“The Holy Spirit gives to certain of the faithful the gifts of wisdom, faith and discernment for the sake of this common good which is prayer (spiritual direction). Men and women so endowed are true servants of the living tradition of prayer. According to St. John of the Cross, the person wishing to advance toward perfection should ‘take care into whose hands he entrusts himself, for as the master is, so will the disciple be, and as the father is so will be the son.’ And further: ‘In addition to being learned and discreet, a director should be experienced. . . . If the spiritual director has no experience of the spiritual life, he will be incapable of leading into it the souls whom God is calling to it, and he will not even understand them.’”Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2690
Paul VI Audience Hall – Saturday, 16 May 2015
[Excerpt] …Spiritual direction is not an exclusive charism of the presbytery: it’s a charism of the laity! In early monasticism lay people were the great directors. Now I am reading the doctrine, actually on obedience, of St Silouan, that monk of Mt Athos. He was a carpenter, he worked as a carpenter, then a bursar, but he was not even a deacon; he was a great spiritual director! It is a charism of the laity. When the superiors see that a man or woman in that congregation or that province has that charism of a spiritual father, they must try to help them to be formed, to perform this service. It is not easy.
A spiritual director is one thing and a confessor is another thing. I go to the confessor, I tell my sins, I feel the flogging; then he forgives me of everything and I go ahead. But I must tell the spiritual director what is happening in my heart. The examination of conscience is not the same for confession and for spiritual direction. For confession, you must search where you have fallen short, whether you have lost patience; if you have been greedy: these things, concrete things, which are sinful. But for spiritual direction, you must examine what has happened in the heart; such as the movement of the spirit, whether I have been desolate, if I have been consoled, if I am tired, why I am sad: these are the things to speak about with a spiritual director.
These are the things. The superiors have the responsibility of looking, in the community, in the congregation, in the province, for those who have this charism, to give this mission and form them, help them with this. To accompany on the path is to go step by step with the consecrated brother or sister. I believe that we are still immature in this respect. We are not mature in this, because spiritual direction comes from discernment. But when you find yourself in front of consecrated men and women who do not know how to discern what is happening in their own heart, who do not know how to discern a decision, it is a lack of spiritual direction. And this can be done only by a wise man, a wise woman. But also formed!
Today you cannot go only with good will: today the world is very complex and human science also helps us, without falling into psychologism, but it helps us to see the path. Form them with readings of the greats, of the great men and women spiritual directors, especially of monasticism. I don’t know if you have had contact with the works of early monasticism: how much wisdom and spiritual direction there was there! It is important to form them with this. How can we rediscover this wealth? The face of consecrated life is 80 percent female: it’s true, there are more consecrated women than men. How is it possible to value the presence of women and particularly of consecrated women, in the Church?
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