The Spiritual Life
from Chapter 5
General Means of Perfection
from Paragraph 1 - Spiritual Direction
2) The Duties of Penitents
551. Penitents will see in their spiritual director the person of Our
Lord Himself. If it is true that all authority comes from God, it is more so
of the authority the priest exercises over consciences in the confessional.
The power of binding and loosing, of opening and closing the gates of Heaven,
of guiding souls in the paths of perfection, is a divine power and cannot reside
outside of him who is the lawful representative, the ambassador of Christ. "For
Chirst's therefore we are ambassadors, God as it were exhorting by us"
(2 Cor. 5:20). This is the principle from which all duties toward a spiritual
director flow -- respect, trust, docility.
552. A) The director must be respected as the representative of God,
clothed as he is with God's authority in what regards our most intimate and
most sacred relations with God. Hence, if he has his shortcomings, let us not
dwell on them, but simply regard his authority and his mission. A penitent will
thus carefully avoid any criticism whereby the filial respect due his director
is lost or lessened. He should likewise avoid excessive familiarity, hardly
compatible with true respect. This respect will be tempered by an affection
that is frank and genuine, but full of reverence, an affection of a child for
his father, an affection that excludes the desire of being singularly loved,
and the petty jealousies issuing from such desire. "In a word, this friendship
should be strong and sweet, holy, all sacred, wholly divine and entirely spiritual."
553. B) A second duty toward the spiritual director is filial trust
and perfect openness of heart. "Open your heart to him with all sincerity
and fidelity, manifesting clearly the state of your conscience without fiction
or dissimulation; by this means your good actions will be examined and approved,
and your evil ones corrected and remedied...Place great confidence in him, but
let it be united with a holy reverence, so that the reverence may not diminish
the confidence, nor the confidence the reverence." We are to open our heart
to him, then, with full confidence, making known to him our temptations and
our weaknesses, that he may help us conquer the former and heal the latter;
we must submit to his approbation our desires and resolutions; we must tell
him of the good we strive to accomplish, that he may help us to do even more;
of our good purposes that he may examine them, and suggest the means of realizing
them; in a word of whatever has a bearing on the spiritual welfare of our soul.
The better he knows us, the more will he be able to counsel us wisely, to encourage,
comfort and fortify us, in such wise, that after taking leave of him, we can
repeat the words of the disciples at Emmaus: "Was not our heart burning
within us, whilst he spoke...?" (Luke 24:32)
554. There are persons who, though willing enough to be thus perfectly
open, through a sort of timidity or reserve do not know how to make known their
state of soul. Let them speak of this to their spiritual director, who will
help them with pertinent questions and, if need be, have them read some book
or other that will enable them to come to a better knowledge of themselves and
to analyze the state of their souls. Once the ice is broken, such intimate communications
will be made with greater ease.
Others there are who, on the contrary, are liable to talk overmuch and to turn
spiritual direction into pious prattle. These must remember that a priest's
time is limited, that others wait their turn and may grow impatient of delay.
They should, therefore, set a limit and leave less important matters for some
555. C) Docility in listening to and carrying out of a director's advice
must accompany this frankness. There is nothing less supernatural than to wish
him to enter into our views, nothing more hurtful to the welfare of our soul,
for then it is not the will of God we seek, but our own, with this aggravating
circumstance, that we abuse a God-given means in order to attain our selfish
purposes. Our only desire must be to know God's will through the agency of our
spiritual director and not to extort his approval through more or less clever
devices. One may deceive a spiritual director, but not Him Whom he represents.
Doubtless, it is our duty to make known to him our likes and our dislikes, and
if we forsee serious difficulties in carrying out his advice, we must candidly
mention them to him. Once this has been done, we must submit to his decision,
or if we think it unwise, seek another director. Strictly speaking, our spiritual
director may be mistaken, but we make no mistake in obeying him, except, of
course, were he to give counsel opposed to faith or morals.
556. D) Only a grave reason and mature reflection should determine us
to seek another spiritual guide. There should be in direction a certain continuity
that cannot exist if changes be frequently made.
a) Some persons tired of listening to the same counsels, especially
if these bear upon things disagreeable to nature, or led through curiosity,
change confessors in order to see what the attitude of another will be. Others
do the same through inconstancy, finding it impossible to hold for any length
of time to the same practices. Others are inspired by vanity, wishing to go
to one who enjoys a greater reputation, or who is more in vogue, or to one who
will probably flatter them. Some change through a kind of restlessness that
causes them to be ever dissatisfied with what they have and to dream of an imaginary
perfection. Again, some do so, through an ill-regulated desire of opening their
sould to different confessors, so as to engage their interest or to be reassured.
Lastly, some change through a false shame, to hide from their regular confessor
some humiliating weaknesses. Evidently, these motives are not sufficient, and
one must learn to brush them aside, if one wishes to make consistent progress
in the spiritual life.
Taken from The
Spiritual Life by TAN Books
& Publishers, Inc.
Other pages discussing Catholic
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