Visitors - Come on in and say hello!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

More on Spiritual Direction

Last night I had a dream. I was sitting in an auditorium (or something), and to my right was a priest. We were having a deep discussion, during which he put his arm around my shoulder in a fatherly way, partially to keep our conversation confidential, partially in comfort. I remember that in the dream, I was somewhat discouraged about something and he was giving me advice. I think at some point he handed me a kleenex, and I laid my head against his shoulder, accepting the comfort he did have to give in that moment, and listening closely to what he had to say.

Obviously this dream resulted from my post of last night, that of seeking Spiritual Direction, but it also called me attention to another element of what I may need; a father. Specifically a father.

In the dream, although I don't remember what was being said, the overall tone of the conversation, the action in the dream, etc., was all about the relationship of a father and daughter. There was a spiritual metaphor there which mimiced real life, and within that, was an answer to my recent prayer for insight.

BAM! Suddenly I understand a little more, now, why I feel so strongly that I need a male SD!

I come from a broken home (who doesn't these days?) and we were raised by our mother. Our father was an alcoholic so was rarely available to BE a father, even when they were married. And after they divorced, although he had his moments, his disease was always in the way and it drove a wedge so deeply into our relationship with him that this chasm was never repaired. He died in 1995, when I was only 20.

I have written of my father before, and yes, I loved him dearly, and I miss those special father-daughter moments, but because of the way things were, I really have never had a father to go to for advice, etc. I have a mother, and have most often recieved counsel from women, which is quite common and normal. Right, ladies?

However, as we know from lessons such as Theology of the Body, we need a balance in order to be properly formed. We need a father, whether we are male or female, we need that father figure somewhere in our lives to balance us.

While I'm not seeking a "father figure" according to the secular psycho-babble understanding of the term, I know that one of the things I most appreciate about our priests is their fatherliness. It's not anywhere near the same thing as having a familial father, yet, in the spiritual life, where they step in, they provide the balance to what we women may already intuitively know and understand. Yet the practical side often comes from men.

I think I'm explaining this badly, but bear with me; I'm trying.

Here's the gist of what I am trying to say; look around your parish. Women are EVERYWHERE! It is so often women who lead the men to church, women who raise the children in the faith, women who run devotions. And I'm talking about solid, faithful Catholic women. We women have been designed in a certain way which helps us relate to God and it comes very naturally to us. You've heard it said that women are intuitive, and this is true. It is through this gift that God calls women to Him and to service for Him. Now, that's not to say that men are not given this grace, but the charism of men, as they are designed by God, is to be leaders, to take the practical balance to the women's natural emotion/intuitiveness. Men and women NEED each other, because even in everyday relationships, we compliment each other. We bring specific charisms to everything we do, and if we are following those natural inclinations according to God's designs, wonderful things happen.

So I think that's why I am specifically seeking a priest to direct me; to take that role as Spiritual Father, to help give me a balance that I have never had before. I totally "get" what St. Frances de Sales, St. Augustine, St. John of the Cross are saying (well, to the best of my ability, anyway) on an intuitive level. And I'm not without practicality; yet I need that balance of a male/fatherly perspectve to help me plumb the depths of such spiritual writings and how they truly apply to myself.

I did meet with a priest some time ago, and in a discussion, he held me to a certain standard, in a very non-judgmental way, and I squirmed under his scrutiny. He did exactly what he was supposed to do; provided fatherly direction for that particular occurrance, his insight from a male perspective was dead on, and I have never forgotten his lesson. Although I argued with him. He simply let me argue. And I did exactly what I did with St. Frances de Sales....I initially disagreed, then the seed "took" and I knew he was right.

That's what Spiritual Direction is all about; someone to hold us accountable, to help us understand where we are and to provide balance to an area where balance is required. And for me, I know I need to find that balance in the form of spiritual advice from the male perspective.

God gave us Fathers for a reason; who am I, an ex-feminist, to deny where God is apparently leading me?

My core issue remains, though; I need an SD so badly that I don't want one at all.

** Note: The above painting is Alexandre Cabanel's "Eve After the Fall" **


Julie D. said...

he held me to a certain standard, in a very non-judgmental way, and I squirmed under his scrutiny.

I think that hit the nail on the head as to why I begin thinking about an SD every so often. I have lots of good spiritual friends, both male and female, but it is hard to find people who don't back down (or won't step up) with those they love.

In a way that applies a lot to the person I was thinking of who is most like me in the way he thinks. Despite that, he still will come up with one sentence, gently said, that will make me stop short and reexamine what I am thinking or doing.

Also, it is that person who sprang to mind a few weeks ago when I suddenly began thinking about an SD ... just out of the blue (during Mass, in front of the tabernacle ...which is when all sorts of things "hit me").

It isn't that I want one, but I think of St. Teresa of Avila and how she says that everyone needs an SD ... and I have a feeling I know where this is going ...

Oh, wait, this was supposed to be about you not ME ... :-D

I'm gonna pray for you on this ...

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: Have you thought about a consecrated lay group? Locally, we have the Brother and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis. I think there was another one that Angela (maybe?) posted before?

There's also the Legion of Mary's local organization.

Both of them have SD's. attached to them.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Oh, me again!

I meant to say that your post makes a fabulous, indirect, case for the value of both a man and a woman raising a child.

Adoro said...

Julie - I think this MIGHT be about you! After all...there's a reason you came to my blog today, a reason you were reading about this particular subject, and a reason you commented. Could it be that maybe the Holy Spirit has something to tell YOU? Hmmmm?

Cathy ~ You're the second person to mention them, and I have considered Opus Dei, but right now I do not feel called to pursue a lay order membership. Maybe someday, but right Good suggestion, though.

Kiwi Nomad said...

adoro, I can identify completely with your wish for a father. My father died when I was eight. I often wish I could talk to a priest about my (lack of) faith. But I have this question that lurks in my mind: would I be wanting to actually 'solve' anything, or would I just be looking (again) for a replacement father.

Last year at Lourdes I met a wonderful Kiwi priest. He knew his truth and he lived it, and he was not afraid to make demands about what should be lived, but always with the deepest compassion. A couple of hours meeting with him over lunch has left a deep impression on me.

But if I had a chance to meet him again, I am not sure I would benefit from it. I feel quite 'lost' as far as faith goes. There is the compassionate side of Jesus, but more, I see the 'demanding' side of Jesus. And I just feel like I could never measure up.

Adoro said...

Kiwi, I totally understand what you're's part of my struggle.

But realize that NONE of us can measure up. Ever. It is only in that we have to allow God to act within us because it is HE who measures up.

St. Frances de Sales talks about this in "Introduction to the Devout Life". If you haven't read it, you may want to. Warning, though...when you start the book, you'll want to put it down, but push past that impulse and keep reading, because he reiterates over and over that we cannot do this in and of ourselves. He also discusses how we must work on one thing at a time before we go on to the next thing. I also recommend the other books on my sidebar by him and the one by Biela. It may help you, but it's one of those things that has to be read a little at a time. The chapters are short (Devout Life, that is), and that gives you time to reflect upon what was said.

I've only read it once, but I'm planning to read it over and over because there is so much there!

God bless're in my prayers.

Warren said...

This is beautiful and insightful, and it is a blessing to read this.

May God, who is your loving and merciful Father, grant you peace and send wise priests, friends, and spiritual directors into your life, and may our mother Mary, mother of contemplatives, guide you and protect you as you seek to deepen your faith.

In St. Francis and St. Clare,


Adoro said...

Thank you, Warren. What a beautiful prayer!

Anonymous said...

I am blessed to have both a spiritual director and regular confessor. If I had to choose between the two, however, I would choose the regular confessor. Going to the SAME PREIST for confession week after week has been THE BEST THING for my soul. I don't go during regularly scheduled parish confessions ... I have a weekly apt. Because it's confession, we are able to keep the meeting to 15 minutes. But that 15 minutes is the best thing for me. This environment allows the confessor to direct as needed ... and talk about accountability! NOTHING gets past this man. More than once, he’s said to me, “so, I haven’t heard you mention xxxx in a while. Is that gone, or are you ignoring it?” Accountablility Central!

Julie D. said...

Aaaargh, Adoro, stop it!

I just managed to squash it all down again ... and then checked your comments (which I rarely do).

Why is it I always have to go kicking and screaming? :-D

Anonymous said...

I came here from Julie's blog...I have a SD, a little old Irish nun. I've been going to her for about 1 1/2 yrs now. I started seeing her as a requirement for a spirtual direction class. has been life changing, truly.

What I have found to be the best part is that she helps me connect my spiritual dots. She helps me to see God working in my life in ways I don't always recognize.

I have an alcoholic father and lots of baggage from my childhood. Sometimes that gets in the way of me seeing God, a loving father, at work in my life.