They say that it takes 10,000 hours of practicing something to master that activity. If it’s playing a sport, that means 10,000 hours of drills, running plays, playing games and scrimmages, and most of all, practicing the fundamentals. From little league all the way up to the professional level, excellent athletes never stop practicing the basics of their sport. And in order to guide them, players have coaches and trainers. We can apply this lesson of practicing the fundamentals to our spiritual life, too.
Recently on The Inner Life, Josh Raymond presented a segment with Father Rick Martiginetti about the basics of spiritual direction and how we can find an effective spiritual director.
Father Rick is the director of campus ministry at Ave Maria University in Florida, so he has been able to work as a spiritual director for many young adults in a very formative time during their lives. He said that being able to stay connected with these people as they journey through life has been one of the most rewarding parts of his vocation. He has been able to keep in touch with alumni, and he has celebrated the weddings and baptisms of former students.
Josh asked Father Rick how he would define spiritual direction, seeing as he has had years of experience offering it to these college-age students. He replied by first saying that he likes to refer to spiritual direction as “spiritual accompaniment” because “direction” often implies that one is telling the other what to do and how to do it. Unlike a movie director, a spiritual director is a guide. They are responsible for arbitrating this dialogue between the one being directed and the Holy Spirit, the communicator of God’s will.
“Really the question is, ‘What is God doing in my life? How is the Holy Spirit speaking and leading?’ And being able to discuss that in a safe space with someone who has a little bit of experience in that area, I think it’s very valuable. So I guess, maybe a quick definition: spiritual accompaniment by someone who’s kind of walked that journey perhaps a little longer than you have,” said Father Rick.
So that led Josh to his next question. How do we choose a spiritual director? How do we discern who can best lead us to advance our spiritual life? Should it always be a priest? Father Rick said that on a college campus especially, many people confide in their friends on matters of faith and spirituality. While that’s good and can be helpful in certain matters, for spiritual guidance, you should look for someone with more life experience, someone that can offer insights that you can’t get from a friend. Father Rick also said that while not always true, priests often make the best spiritual directors because they’ve gone through the seminary, paid especially close attention to their spiritual journey, and by the time they’ve been ordained, they’ve been alive for long enough to experience a lot of what life has to offer.
Father Rick said that lay people capable of giving effective spiritual direction are harder to find, but they are out there. For example, Opus Dei, the prelature founded by St. Josemaría offers profound spiritual direction from their numeraries. Father also mentioned that parishes, while unable to offer direct spiritual accompaniment, are a good place to start your search. They will often have the resources and know what surrounding schools or religious orders offer such services.
Father Rick offered a few tips in orienting the relationship between you and your spiritual director. Firstly, he said to give it time to develop. Don’t run away from your director if the dialogue isn’t immediately what you hoped for. It may take time to percolate and become a fruitful experience.
Secondly, he said to look for a guide who can give you the environment necessary to be productive. That means they shouldn’t force you to share anything or push you further than you are capable. However, you, as the one seeking direction, need to come with an open mind, open to instruction and suggestions.
And thirdly, you need to pray. A spiritual director cannot create something out of nothing. By praying, however well or however poorly, you maintain an active prayer life and that gives your director something to work with.
Listen to the full conversation below:
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