Discerning, embracing God’s will—with a little help
Spiritual direction provides a companion for the faith journey
By Julie Filby
Photo by Julie Filby/DCR
Photo by James Baca/DCR
Six years ago, Wendy Sue Curley was in the middle of major life decisions. She was discerning a vocational call to religious life or marriage, along with a possible job change.
“A friend recommended going on an individual silent retreat,” she said. “I wanted to make sure the decisions I was making were in line with God’s will.”
Curley called Denver’s Lanteri Center for Ignatian Spirituality and asked if one of the priests would be willing to guide her retreat. A priest agreed, and following five days at Mother Cabrini Shrine in Golden—meeting with him an hour a day, and spending the remainder of the time meditating on Scripture and praying in silence—she felt confident the encounter strengthened her relationship with Christ and helped her discern God’s will.
“He (the priest) was, and still is, someone I’ve felt I could trust with anything in my life,” she said.
The experience prompted a journey of spiritual direction that Curley—now a wife, mother and trained spiritual director herself—continues to this day.
“It’s helped me to have a personal and tangible relationship with God,” she shared. “I never really understood what that looked like until spiritual direction. It’s helped me to see God as a real person and not some foreign idea that was way out of reach.”
In May 2011, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged spiritual direction in an address to the Pontifical Theological Faculty Teresianum.
“(Spiritual direction) is a matter of establishing that same personal relationship that the Lord had with his disciples,” he said, “that special bond with which he led them, following him, to embrace the will of the Father (cf. Luke 22:42), that is, to embrace the cross.”
How it works
Oblates of the Virgin Mary Father Ernest Sherstone is founding executive director of the Lanteri Center, which opened in the Denver Archdiocese in 2004 in a historic 1880s building at 22nd Street and Tremont Place.
The center has a team of four associate directors, priests and laity, as well as 11 graduate students that accompany fellow Christians who aim to grow in their relationship with God through prayer, Scripture and spiritual exercises.
A “directee” forms a long-term relationship with a “director”—for a timeframe that could vary from one year to five to more than 10—and the two meet on a regular basis.
“We’re not telling them ‘what to do,’” explained Father Sherstone who himself has received spiritual direction for some 40 years. “A spiritual director is someone who can accompany them as they grow and mature in faith.
“It’s always prompted by an inner call from the Lord,” he said and can often follow a retreat or other watershed moment. The current Year of Faith could be an occasion inspiring one to consider spiritual direction.
Or contact your parish pastor.
“I think (people) could benefit from spiritual direction during the Year of Faith,” Father Sherstone said. “It’s not an elite thing.”
While the Lanteri Center focuses on the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola, there are different schools of spirituality including Carmelite, Benedictine, Franciscan and Vincentian.
“Whatever particular emphasis one chooses,” he said, “they share about 90 percent (of the same philosophy) … because they’re all based on Scripture.”
Father Sherstone recommended investigating different spiritualities when seeking a director. He also advised understanding what spiritual direction is not.
“It’s not therapy or pastoral counseling,” he said. “Those address more specific issues.
“With spiritual direction, we journey together … and cover one’s whole life, not just one issue.”
Directors at the Lanteri Center, and many others, do not charge a set fee for direction.
“We are supported by the generosity of donors,” he said. “Directees don’t pay a thing; no strings attached. People throw $5 in the offering box, help out as volunteers, and most importantly: pray for us.
“We continue by the goodness of God.”
For more information on receiving spiritual direction or formation to become a director, see the accompanying box or contact your parish office.