A short 4-part series on spiritual change.
We continue our 4-part series on spiritual change
in 1. Virtue 2.Prayer 3. Purification and 4.
Is this article
the frosting on the cake? Well, at least it does present an overview of the first three. Remember
that our goal with this series is very simply to put things into proper perspective, without getting
into the meticulous—albeit necessary—details of spiritual progress.
between a soul being accompanied and the accompanying guide should always be dynamic. The spiritual
journey is meant to be precisely that: an upward journey.
If you hike, you should get better at it; your surroundings should
vary; and the way your guide helps you should also change, little by little.
The first task of any good guide is to make sure you
know what you are getting into “Are you SURE you would like to climb Mt. Everest?” This is essential
spiritually, for many souls look to be “guided” without understanding much at all of the journey
which lies ahead, or of the real relationship which should exist between a soul and their spiritual
“This is where
we’re going. Here’s a map. This is how to hold your stick. You might want to tighten those laces.
Keep in mind, I am not going to be carrying you up. You’ll need to learn to stand on your own two
Motives for seeking
spiritual accompaniment can also be varied. Here are a few examples: a shoulder to cry on; a
spiritual friend to share with; clarification in moral choices; loss of a loved one; an addiction;
need for catechetical instruction, etc. Yet even desires to overcome crises can be used as a
bouncing board to help a soul set out with zeal on the trek to the top.
Three points of change are the goal of spiritual accompaniment. A good
guide makes sure these are the focus, and not other punctual crises, which could be very well
attended to by a catechist, or a psychologist, or even by a good friend.
1. Education of the individual in true interior freedom, such that they are able to make mature decisions based on
2. Teaching the person to
be able to discern what God’s will is and to follow it in
their lives, taking into account the desolations and consolations they experience.
3. Learning true docility to the Holy Spirit in everything. This must be taught, later the Holy Spirit
becomes the soul’s guide.
And once again,
three are the attitudes that should be changing as one grows:
1. Interiorization: It’s not enough that
the soul know what to do, the principles taught must reach the heart and become habitually who they
are. This is directly linked to their prayer,
because prayer is where God’s principles are taken to the heart.
2. Directive to
non-directive: At the beginning the accompaniment must unwaveringly show God’s commandments,
which do not change, and later, when those are taken for granted, leave more space for God’s grace,
which works differently in each soul. This is linked to growth in virtue.
3. Learning how to face and overcome obstacles: This is linked to
purification, which also differs on each level of
To the degree that
spiritual accompaniment is efficacious, the soul being accompanied grows humanly and spiritually and
the need for assistance on the part of the guide diminishes.
Towards the end of the journey, it may often be enough that the guide be
present. Not unlike the coach who tells the young gymnast at the Olympic games “Go get
‘em! We want GOLD!”
Fr. Nathan is editor of www.formationtoolbox.com
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