Spiritual direction has an important role in deepening our life of Christian prayer. As such, spiritual direction also helps increase our capacity for evangelization.
Evangelization is not so much an activity that we accomplish as a mission that we live. The more we grow in union with God, the more evangelical we become. This union with Jesus Christ is evangelizing in itself and spiritual direction plays a critical role in aiding our journey toward union with Christ. Therefore, spiritual direction is an important contribution to the evangelizing mission of the Church.
God breaks into our existence and draws us into union with Himself by his invitation to “follow me”, while also commissioning us to “go out”. This coming and going dynamic is always at play in our Christian life. The more we “follow” the Lord, the more we “go out”. Growth in our spiritual lives is also growth in evangelization. A true apostle is always first a disciple.
Spiritual direction then has a place in the role of the evangelical mission in the Church.
What is spiritual direction?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church shows us the parallel between the life of prayer and spiritual direction. It explains spiritual direction as a charism given to some of the faithful, the gifts of wisdom, faith, and discernment for the sake of the common good, which is prayer (CCC 2690).
Additionally, we pray as we live, because we live as we pray. Spiritual direction serves our following of Jesus and our spreading of his message, our coming to Him and our going out from Him. (CCC 2527)
Prayer is not just what takes place consciously, but includes how God works in our heart beyond what we are perceptibly aware of.
The Fathers of the Church recognized that no one is an island, that we cannot walk alone in our spiritual life. Spiritual Direction provides that “other” for us so we do not rely solely on ourselves.
If we do not want our fervor to languish, or our first love to grow tepid, we need the help of others, especially a spiritual director.
Effects of Spiritual Direction on Prayer and Evangelization
How does spiritual direction help in the work of evangelization?
Spiritual direction is much more than a forum for accountability, spiritual coaching, advice giving, or spiritual problem-solving. It helps us to read and place our lives within God’s narrative. We see ourselves in light of the history of salvation rather than just “my life”.
Additionally, by providing a forum to articulate our experience, spiritual direction teaches us to listen to the Lord and notice his action, and experience our being called to great discipleship and apostolate. Our existence becomes enveloped in the Mystery of Christ..
Spiritual direction has the cumulative effect of placing our lives in God’s narrative by deepening our life of union with God, which is both prayer and life. Thus, the depth of our prayer is the depth of our spiritual direction and the depth of our spiritual direction reflects itself in the depth of our prayer. Again, this is because we pray as we live and live as we pray.
Faith, hope, and love begin to penetrate our lives, resulting in a deeper understanding of ourselves and all of reality. The purification of intelligence by faith, of memory by hope and of will by charity are also ways in which spiritual direction helps us grow in union with the Lord.
Ultimately, spiritual direction helps bring the locus of our lives and personal existences from trying to “control” my world to offering my person and existence to the Lord. It is from this union with the Lord that we are “sent” to bring Christ to everything, sharing His life with everyone we encounter.
Every Christian is called to spiritual direction, and some are also called to accompany others as a spiritual director. Learn more about the Spiritual Direction Certificate Program at Divine Mercy University.