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The Practice of Spiritual Direction Paperback – 1 Jun 2009
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From the Back Cover
Fathers Barry and Connolly see the work of spiritual direction as helping people to develop their relationship with God. In thinking and practice they have absorbed the insights of modern psychotherapy, but have not been absorbed by them. This highly practical book reflects the author's experience at the Center for Religious Development in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where spiritual direction is available and where directors are trained.
About the Author
William A. Barry, S.J., & William J. Connolly, S.J., were two of the six co-founders of the Center for Religious Development in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1971. The center was one of the first to offer year-long specialized training in spiritual direction. Both authors now reside at Campion Center, Weston, Massachusetts.
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Contrary to some people's idea the hands off approach of non-judgement is not pure modern psychology - and lies deep in the Christian tradition of Spiritual Direction, particularly in the Ignatian tradition. This approach provides a profound basis for 'letting the creator deal with the creature' and enables significant transformation through discerning listening. This Barry and Connolly very helpfully explore and provide much insight and guidance. It is top of my recommended list for serious reading about Spiritual Direction and a must read for those seeking to respond to a call into this ministry.
Though the experience which the authors possess is clear, my impression was that, rather than taking classic concepts of spiritual direction and incorporating the insights of modern psychology, they were accepting the latter as truth and adapting the former to fit them. They suggest a "non-judgement" approach more suited to a therapist than to pastoral work.
Certainly, the sort of distance and authoritarian stance of previous centuries, which the authors rightly see as passe (though it worked in its time), requires much adaptation to be effective today. Yet, in recent decades, the essence, comprising the accumulated wisdom of many centuries, too often has been sacrificed because how to apply the accidental is unclear. The authors make some areas rather murky and puzzling. For example, one case cited is that of a religious Sister who is spiritual director to a married woman who believes her life and prayer have improved in the course of a current adulterous relationship. The authors believe the director should keep silent, because to do otherwise would be following an agenda of defending marriage rather than being open to the other woman's needs - and rely on her having other sources of information, or a personal intuition, that may influence her assessment of her situation. This is quite contrary to any classic view, since one of a director's ministries always has been to assist the other in a truly honest view, unhampered by self-deception - and adultery, a clearly immoral action in Christian teaching which a director would have an obligation to correct, has never been viewed as helpful in the spiritual life.
My impression was that, in encouraging those in this ministry to embrace current trends in psychology and the like, many of the key parts of the ministry (however unpleasant they may be at times) were neglected.