus his science becomes practical by experience. Begging light in prayer he forms his judgment gradually to be the foundation of his direction, which demands from the one under guidance obedience. Hence he gives no reason as a rule. He commands or forbids, approves or disapproves. If the direction is unacceptable one may leave him for another.

New Catholic Dictionary

NCD Index SQPN Contact Author