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on May 24, 2001
By spiritual direction here is meant that central and often avoided part of pastoral counseling that deals not so much with people's many problems and struggles as with their experience of and personal relationship to God. It is a specialized and all important area that is easy to side step in normal counseling because of the relative ease with which other problems can be addressed and/or because of an inbuilt fear on everyone's part of a relationship with the almighty. This eminently practical book points out in great detail the paths by which one may help another to foster this all-important relationship which is more basic and prior to resolving other symptomatic difficulties in the individual's life. It describes as well the distractions, pitfalls, avoidances and other problems that beset director and directee along the way. This is probably the best text available in this area. Its strength comes from the massive experience of the authors in doing, teaching, and supervising spiritual direction, in their theological, spiritual and psychotherapeutic background, and in their ability to organize and present the material clearly and cogently. It is a must in the library of any spiritual director, could profitably be read by anyone seeking direction, and is well worth frequent rereading.
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on April 13, 2004
I am currently in a two year process of training in spiritual direction and have been reading numerous introductions to the subject. I found this one easily the most useful of the lot. It is well organized, especially in its analysis of the opportunities and hazards of the relationship with the directee as it develops. Part of the book's strength is that it is based on the experiences of the authors in running a center devoted to direction and training directors, not on one individual's view of the topic. I suspect that some of the writing is more sophisticated and nuanced than I can yet appreciate, so the book will bear rereading at a later stage. I especially enjoyed this quotation in the Conclusion - "As the dialogue and exploration [of the nature of spiritual direction today] continue, both pastoral care and theological reflection can benefit. The divorce of theology from religious experience has begun to be healed, and spiritual directors who are alive to theological issues and regularly in contact the religious experience of Christians will contribute to further healing."
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on February 28, 2006
E.G. Melillo voiced a concern about the response given concerning a married woman who was having a relationship with a divorced man. I understand E.G. Melillo's concern, however, I interpreted the author's words in a different way.

The authors didn't seem to be saying that the relationship was appropriate in any way. They seemed to be talking about how we "approach" a directee which can affect the listening relationship and working alliance. On page 143, the authors say, "In the first place, the directee usually knows that there is a discrepancy...God has an interest in the quality of the directee's life and that behavior that is seriously inconsistent with God's desires will lead to disturbances in the relationship with him...(Then) the director, whose working agreement has been to help her with prayer, can now begin to probe more deeply into the causes of the disturbance and thus help the directee." If the director strongly points out the "sin" in her actions right away, the directee is likely to tune her out. The authors are encouraging a director to be patient and maintain a relationship with the woman and then the director will be able to help "her" discover this discrepancy for herself. Allowing someone to hear God for themselves is always better than trying to be God for them. We can easily get in the way and interfere with the Spirit's action if we try to jump on a subject before the directee is ready to hear.

I found the book to be good, basic knowledge. It doesn't wander from the main thing, which is a clear understanding and knowledge of spiritual direction. They state over and over again that the motivation for spiritual direction has to be the desire to grow in relationship with the Lord.
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VINE VOICEon November 4, 2000
Though the knowledge and experience which the authors possess is clear, my impression was that, rather than taking classic concepts of spiritual direction and incorporating the insights of modern psychology, they were accepting the latter as truth and adapting the former to fit them.
Certainly, the sort of distance and authoritarian stance of previous centuries, which the authors rightly see as passe (though it worked in its time), requires much adaptation to be effective today. Yet, in recent decades, the essence, comprising the accumulated wisdom of many centuries, too often has been sacrificed because how to apply the accidental is unclear. The authors make some areas rather murky and puzzling. For example, one case cited is that of a religious Sister who is spiritual director to a married woman who believes her life and prayer have improved in the course of a current adulterous relationship. The authors believe the director should keep silent, because to do otherwise would be following an agenda of defending marriage rather than being open to the other woman's needs - and rely on her having other sources of information, or a personal intuition, that may influence her assessment of her situation. This is quite contrary to any classic view, since one of a director's ministries always has been to assist the other in a truly honest view, unhampered by self-deception - and adultery, a clearly immoral action in Christian teaching which a director would have an obligation to correct, has never been viewed as helpful in the spiritual life.
My impression was that, in encouraging those in this ministry to embrace current trends in psychology and the like, many of the key parts of the ministry (however unpleasant they may be at times) were neglected.
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VINE VOICEon February 27, 2006
For some time now I have been searching for a book on the topic of spiritual direction that is comprehensive enough to serve as a base model for ministry. I've searched through many volumes. I recently stumbled upon this book in the library of a retreat center. This is a must have! The authors serve the reader a balanced diet of spirituality and healthy counseling practices. The chapters are comprehensive. Here is a great starter text on the subject.
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on July 16, 2006
I found this book written simply and very practical in the advice given to those guiding others in the spiritual journey. This book does not delve into the realm of theory but remains very concrete which is what I needed when I found myself too busy to read long explanations. Starting from everyday experience, the author concentrates on relationships and building up those relationships. He gives us criteria for evaluating our religious experiences while keeping our balance. A great approach and very helpful. thank you.
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I bought this book because I want to become a spiritual director. It is the perfect book for me because it fits with my ideas of spirituality and how to assist others who wish to grow in the spiritual life. It does present the different models of spiritual direction. I have experienced some of them. This is not pastoral direction or counseling. This is a faith journey with another person toward God and a deeper relationship with God.
I have not completed this book and will check back and edit as necessary when I do.
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on March 16, 2016
I purchased The Practice of Spiritual Direction because it was a required book to read for my class. l really enjoyed reading and I feel that you can learn a lot on Spiritual Direction and how to use the technique of Spiritual Direction. This is one book I will keep handy and use it often as a reference book. I highly recommend this book to be added to your spiritual library.
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on September 25, 1998
Very practical and helpful guide to spiritual direction. When one wants to know how to deal with directees' difficulties, this book provides answers across many aspects on opening them to God. For spiritual directors, this book gives many leads on how to reflect on one's spiritual direction.
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on August 14, 2015
The authors note that there has been increased demand for direction not just from Roman Catholics but from protestants and even members of other faiths. They define it as “help given by one Christian to another which enables that person to pay attention to God’s personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with this God, and to live out the consequences of the relationship.”

In an age where respect has to be ‘earned’, clergy are not automatically sought – spiritual direction has become increasingly a lay ministry, though the lay person needs to have some sort of relationship with the Church rather than being some sort of free lance – though there is little or no accreditation by churches.

They define direction ‘as help given by one Christian to another which enables that person to pay attention to God's personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with this God, and to live out the consequences of the relationship’

A directee expresses her personal experiences from times of prayer and from her life. This articulation includes her spontaneous reactions -- feelings, thoughts, desires, judgments, etc. These are sometimes expressed clearly, but most often they are less than clear as the directee is often clarifying for herself what is going on. Her spiritual guide listens and helps her to clarify her feelings and thoughts by focusing carefully on what is being said, what is being left out, what is implied, and the feelings that are present. Thus, the meaning behind these reactions begins to surface along with a growing awareness of their direction. These are interior facts which the guide helps the directee to notice.

Practitioners often voice a concern that the properly spiritual is in danger of being absorbed by, or reduced to, the psychological. Barry and Connolly themselves are aware of the danger: ‘with the emergence of modern theories of therapy and counselling, pastoral care had too often looked like a carbon copy of these secular models’.

Although the authors are Jesuits and are most at home in the Ignatian tradition, they are broader than merely to plug one ‘brand.’ They also note the importance of acknowledging dryness and affirming it as being frequently a waiting period for new growth and cite the example of Thomas Merton. (Compare ‘Seeds of Contemplation’ with ‘New Seeds of Contemplation’)

They were two of the six co-founders of the Centre for Religious Development in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1971. The centre was one of the first to offer year-long specialized training in spiritual direction. Both authors now reside at Campion Centre, Weston, Massachusetts.

The director has to listen to two others – the directee and the Holy Spirit - 'letting the creator deal with the creature'

There’s some good stuff about being calm and centred before seeing a directee and of the importance of receiving supervision.
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