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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Questionable Spiritual Direction

This morning I read a wonderful post on spiritual direction which perfectly highlights many of the problems in "spiritual direction" programs, and "directors" that advertise their services.

The reality is that faithful Catholics don't have very many avenues to pursue. If you type "spiritual direction" into a web search, there are millions of returns, but perusing them leaves us to realize we've been left to the wolves.

A quick perusal of spiritual direction programs leaves a bad taste in one's mouth. How are these people being trained? It's easy to see: Reiki, Enneagram, Chakras, Yoga....the list goes on. Where in there are the Saints who served as spiritual directors and learned how to guide souls? Where are the spiritual giants? Why are potential directors being fed junk food when Catholicism has a wealth of true spirituality that trumps anything any other religion can produce?

I don't expect non-Catholic directors to be Catholic. However, I DO expect those who ARE Catholic to be faithful! Is that too much to ask?

Apparently. The article I read this morning observed the confusion going on in the world of those being trained for spiritual direction.

A great example of this sad confusion surfaced in a conversation I had today with someone who was taking classes with a religious order to become a "spiritual director." In one of her recent classes the nuns brought in a Buddhist, a Natural Spiritist, and a number of other non-Christian representatives to share their spiritual insights. The goal was to understand that, as she said, "we are all Children of God" and that "we can learn a great deal from the spiritual lives of those who come out of these other religions."

I was a bit dumbfounded even though I am accustomed to this particular convent spreading dissent and confusion. What struck me was how readily this "spiritual direction" trainee had accepted what they presented to her.....With deep incredulity, I wondered why someone would look outside of the endless depth and riches of their own faith, the One true Faith, the pinnacle of all that is good and true, into the spiritual wastelands of those who reject Christ both directly and indirectly. Even looking at the good of what is available in some of these religions, it is something like being diverted away from the most lavish banquet ever served in the history of time to a garbage can in the back of a greasy dive. Yes, something in there will be semi-edible, but why would anyone who had a seat reserved for them at this great feast ever choose to eat this way?


The fact is that some of what he says in this piece is exactly what lead me down the road to New Age, and subsequently, occult. I saw "Catholic nuns" give license to all sorts of things, to include Tarot and other forms of divination and even animal worship.

So it should be no wonder if I bristle at hearing that good Catholics are being sucked into programs that tell them things like Reiki and the Enneagram are proper for Catholics. They are not.

A few years ago I met a woman who spoke of her yoga classes and chakras and said that she was trying to interpret it as Catholic. She said that she could "feel" the energy and she "chose to call it the Holy Spirit."

There's a problem with that; it either IS the Holy Spirit or it's NOT the Holy Spirit. We can call it whatever we want, but occult "energy" is no more of God than a rotted piece of dogflesh held up and called the "Blessed Sacrament."

Everything she was describing made my hair stand on end. Yet I said nothing, realizing that she wouldn't "hear" the truth. No one said anything...she was describing her experiences in a defensive tone and language. That immediately says a great deal. Although we were in a group of mixed views, not a single person spoke up for she was so defensive she was almost angry in her explanation, or, in charismatic terms, "her sharing."

If it's of God, there's no need to be defensive when no one has attacked.

I do realize that there are spiritual direction programs out there that are much like the bad seminaries that produced a few good priests in spite of their efforts to destroy the priesthood via bad formation. God has His hand on His Faithful, and brings souls safely through bad formation. Those who are formed simply reject what is evil and work hard, on their own, to own what is truly good and orthodox. The reality is that often people cannot follow their calls unless they are subjected to evil in the process.

To any of the Faithful seeking spritual direction...check out Catholic Spiritual Direction. I've been following it for quite awhile now and have found it to be faithful, good advice. Maybe you can't find an SD where you are. Read the Saints. Read this blog and their resources. Remember that God does not abandon you and that He gives you what you NEED...not necessarily what you may want.

I wanted an SD for a long time, but one was not provided to me until the actual need arose. I found him in a time of desperation, and with much prayer and following that prayer.

Had I just given in to my own wants, I would have found one of the confused sheep described in the post I quoted.

Don't give yourself to feeding on garbage. Trust God, pray for a good director, and remember that it's not a's a gift from God. If He wants you to have one, He'll provide, and that director will be faithful!

Avoid the refuse that is so readily available. As Catholics, we have no need to go out of our faith to find what is good. Certainly there might be something good to be found in other religions, but, of course, if you dig in a dumpster you can also find a small section of meat or bread that might not be rotted and can sustain you briefly, too. But there's also a good chance that same piece will kill you. Are you willing to go dumpster diving for your soul when you have all you need provided to you in your own Faith?



Hidden One said...

I too have been following it for a good while - emails to my inbox daily - and recommend it.

And, as usual, agree entirely with Adoro on everything else in her post, too.

KJS said...

Wow! Very powerful post. I wholeheartedly agree. I've heard it said that the Catholic faith is so deep that one can't even begin to explore all of it in this lifetime before experiencing it in its fullness for ourselves in Heaven.

Also, the Catholic Spiritual Direction blog is great - I too have been following it for a month or so. I believe I found the link to it on your blog.

Julia said...

Scary!! I was in Mass the other day while on vacation and the priest in his homily talked about how much we can learn from Muslims. ...Well, maybe we can learn some things... but we can learn a whole lot more from our Catholic saints!

I recently lost my spiritual director, who is being transferred. We had been meeting briefly about weekly, and I can feel the loss. I didn't know what a wonderful resource I had until he was gone! I am praying that when school starts in the fall I will be able to find a new SD to help me in my spiritual life and discernment.

Anne said...

Excellent post! The Spiritual Direction post mentioned "centering prayer". My parish offers that. I never attended, but I never would have seen that as something Catholics should avoid. It makes me wonder what else I've been led to believe is good and of God that really isn't. How about mandalas and labyrinths?

Jane said...

Thank you for the wisdom in this excellent post.

A week or so ago, I read that during the year for priests, the Holy See will publish a directory of Spiritual Directors and gathered this would cover the Universal Church. What a task! One wonders what sort of vetting process will be applied to would-be entrants to the list. I will keep my eye out for future reports.

God bless and thanks for your recent post on your current discerment experience. You are in my prayers.

J ('Thoughts from an Oasis in French Catholicism' where I've recently posted on Spiritual Motherhood.)

Adoro said...

Anne ~ Mandelas are completely pagan and fully INCOMPATIBLE with Catholic teaching. Labyrinths...mixed. The common application of them we see in America is totally New Age. You'd be better off praying Stations of the Cross than in chancing a labyrinth.

Warren said...

Spiritual dumpster diving. Too great.

I find it odd that those who hardly know their Catholic faith at all are the ones who spend the most time looking outside it for "more".




Anne said...

Julie-thank you so much! You have done a great, great service to me! I should have known better, and did have a funny feeling about those mandalas. I could tell you stories! I may have to send you an email so I can share more and learn more from you. You are so wise! A priest is the one who told me about walking Labyrinths. I was always skeptical about them, but I really trusted him and didn't think he'd be one to lead me astray. Like you say, it may not be wrong, but why take a chance when there are so many other beautiful ways to pray!

I am so, so glad that I found your blog-it is a tremendous blessing to me!

Fair Angel said...

Adoro - great post. About Labrynths, they sort of "came in vogue" during the Crusades so folks who couldn't actually go to Jerusalem could make a walk in the Labrynth and pray for pilgrims etc... but what Adoro said about Labrynths in the US is right on target. For more info about the NEw Age seeping into the Church I recommend anything by Johnette Benkovic, author, speaker, and host of EWTN's Abundant Life. I can't wait to check out your links Adoro!

Adrienne said...

Thanks for the spiritual direction link. Excellent site.

You know what a bear I am about all this New Age nonsense going on in our Church.

We have some sisters in Cottonwood, Id who push reiki, centering prayer, and healing touch. They've been slapped down by the bishop on a few occasions but he has been strangely silent the past few years.

Nan said...

There's a labyrinth at a local church. I've been to Mass there before and while it isn't obviously awful, it just didn't appeal to me; they're more likely to do things that make me wonder "why?" than some other options.

Iona C. said...

On my way to work today I saw a billboard displaying an 'Interfaith' gathering. While Romans 12:18 says, "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men", I don't feel comfortable with the way some Christians who participate in interfaith gatherings have adopted the 'all roads lead to Heaven' attitude which is completely unbiblical.

Another timely and truthful post, Adoro!

Potamiaena said...

Adoro, need your opinion. Please comment on taking yoga classes. I love the movements in yoga, the stretching and the strengthening. I used to take ballet so I really enjoy the kind of non bouncy, slow movements.

I do not prescribe or want to learn about the names, the origins or any other info associated with yoga. Most of our instructors just do the movements. One instructor seems to want to tell us the history of the poses.

Is it still ok for me to go to yoga classes?

nancy said...

Thank you for the timely post!
Surprisingly, Spiritual direction for Catholics is as close as the a good Catholic library: Introduction to the Devout Life seems a perfect place to start, followed by The Imitation of Christ and the Confessions of Saint Augustine.

And then--- there is Holy Scripture---Pope Benedict has exhorted the Church to read.

My new convert husband's blogs might be an encouragement too.

Thank you again for your good post!

Adoro said...

Nan ~ If the parish is making you ask questions like "why"...often that's a sign that something isn't right.

Potamiaena ~ I'm not an authority on yoga, but I have heard Fr. Groeschel discuss it. I'd suggest you look to him for advice in that matter, or maybe Fr. Pacwa. It can be OK as an exercise, but it's often accompanied by its original intention, which is the worship of pagan gods. So use your judgment. If it's wacky, find a yoga class that isn't.

Nancy ~ Thanks for your comment and the links, and certainly what you say is a certain degree. However, it can be a dangerous route to rely only on the spiritual greats. For example, St. Teresa of Avila's "Interior Castle" was written for cloistered nuns. While it is helpful to us all, those who read this book may need exterior guidance.

I'd say the same of "Devout Life". When I read that book, it KILLED me, and dredged up many spiritual agonies that, had I had an SD, I could better have handled.

Another example of the danger of relying only on the greats: One of the worst things that's happened is that St. John of the Cross's "Dark Night of the Soul" has been separated from and published separately from his "Ascent to Mt. Carmel". He never intended this to happen. And without the proper context, there are a heck of a lot of people running around out there thinking that depression and spiritual dryness are St. John's "Dark Night." Nothing could be further from the truth!

While spiritual reading is helpful to us, we can't fall into the trap of thinking it replaces a spiritual director. We have a great capacity to deceive ourselves on our journey to holiness.

So while I, like you recommend these books to people, it's important to recognize that they cannot be a replacement. But they are certainly better than nothing and we can learn a great deal from the Saints!

Anonymous said...

Dear Adoro, Thank you for linking to the excellent Spiritual Direction blog. My area has no SDs whatsoever, even though I go to confession on a regular basis, all the priest talks about is "love", etc., For some time now I've been going through a crisis of faith and life in general. I'm 62 and as I look back all I can see is failure and lack of progress. It seems to be impossible to find anyone who can discuss these issues w/o resorting to some kind of bafflegab. Once a priest told me not to worry about missing Easter Duty, claiming it was an "optional devotion" ... and seemed to imply that staying away from Sunday Mass was no big deal. This is the quality of advice one gets in confession in our parish -- which is why I suspect so few people go! Thanks again.

Lynne said...

WOW!!! Your post, as usual, was excellent but then I went to the site you linked... Father John Bartunek! I went to a Monday morning Mass in March at a church the next town over and he was the priest celebrating the Mass. He was there for a Lenten mission I guess.

I am typically not a big fan of the Novus Ordo Mass but that was the most beautiful Mass I have been to in a long time. During the Nicene Creed, where we're supposed to bow, everyone knelt (as we do in the TLM). Sigh...