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Sister Carol Gross Sees Spiritual Direction as Formal Spiritual Companionship
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September 2, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – As the world continues to become more chaotic and confusing, many people of faith are turning to a time-honored tradition: seeking the help of a spiritual director.

In an August 17, 2020, presentation live streamed from the Dominican Republic, Sister Carol Gross, OP, addressed spiritual direction: what it is and isn’t, how it can benefit a person seeking to live a faithful Christian life, and the personal responsibilities of those who receive spiritual direction. Sister Carol’s presentation was part of a series by members of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Spirituality Committee.

“Spiritual direction helps you see God within and around you,” Sister Carol explained. “But it means more than working with someone: guidance, concern, gentle presence to hold one steady. Most of all, it speaks of equality, but also of defending the freedom of the one companioned to make his or her own decisions.”

Sister Carol noted some of the many reasons that people might seek spiritual direction: relationship problems with friends or family members, discernment of the vocation God is calling them to or of the next steps in life, or a life crisis or life change such as personal illness or the death of a family member.

Sister Carol contrasted spiritual direction with other forms of companionship through life. For example, she said that chaplains and pastoral ministers are “the first responders of the helping groups,” often referring the people they help to other professionals. Spiritual direction is not psychotherapy, in which the psychologist “directs the process and has certain goals” and is not religious formation, which is usually a practice that helps people in formation to discern and to integrate into a religious community.

“A spiritual director walks with the person in relationship with God,” either at a time of crisis or indefinitely, Sister Carol said. “A spiritual director will help you to make your own decisions and take responsibility for your own process and relationship with God and others.” The roles of spiritual directors include helping recipient to listen to themselves, identifying feelings that might have gone unnoticed, sharing resources in Scripture and theology, offering encouragement in difficult times, and “celebrating the magnificent work of God” in their directees, Sister Carol explained.

As crucial as spiritual directors are in this relationship, Sister Carol said, directees also have an important role to play. She suggested, for example, that directees prepare for their sessions through prayer and reflection, identify what is most significant in their lives at this time; bring a notebook to the session; plan what they want to discuss while remaining open to where the Spirit leads the conversation; and open themselves fully to the spiritual director.

Finally, Sister Carol suggested that those who are interested in having a spiritual director first pray about how spiritual direction might help them at this point in their lives and discern if spiritual direction is the best step for them at this time.

Watch Sister Carol’s full presentation below. 

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