Whether you are Roman Catholic or not, Pope Francis’s comments about spiritual direction help every seeker and spiritual director understand the value of spiritual direction today.
Pope Francis clearly stated that women and laity (people who are not priests) may be called to serve as spiritual directors:
Spiritual direction, the pope said, “is not a charism exclusive to priests. It’s a charism of the laity.” (Catholic News Service [CNS], 18 May, Wooden)
Pope Francis empowers everyone who senses a call to the ministry and service of spiritual direction to discern the call.
Within religious communities–Benedictines, Franciscans, and Jesuits, for example–Pope Francis underscored the importance of training for spiritual directors:
Pope Francis encouraged religious superiors–of both men and women–to identify members of their congregation who are good and wise and patient, and get them training in spiritual direction. (CNS, 18 May, Wooden)
Although the people he addressed on 16 May consisted of religious men and women–priests, monks, and nuns, I think the pope would also include a much wider community of lay people. Everyone who is “good, wise, and patient” and called to offer spiritual direction would benefit from formation and training.
Likewise, the pope’s comments acknowledge that the training to become a priest and formation to become a nun or monk is not sufficient to assume the important role of spiritual director. God calls people to different ministries: preachers, missionaries, and spiritual directors, for example. We each need to take responsibility for the formation and training of the gifts we have been given. Everyone called to offer spiritual direction, including religious and clergy, benefit from formation and training.
If you wonder whether God is calling you to offer spiritual direction, and you have been concerned that you may not be allowed to cultivate the charism, rest assured that it’s time to take the next step in discernment. First, Find a spiritual director to discern your call. Next, research spiritual director formation and training programs in your area and online and make an appointment to meet with the programs.
If you want to grow closer to God and have avoided spiritual direction because you thought only clergy can offer spiritual direction and you sense that a layperson may be a better fit for you, rest assured. Many trained spiritual directors await your inquiry and desire to listen for the true Spiritual Director, in the third chair.
If you are not familiar with the three chair imagery, discover who the true Spiritual Director is. Hint: not clergy, not laity, not the pope, not you …
How does Pope Francis’s news pertain to you as a seeker and spiritual director? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.