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" **