18 February 2009

Spiritual direction: beyond professionalism

The other day a friend told me that she would be reluctant to recommend someone to ‘a spiritual director who had not completed some sort of training course’.

Why am I uncomfortable with this?
  • I think of training courses in spiritual direction as resources rather than qualifications. There is no way a training course can qualify you to be a spiritual director.
  • It smacks of the professionalization of spiritual direction: spiritual directors become a specially trained elite; if you haven’t been through the training, you can’t join the elite.
  • Professionalization narrows the range of spiritual direction that is available to us by excluding those who for whatever reason are unable to do the training: those who can’t afford the cost of training; those who can’t spare the time; those who lack the educational ability to do the training; those who are deemed not to fit because of their personality type or other emotional or psychological factors. Thus some of the finest spiritual directors of the past would have been disqualified.
  • Most of the formal training in spiritual direction in the UK appears to be Ignatian in orientation, perhaps because Ignatian spirituality lends itself more easily to a formal structured approach than, say, Franciscan spirituality. I hope I’m wrong, but I fear this can leave directors who have completed such courses ill at ease with directees seeking something less structured.
  • But, ultimately, competence in spiritual direction has little to do with a paper qualification. On the contrary, it is about quality of relationships: the relationship between the director and God and the relationship between director and directee.

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