SCS students have recently participated in several retreats offered by the Office of Mission and Ministry, including “Contemplation in Daily Life,” a week-long inter-faith opportunity which Mission in Motion reviewed here, and “God’s Light and Love,” a six week retreat in daily life modeled upon Ignatian forms of prayer These experiences encourage students to grow in our university value of being Contemplatives in Action. Both retreat experiences include an expectation that participants engage in contemplative practices, like prayer and meditation, on their own for 30 minutes a day. These retreats are also designed for participants to meet regularly with a spiritual director.
Given heightened interest amongst SCS students for these retreats, I want to introduce and explain the practice of spiritual direction and explore how students can meet with a spiritual director during their time at Georgetown. My focus today will be on spiritual direction offered in the Christian tradition, especially the Ignatian style promoted by the Jesuits, but a future post will consider options for receiving spiritual direction or religious advising in the other faith traditions well-represented at Georgetown.
Spiritual direction is an ancient practice that involves two people of faith entering into a sacred conversation. A trained guide helps the one receiving direction pay closer attention to the way God is communicating with him or her. A hopeful outcome of receiving spiritual direction is that one sifts through their daily experiences with a particular focus on the religious significance of their interior movements: thoughts, feelings, stirrings, desires, inclinations, disinclinations, etc. The director is not telling the directee what to think, feel, or believe, but rather, helping the other respond to how God might be inviting the directee into a deeper relationship or union.
Someone giving spiritual direction in the Ignatian style will be rooted in the dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises, a theological vision about a world in which each person is capable of uncovering their deepest desires shaped by the Holy Spirit. The Ignatian spiritual director, committed to a partnership that respects the directee’s unique personality, life history, and experience, explores how God is moving in the other’s life. While spiritual direction is considered a helping discipline, it is important to note that spiritual direction is not therapy or counseling. The spiritual director is not helping the one receiving direction solve a problem or diagnose an issue. Instead, the focus is always upon the lived religious experience of the directee.
For more information about spiritual direction, please see: “Spiritual Direction.” For more about the Ignatian style of spiritual direction, please see: “What is Distinctive About Ignatian Spiritual Direction?”
There are many ways to explore the richness of spiritual direction in the Ignatian tradition at Georgetown. Mission in Motion will continue to promote upcoming retreats as ways for students, alumni, faculty, and staff to experience spiritual direction in the context of a retreat. Outside of a retreat format, ongoing spiritual direction can be offered once per month for an hour. If you are interested in learning more about the possibility of receiving spiritual direction at Georgetown SCS, please reach out to Jamie Kralovec, SCS associate director for mission integration, at firstname.lastname@example.org.