The journey of faith is never ending. In fact since ordination I have often sensed a desire to discern my call within the call of pastoral ministry. I heard that Mother Teresa referred to the “call within the call” in her life as she left her order to found a new community. This phrase certainly describes where I have been since ordination. I believe that I continue to respond to my call to pastoral ministry on a daily basis, but as I minister to and with many people, I recognize my call within the call to walk with people in their journey with Jesus in discipleship.
Some pastors desire to study more about preaching, church leadership, missiology, or theology. Nearly all of us share an an interest in all of those topics as well. My interest has taken me into the area of spirituality and the journey of faith. I recently began a program with the Sisters of Saint Benedict called “The Spiritual Direction Internship,” where we will learn the role and function of a spiritual direction. At the end of the program we will be certified as spiritual directors.
I have had official and unofficial spiritual directors in my life. There were many people listening to me and with me, as I discerned God’s call for my life. Some were professors, nuns, priests, pastors, friends, and family. It was and still is my hope that as I began pastoral ministry a large part of my focus would be helping people listen for God’s call and voice in their lives. I have walked with many people in different places in their lives from beginning and ending relationships, into death, beginning new jobs and quitting other jobs, to welcoming a new baby or loved one into their homes. As I have sat with people in one on one encounters, my prayer has always been to listen for God’s Spirit in a person’s life.
I believe that one the real challenges that the universal church faces today is the lack of emphasis in going deeper in one’s spiritual journey. The church must return to an emphasis on listening for the Spirit’s leading for the individual and corporate life of Christians. One way to do this is by walking with each other in our journey. It’s essential that the community of faith assists us in listening for God’s call.
As Henri Nouwen wrote, “A spiritual director is someone you ask to hold you accountable for exercising the disciplines and practices of the spiritual life. Spiritual direction, the ancient practice and provision for receiving such needed help, offers prayerful presence, wife counsel, and careful guidance by a spiritual friend who is sensitive to the movements of the Spirit and familiar with the disciplines of the traditions.” I believe the modern church needs to find this practice again.
The Trappist monk, Fr. Thomas Merton wrote that “spiritual direction is, in reality, nothing more than a way of leading us to see and obey the real Director — the Holy Spirit hidden in the depths of our soul.” In spiritual direction we wander into the mystery of God together.
As I began spiritual direction again in an official capacity this year after a year of transition to a new city, new church, new baby, and nearly a new life, or at least a new part of my life journey, I sensed a call to go deeper in my pastoral work. After looking into various programs for spiritual direction, much prayer and consideration, I decided to apply for the “Spiritual Direction Internship” which is a ministry of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Indianapolis. This is a program that is celebrating it’s 25th year.
I’m excited about beginning this journey. It’s really a continuation of my ministry and faith journey. The intentional reading, lectures, small group formation around spiritual direction and listening, to the opportunities to write and reflect are all things I value and am looking forward to. Please keep me in your prayers as I begin this journey. I look forward to sharing more reflections on the program and classes through my blog. Thank you for your prayers and support.