Four Things to Expect When Entering Spiritual Direction
Trying to understand to what you are being called is a process not a game of chance. And God almost never announces to you in a loud voice “You my son, will become a Jesuit.” But the good news? There is help available – Spiritual Direction, that is meeting with someone who can help us figure out where God’s is inviting us. Usually a Jesuit and usually meeting with him every couple of weeks, we can make some headway in answering the medium sized questions.
The following four areas should be part of any spiritual direction process that is part of your discernment.
The Decision in Question. You, as a candidate for the Jesuit Novitiate, are discerning whether or not to enter the Novitiate. You are not discerning priesthood, brotherhood, becoming Pope or anything else, you are only discerning entering into two years of further discernment about taking first vows as a Jesuit. It is too easy to forget this and make the discernment much bigger than it is. If you could decide to take vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience right now then we could eliminate the two year novitiate altogether. But there is no way you have enough information to make a good discernment about vows without the two years in the novitiate program.
Naming your Desire. This is harder than it looks. What do you want? What do you really want? What do you really, really, want? Spiritual direction is the chance to dig deep and begin to know what your deeper desires are. The ones that lie below the desire for a nice car, or for a good salary, or even a spectacular prayer life. God has created you with depths that might not be known to you, what is in those depths? What really moves you? and what will give you life?
Discernment of Spirits 101 Warning! Jesuit jargon in use! A good spiritual director can help you know when the dark spirit, the enemy of your human nature, is taking you for a ride. Sometimes the dark spirit seems like a good time, sometimes he is pretending to be the good choice. Sometimes he is stirring up the dust so you can’t see anything. Sometimes he is telling you that if you join the Jesuits you will never be happy again. Almost all of us need help figuring out what is going on inside of us, and it is much easier having a companion on the way. Someone who has been there, done that, encountered evil, and ego, and boredom, and exhaustion, and all the rest.
Confirmation. Finally, perhaps you know how you are being called. You have a pretty good idea that entering religious life is a great idea, or you are almost sure that not entering religious life is the right thing for you but you need this confirmed. Confirmation of choices is a big thing in Jesuit spirituality. Test that conclusion you came to. See if on a rainy Thursday the choice you came to on a sunny Sunday was the right one. A spiritual director is so useful at such a moment.