Are you worried? You need a spiritual coach for your soul by Joe abidi

17 05 2015

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Johnny was worried. He needed to speak with someone, but he just didn’t know who. He opened up the yellow pages of his local phone directory. There were listed attorneys, financial advisors, plumbers, electricians, beauticians, bankers, and even fitness trainers. All of these people know about their business. He often paid them a fee to help him in their particular specialty. Some of them he consulted regularly and a few even became his good friends. All of their expert advice could not help him now. He needed to talk about something deeper; he needed to talk about his private life.

He decided to talk with Mike, a friend who lived in the apartment below his. He had known Mike for a very long time; they went to high school together and had always admired him because nothing ever seemed to bother him.

“Need to talk to you, Mike,” he said as they sat down.

“Worried about something?”  Mike asked, concern in his eyes, as he poured Johnny a drink. They were seated in Mike’s kitchen table

“Yes, and I can’t seem to get it off my mind either,” Johnny smiled, and sipped his drinks.

“Alright, what’s on your mind?” Mike laughed, a twinkle in his eyes

And Johnny opened the floodgates of his soul.

He talked about his struggle with his marriage and family, work, friendship, and social life. He talked about his defects, about the faults that kept him estranged from his wife, from his children. He talked about those jagged edges of his character that made him disagreeable with colleagues at work.  He unburdened himself of unexpected joys and sorrows that comes and goes, and oh yes, death. He was 50 years old, a lawyer. He knew where he had been and where he was going. Yet he did not know where he would he go when he died? He believed in God alright, and even believed in heaven, but that was all. He had no clue what God wanted from him or what he was supposed to do to make heaven. He needed God’s grace and reconciliation.

“I have tried talking to psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists and so on. Yet I know that although these health professionals can perform useful functions..but when I speak to them about my spiritual problem, they often gave me erroneous or unfortunate answers. Their advice often depended on their particular training, and is often based on naturalistic theories or ideologies which did him much more harm than good.”

“What is God’s will for me?” Johnny asked finally

Mike smiled and said, “What you need is a spiritual director.”

Johnny blinked.

“What’s that?”

“A spiritual director is someone who has the qualifications to guide you spiritually,” Mike answered. “You wouldn’t think of building a good house to live in here on earth without an architect,” Mike said. “How can you ever hope, without a director, to build the castle of your sanctification in order to live forever in heaven?” This is true for everybody, not just for the poor, simple, or uneducated but even more for the complacently successful. He will provide you the answer to your many questions as our circumstances change and as we grow “in wisdom and grace.” Besides he won’t charge you a dime.”

Johnny poured himself another drink and sat back. It was a hot afternoon. His pessimism vanished. Mike could do that; had the answers to everything. That was why they were best friends.

Mike looked earnestly at his friend and continued.  “Each person is a unique child of God with his particular genetic code, temperament, and life experiences. God has a specific plan for each. To discern this particular plan should be the continuing goal of any serious man or woman, especially if they are Christian. As God normally prefers to work through secondary causes, there arose right from apostolic times, the practice of seeking personal spiritual direction from a wise and prudent person who could guide one along the path to holiness with all its unexpected twists and turns. One would search with great difficulty throughout history to find canonized saints who did not receive regular spiritual direction. After all, even our Blessed Mother, the Immaculate Conception herself, found her vocation through the words of the Archangel Gabriel. And even she asked how this might come about.”

“Where do you search for a spiritual director?”  Johnny asked. He was listening.

Mike smile and said, “You should do what is referred to on Wall Street as “due diligence.”

“That is, do careful research before choosing a spiritual consultant, perhaps as much as in searching for a spouse or choosing the right college. After all, you are looking for a person to whom you are, in part, at least entrusting the salvation and sanctification of your very immortal soul. Remember that you are the buyer and that it may take several tries to find the right person or organization that fits your needs.

“One very simple way is to look to your friends who clearly take their interior and apostolic life seriously. One flows from the other. Ask them for a referral. If you see a serious striving for holiness in them, there is little doubt they are taking advantage of a good spiritual director.”

“A second way is look for a person, a priest or a lay person, in whom you see deep piety, wisdom, experience, maturity, zeal for souls and an unquestionable faithfulness to all the Church’s teaching. He need not have formal training in spiritual direction. The traits listed above more than make up for class hours or a degree. After all Karol Wotyla’s first spiritual director was a tailor! Then try to get him to free some time up for you. I guarantee he has a long line of clients.

“Who is Karol Wotyla?” Johnny asked.

“Pope John Paul the second,” Mike replied.

Johnny knew Mike was Catholic.

“A third way is to find a spiritual director increasingly popular and accessible in this age of the laity, is to take advantage of the formation provided for lay people by religious congregations and by the various and lay institutions which have as their specialty the formation of lay people. There you may find a well-defined spirituality complete with formational and liturgical activities that are personal and collective, doctrinal and ascetical, tailor-made to your particular situation. They often also provide the services of both priests and laity steeped in a particular spirituality.”

“What about the spiritual direction itself?” Johnny asked. “What is it like?  I mean what do you talk about?

“Many things or few,” Mike replied. “Perhaps you want to set the ground rules with the director himself. Certainly the quality and quantity of your prayer and spiritual reading and sacramental life should always be touched on. Your struggle to live as a Christian in marriage and family, work, friendship, and social life should normally be addressed–specifically. There should be an effort to address a very particular area of life which needs improvement, that defect or fault that keeps you from making more rapid progress towards holiness. With time your efforts to share your faith in a natural way with those around can also be a topic of discussion. These efforts may well result in God’s grace in reconciliations, conversions, and vocations. And, oh yes, from time to time you may simply need to unburden yourself of unexpected joys and sorrows that come on your pilgrimage to the house of God, the Father. If you are seeing a priest for direction, you may also want to avail yourself of the Sacrament of Penance, adding the sacramental grace to the actual graces received from being open and docile in the conversation with your spiritual director.”

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