What Is Spiritual Direction? (Thomas Merton)

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Spiritual direction does not consist in merely giving advice. The  (person) who has only an advisor does not really have a director in the fullest sense. Since the spiritual life does not consist in having and thinking, but in being and doing, a director who only gives ideas has not begun to form the one he directs.

He forms his by counsel and “precepts” by exercising him, by testing him, by giving him, when necessary, penances. The penitent is not formed by listening, but by complying, if possible, in his whole being, thought, desire, and actions…

In order for this to be fruitful, the director must be, as St. Benedict says, a ‘loving Father’, humble and discreet, aware of his own limitations, docile and respectful before the Holy Spirit.

A good director must have almost as much respect and veneration for the ones he directs as the penitent should have for the director.

Thomas Merton

From A Search For Solitude: The Journals of Thomas Merton, Volume 3: 1952-1960 (HarperCollins, 1996)

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