Spiritual directors help untangle experiences or contemplate uncomfortable questions in the warmth of God’s presence
“We all have a desire to search for the things that matter – outside our lives and inside – to find what gives us purpose, direction,” St. Joseph Spirituality Center Director Kathy Wray says, settling into a wingback chair that sits in front of beautifully colored stained-glass windows inside her office at the Motherhouse. At arm’s length across from her sits a second chair, normally occupied by one of her spiritual directees. “Sometimes we need another to walk with us as we figure that out.”
The warm and welcoming space invites one to be at home in the presence of God and to contemplate deep and sometimes uncomfortable questions. While trauma, loss, alienation from the institutional Church, or other painful experiences can prompt one to seek spiritual direction, “it’s not therapy,” Kathy explains, adding that spiritual directors are careful not to give advice, but to simply listen with compassion and attentiveness.
“Spiritual life isn’t something to be fixed or healed; it’s to be revealed. God’s already doing the work,” Kathy says.
Through spiritual direction, the directee is able to untangle, to remember, to piece together, to mark as important or unnecessary the experiences that have shaped them, which can open the door to healing, forgiveness, and a deeper, more authentic relationship with God. While conversation that prompts self-questioning is important in the process, “it’s not always about talking and listening, but about silence and space,” Kathy adds.
Spiritual directors cultivate a kind of “holy detachment,” she explains, which allows them to offer directees a place to put what, for some, may be years of pent-up anger or grief. In this safe, confidential space, free from judgment, directees are able to come to terms with wounds or experiences that make God, or even self-acceptance, inaccessible. Patience and tenderness help to build trust and break down the barriers people have constructed to protect their hearts.
Kathy’s hope is that directees will draw closer to God and toward “what makes them most alive,” but acknowledges that “a relationship with God or anyone is never quantitative.” She smiles, recalling breakthrough moments when directees have been able to name something inside themselves – when they, as the poet T.S. Eliot writes, arrive “at the place where we started and know it for the first time.”
She invites all who are seeking to consider spiritual direction, noting that for those who may feel alienated from institutional religion, it can help them to “un-know what God isn’t and to know the spirit of unity and wholeness in Christ.”
To learn more about spiritual direction or to begin the process, contact Kathy Wray at 724-869-6585 or firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition to Kathy, five Sisters of St. Joseph – Carolyn Bodenschatz, Paula Drass, Catherine Higgins, Marjorie Kelly, and Carolyn Wiethorn – serve as spiritual directors for St. Joseph Spirituality Center, and have some availability to meet with new directees in 2020. The suggested donation for spiritual direction is $50 per hour, but no one is turned away for lack of funds. Spiritual directors meet with directees on a regular basis, usually monthly and in person.