Moments of Love with Mary
– The Spiritual Letter Box –
How is one to act with one’s spiritual director? I have great confidence in my director, but I feel that I must constantly fight against myself in order not to become attached to him on the human level, to be centered on God alone. I pray for him, as I do for all the priests who have the very sublime role of giving Christ to souls. It seems to me that the Lord is asking of me a very great “poverty” in respect to human support, be it affection or other supports, which I must live by keeping in my heart those things that hurt me, etc. How I would like to live in silence!
This brings me to another question: at what level must one live silence in order for one’s heart to always be occupied with loving God? After my daily Mass in the morning, often I would prefer not getting involved in any conversation, otherwise I have the impression of being “outside myself”, to have set the Lord aside. Where is the balance? I would like to live in silence: God alone!
Every soul that wishes to elevate itself to God needs spiritual direction just as the person who wants to obtain a diploma needs professors. The more competent and conscientious these latter will be, the more the serious student will be able to succeed and fully develop
SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR / CONFESSOR
It should be noted, also, that there exists a clear distinction between the confessor and the spiritual director.
The CONFESSOR, through the sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation, helps the soul to remain in a state of grace; therefore, his ministry is necessary at all times.
The SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR assures the spiritual progress of the soul through his counselling and appropriate direction. This does not require his constant intervention except at the beginning or during certain particularly difficult periods, such as, periods of obscurity, darkness or the “nights of the soul”.
A SENSITIVE HEART
I admire your uprightness of thought that makes you fear human attachments with your director, and your desire to “be centered on God alone”. Thus, one must follow the rules of Christian prudence which include praying for the sanctification of Pastors. Your prayer for him is the best form of gratitude; it also guarantees your protection and is a precautionary measure for a heart that is still too sensitive and not sufficiently detached from itself and others. There is a progression in all things and you will not escape it, as you recall that, in spirituality, there is a constant mention of detachment which means renouncing oneself, in other words, “dying to oneself”. There you have the path of NOTHINGNESS; it is the death of the old man, the indispensable condition for being “centered in God”.
A SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR
Spiritual direction is a function of the priesthood, but not all priests have the same aptitudes for this special ministry. That is why Saint Teresa of Avila declared that it is good to have a director who is knowledgeable. More than that, she added that “finding a spiritual director who is a saint is a precious grace.” “The Imitation of Jesus Christ” specifies: “Peaceable people accomplish more good than learned people do.” (Book 2, chapter 3)
The soul that needs a spiritual director must not, in making its choice, be motivated by a natural attraction, for then it would be going astray. The Lord will indicate a spiritual director to it if the soul is deeply humble and desirous of finding someone. He will give it a director able to forget himself, a director who will not be an obstacle to the ascent of the soul but who, rather, will help it in the task of its sanctification so that it will attach itself to God alone. There you have a guaranteed protection that preserves the heart which has not yet “barricaded” itself against all affections.
The poverty in respect to human support of which you speak does not exclude the possibility of communicating to your spiritual director the sufferings afflicting you. On the contrary, this openness fosters the practice of the virtue of humility, of detachment from everything in order to reach the point of working solely to please God with all one’s generosity.
Thus, it is appropriate to embrace the cross, whatever it may be. Accepting the cross is already lightening its weight, tasting the joy of offering and offering oneself by emptying oneself of self, even if this leads to agony of the heart.
Thus it is that the soul, turning its back upon the wide roads of the earth and the joy of honors, prepares the ground and nurtures the growth of its soul that ascends to the summits. Only the path of NOTHINGNESS which is total destitution, perfect detachment and absolute poverty leads to the “All” which is God and ensures that we possess Him.
You wish “to live in silence”. Your spiritual director will be able to evaluate your desire to see if it is the result of a fear or the fruit of the overwhelming presence of God. You have begun to create a void within yourself, and already at certain times, you are savoring the joy of a “Presence” that fills your loving heart. This may seem incomprehensible to those who seek only material possessions and who reject the divine action in them.
Your spiritual director will help you purify your faculties and detach them from every desire. And then God will fill you with that which is invisible and celestial. Just as we clothe a poor man when he is naked, so does God clothe with His purity and love the soul that strips itself of all personal desires and has only one desire, that of doing God’s will.
The scientist needs silence to prepare his experiments; the writer reflects in solitude in order to set his thoughts in order. Christ set the example for us by seeking silence in order to pray. The more a soul turns to God, the more it feels the need for silence.
Following your openness with regard to the activities of the duties of your state and your aspirations, your director will guide you to the point where the basic occupation of your soul will be perfect praise and glory to God in the total giving of yourself, in continuous, unflagging charity, in the practice of virtues without any self-seeking.
There you have an ideal of balance for souls that cannot live in the silence of solitude, but that can, wherever they go, live in God and for God, radiating His Presence. However, your spiritual director will evaluate with you the possibility of a vocation in the silence of a religious.
(“Le Royaume”, no. 8, February 1983)