Thursday 24 April 2014

Qualities required in a spiritual director

"It is obvious that not every Christian deserves the kind of trust spiritual direction seems to require. It may be less obvious that not all ordained ministers deserve such trust. For example, a recent study of the Roman Catholic priesthood reported that a large majority could be described in this fashion:
The chief area in which underdeveloped priests manifest their lack of psychological growth is in their relationships with other persons. These relationships are ordinarily distant, highly stylized, and frequently unrewarding for the priest and for the other person... they have few close friends... In underdeveloped priests there are evidences of passivity, exaggerated docility, and a tendency to identify themselves through the role of the priesthood rather than through their own personalities.... They mistrust themselves, feel unworthy, and frequently hold back from using their full capacities.... It is surprising to find in this group of men a general inability to articulate a deep level of personal religious faith. (Note: Eugene C. Kennedy and Vincent J. Heckler, The Catholic Priest in the United States: Psychological Investigations [Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1972] 9-11.) 
It is clear that such men would have grave difficulties attempting to be the kind of spiritual director envisaged in this book. These men have their greatest difficulties precisely in the area of relationships. They would not inspire trust in relatively mature people who were seeking spiritual direction. From the description it would appear that these men also do not have much appropriated experience of a loving God and so could hardly mediate such a God to directees. ... Both men and women who share the same characteristics as these underdeveloped priests should be discouraged from the work of spiritual direction until they have overcome the developmental lags from which they suffer, since the basis for trust in such persons cannot be their experienced trustworthiness as brothers or sisters growing in their relationships with God and others." (William A. Barry and William J. Connolly, The Practice of Spiritual Direction [New York: Seabury, 1982] 122-23) 

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