Principles of Spiritual Direction for Faith Formation and Education
Kathy Bozzuti-Jones is a member of the Lifelong Formation Council, a spiritual director, and member of the Faith Formation and Education staff at Trinity Wall Street in New York City.
Spiritual direction is an ancient practice of sacred conversation about life, in the light of faith, that takes place between two people (or in a group) on a regular basis.
In a spiritual direction session, the more spiritually-experienced companion (the “director”) offers a supportive listening presence and invitational space for exploration of the ways in which God is touching the other’s life. The question animating the conversation is this:
- What is alive for me now in my spiritual life?
Other questions include:
- Where is God in that?
- Where did I experience God’s kiss today?
- How do I embody my ideals for my highest self in the challenges of every day life?
- What is God calling me to do?
- Who is God calling me to be in the face of this challenge?
- How might I bring this situation or this question to God?
The director listens from the heart and asks questions to help unpack a “directee’s” own experiences and inner wisdom, connecting to what is enlivening, life-enhancing and creative. Healing and transformation are facilitated in the attention to the present moment, with awareness and confidence that the Holy Spirit is the third partner in the conversation.
Since surrender to the spiritual journey requires a radical openness to not knowing what the Spirit will reveal, the director is trained to hold the space for what may not yet be formed and is seeking to emerge. In the earnest desire for a life of deep connection and greater intimacy with the Divine, along with regular attention to how this is showing up in everyday life, the grace just keeps on coming.
Religious educators evaluate outcomes, in part, by the aliveness of Spirit in their programming, in the classroom, and in individual students.
- What would it be like to train religious educators to incorporate the premises and principles of spiritual direction into Sunday School and adult education, with greater intentionality, along the lifespan?
- How might an educator communicate differently or adapt a curriculum with these companioning principles in mind?
- Can we resist the cultural temptation to entertain and offer classrooms spaces in which to be still and listen to the voice of God?
- What if we made a commitment to providing spiritual direction to each of our youth?
- How might this intentionality help our communities to navigate the cultural trap of relying on the mind in spiritual matters?
- How might our church community’s faith formation be enhanced overall by lifting up the practices of compassionate presence, surrender to the Spirit’s lead, and companioning one another through the Mystery?
I have asked myself these questions as I have moved within the spheres of spiritual direction and religious formation over the years, noticing how they have mutually informed one another for me. Shared attention to these questions among religious educators may facilitate a deeper level of spiritual formation in our programming, as well as greater health and service in our churches and in the world.
How would you respond to these questions? Share your thoughts in the comments below.