A little curious about the history of Spiritual Direction?
So was I, so here are some history highlights about Spiritual Direction. “S.D.” is practically as old as we are. In early oriental Christianity spiritual direction began primarily with the formation of monks in the desert communities of Egypt, Syria, and Palestine. The spiritual director was called “abba” or father. Among the Israelites of the Old Testament, Moses gave spiritual direction to the people of the desert and even appoints elders to assist him with the spiritual direction. In the New Testament, Jesus spent most of his public ministry giving spiritual direction to his disciples. Desert Fathers of the 4th and 5th centuries continued the tradition of spiritual direction for neophytes who flocked the desert seeking wisdom from these anchorites.
By the way, in case you were wondering(as I was), Anchorites are those who withdraw from secular society, like hermits, to be able to lead intensely prayer oriented lives, like monks. Anchoritic life is one of the earliest forms of Christian monastic living.
In the 16th century, the Carmelites and Jesuits practiced spiritual direction not only among their own religious community but also among lay people, both to men and women. In France, spiritual direction was practiced especially among lay people and became very popular there by the end of the 19th century. Social Scientists have discovered similar traditions of spiritual guidance in other cultures other than Judaism and Christianity, for example, the Eastern Gurus within the Hindus and Buddhists or the shamans among the Eskimos, and Medicine Men of American Indians.
The 17th century has been referred to as the Golden Age of spiritual direction. I have a strong feeling that we are entering another one of spiritual direction’s golden ages. We’re at a point in our evolution where we are seeking out and allowing ourselves to have our direct experiences of God. We are moving to a place where we find God living within us, daily and at each moment. Our faith is being renewed because we are discovering that it is actually living and breathing and evolving
(kinda like us, eh?) … evolving deeper into “Godness”. We are moving away from prohibitive and authoritative religions and churches whether it be a conscious decision or whether one not so deliberate. It’s obvious that many are losing interest in religion and the strict doctrines of faith perhaps because these things are not growing with them. I’m certain there are many reasons for why which I am not going into here.
Spiritual Direction is for everyone who wants to deepen their relationship with God, who wants to know who God is in their every day lives. As a modern day spiritual director, I listen for God’s subtle and not so subtle movements in others and hold sacred space as a compassionate witness to Spirit in a person’s life. To be held in compassion through a ministry of listening is a very healing experience.