Friday, April 15, 2016

St. Teresa of Avila's Words of Wisdom

In the spirituality column of the Peace Weekly, we are introduced to St.Teresa of Avila, the first woman to be proclaimed Doctor of the Church. She mentions often in her writings the spiritual director. In her own life, she experienced many confessors and spiritual directors and reflected on their role and gives her opinion.

She recommends that all Christians open themselves up to a person who is well educated. There is nothing better to find a person who is steeped in learning. She is often quoted for having told her sisters that if they have to choose between a learned director and a holy one who is not learned, it is best to choose the one who is learned. Obviously if you have both, you are fortunate.

Presently according to spiritual theology, those who come for spiritual direction need confidence in those   they seek direction. Directors need to listen to all that the directee has to say and have confidence in their position as director. 

These are basic he says but beyond that they should not be limited by their experience but continue to study. This does not  mean that they  need an extensive knowledge of all the fields of learning but what is necessary to understand those who come for direction.

Basic knowledge of history, culture, philosophy and theology is a requisite. Of the required studies most important would be knowledge of the Scriptures and the fundamentals of modern psychology.

St.Ignatius of Loyola had the gift of discernment when it came to spiritual direction. This is not something that we can expect from those who give direction, and the reason one has to make the effort to have the necessary knowledge. This should be a life-long study.

Not all priests make good spiritual directors, he says. Many lay-people are capable of becoming wonderful spiritual directors.  We should not focus only on our own experience but our desire and the studies necessary to fill the role of a spiritual director. 

To be transparent is a quality that is very healthy, and in the spiritual realm one that gives great benefits. What St. Teresa has to say about spiritual directors should be remembered in searching for a person with cultivation and learning to develop our growth potential as human beings.