Meeting on Holy Ground - Spiritual Direction in the Diocese
by Vivian Lewin
Christians who lead active lives and those called to contemplation — and many who strive like Theresa of Avila to balance the two — have always prized the opportunity to grow in discernment. The Spiritual Direction Group of the Diocese of Montreal arose in response to this need.
The group formed in 1995 when clergy and lay persons began meeting regularly to pray and meditate, exploring how to make accredited Spiritual Direction available to individuals in our diocese. These meetings continue today.
Jesus’ disciples asked, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk 11:1). At any stage on the path of faith we can find ourselves moved by the desire to grow in the knowledge and love of Jesus and to follow him “more nearly, day by day” in the words of Richard of Chichester. The Fathers and the Mothers of the early church regarded spiritual friendship as essential to fostering this growth. This tradition lives on in such varied practices as confession, faith-sharing in groups, and “privy counsel” (a very old term for spiritual direction).
When a person’s faith journey brings her or him onto “holy ground,” the need to listen respectfully is of utmost importance. Seeker and guide need to attend to what the Holy Spirit is doing. The graces offered by the Spirit are always gifts, so they can’t be “managed,” but the ground for spiritual fruitfulness can be prepared. The skill of attending can be developed through discipline and guided practice, and the ways of understanding these graces can be studied as part of a tradition nearly two millennia old. For this reason, our diocese recognizes Spiritual Direction as a ministry to be offered only by accredited individuals.
Spiritual Directors licensed in our diocese may be ordained, lay, or religious. They must subscribe to criteria approved by Bishop Barry Clarke which include:
Discerning a call to the ministry of Spiritual Direction
Having a spiritual director himself or herself
Being involved in ongoing spiritual training, and
Being accountable to other spiritual directors in a peer group or supervisor relationship on a regular basis.
Licenses are granted by the Bishop for three years. Each year, activities of the Spiritual Direction Group address three goals:
Support formation of spiritual directors in our diocese. We offer educational grants for initial and ongoing training, invite guest speakers to visit, and choose special topics to address. Past speakers included Margaret Guenther, Jean Stairs, Father Tim Gallagher, and Peter Wall.
Match seekers with directors and provide direction. A recent survey found all of our licensed directors meeting directees regularly.
Increase awareness of spiritual direction in the diocese at large. We make presentations in parishes, contribute articles to the Montreal Anglican, and organize and promote public events with guest speakers. A flyer describing “Spiritual Direction In Our Diocese” is available in English and French.
Our meetings, held every six weeks or so, extend refreshment and fellowship to all interested in Spiritual Direction. They include time for meditation and sharing, a shared meal, and discussion of special topics or plans for future events. For more information, or to arrange an interview for ‘matching’ call 514-768-7807 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.