11.20.2012

Spiritual Direction

One of the fruits of my retreat back in August was the suggestion/encouragement of the chaplain to seek out a spiritual director. This had been something I'd been considering for a while, but working for the diocese has presented a bit of a challenge for me. I wasn't sure at all how to approach a priest (I wanted a priest because I wanted to be able to incorporate confession) that I work with OR how I would feel about talking about struggles in my prayer life, marriage, etc with someone who is also a co-worker, even if somewhat removed. Well, turns out that Fr. Jon (from the retreat) is best friends with a priest here in WV. A priest who I already knew and who I knew I could trust to be faithful to the magisterium. While the importance of this is, I hope, somewhat obvious, it will make even more sense in a little bit.

When I got back from the retreat, I emailed Fr. D and asked if he would be open to being my spiritual director. In the email I expressed my nervousness about this process and especially that we work together, though not closely. Fr. D is the pastor at a parish nearby and I have worked with a couple of his couples who were preparing for marriage. One of the things that became clear to me at my retreat was that being accepted/fitting in/being viewed positively is one of my idols and I shared this with Fr. D, explaining that I needed to let go of this idol and by reaching out I was taking a first step.

SO, all of this said, we had our first meeting back in early October and our second meeting last week. The first meeting was, as I expected, a bit of a "get to know you" general meeting. Fr. D already knew my general story of past use of contraception and now IF (he was a nurse and in the Navy (but not a nurse in the Navy) before becoming a priest - cool, huh?). So, it was easy to get right to some of my emotions.

Leading into my second meeting, I was struggling. Really struggling. I don't often post about it here, but I have a really hard time with this question: "Did I do this to myself?" (meaning: did my 12 years of using contraception cause our IF? Did I do this (IF) to myself?) Now, I do not post this here partly because you are all always so kind and loving that I can hear your comments of love but also partly because so many of you did not use contraception and I'm sure it just rubs salt in your wounds when I share my hurts knowing that I might have, in fact, caused our IF. So, quite often I go to a pretty dark place when I start down this spiral. It is usually pretty fast and all-consuming. And because this is the place I came to process it, and I don't process this part here, the spiral is all that much faster and darker.

Just before my visit last week, I was heading down this spiral and happened to say so in an email to a friend (I was apologizing for sounding so whiny here when "I probably did this to myself."). Her response was nothing more than the hands and feet of Jesus reaching out to me. All day, when I would start down the spiral, I'd reread the email. And when I started my session with Fr. D it was the first thing I told him about - about my struggles with this issue and about the email.

Now, Fr. D's faithfulness to the Magisterium is obviously important, but because of this very issue it is extremely important to me. More important than the fact that he has not done a lot of spiritual direction and more important than whether or not we were coworkers. I needed someone I could trust to be straight with me, not let me BS my way out of things, and not sugar coat the truth when I needed to hear it. And he didn't. But I was still surprised by his answer. While I know that I know that I know that God is not punishing me, when I start down this spiral, it's hard to remember. And he walked me through some questions to determine intent and culpability and got me to a place where, at least in my head when I'm feeling very sane and very rational (which isn't often I'm afraid - darn hormones), I realize that I did not, in fact, do this (IF) to myself. That even if medically, my use of contraception contributed to our IF, it is not something I *did* to myself. It's hard to wrap my mind around, I admit it, but I trust Fr. D.

AND, while all this was important, it is my homework that is even more important. The email I received that I kept going back to is the start of it. I am to keep a binder/journal/something with things (emails, quotes, scripture, letters to myself, etc) that pull me out of the spiral. If I start going down it, I'm supposed to pull out my journal and read the things I've put in it. I have the perfect journal, a gift from Alison over a year ago, that says "Keep Calm and Carry On" on the front - see?, I told you it was perfect. I've got a bunch of things bookmarked and ideas for it so far, I just need to take some time and print them out/write them down. I'm looking forward to some time to do so this weekend.

So often, when our hormones, emotions, lack of sleep, and any other number of things that are part of life occur, it causes us, well me, to lose sight of what I know and believe. It's easier to believe that I caused our IF than to face the unknown; it's easier to believe that God is punishing me than to accept there just might not be an answer; it is much easier to slide right on down the spiral into the dark than to stop myself and claw back to the top and the light. It's nice to know that I know have a place to go to remind myself of what I know and believe.

Different conversations have come up on a couple of blogs and on twitter lately that I have responded with "have you considered spiritual direction?" and I thought it might be nice if I shared one of my experiences with it here. I won't be sharing every detail (for example, I had 4 things to do for homework after our session last week, this is just one of them) here, but when it's relevant and something I think might help someone else, I will share. Certainly, what works for me won't work for everyone, but maybe just

I'm happy to answer any questions you have about spiritual direction, as someone once did for me. You can leave them in the comments and I will answer there or you can email me (RebeccaWVU02 at gmail dot com) if you prefer.

12 comments:

  1. I love that you were able to find someone that is faithful to the magisterium and was willing to be a spiritual director for you. I agree that confession is so important in that process if it works. (Now I should probably start looking for one, too...) And, yes, the hormones can start that spiral, but the holidays don't help either.

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  2. Yay for spiritual direction! I must admit, I have toyed with the idea of getting spiritual direction many times in the last 12 years. It's hard because I haven't known how to go about asking someone to be my spiritual director. I always feel guilty asking our pastor priest because I know they are so busy and probably can't take on one more thing. I would like a priest, too, for the confession factor, too.

    I would love to know how to go about getting spiritual direction because I do think I lack in this area...many times I am just floundering. and I never know what I would be talking about with a spiritual director. I have a hard time making the distinction between counseling and spiritual direction because I have a strong feeling that they are not the same thing.

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    1. Hm, I admit I have a bit of an advantage here because I work for the diocese. And I understand not wanting to ask the parish priest b/c they are busy, and for me, other reasons as well. I would say a good place to start would be to call your diocesan offices and see if they have a list of spiritual directors. Also, the process is very much one that you allow the holy spirit to lead and that if either your or the spiritual director feel is not being fruitful, you end the process without hard feelings.

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  3. What a wonderful blessing to have such a great spiritual director! I am so glad that you have someone that you trust and feel comfortable with.

    I've toyed with the idea of a spiritual director, but I think I need a head shrinker first ;)

    Continued prayers!

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    1. I was considering a head shrinker too! I think what steered me towards spiritual direction and away from a head shrinker was the faith part of it. So much of my struggles, I believe, I must rely on my faith to get through, and I need help to do that...it worried me what a shrink would do/where they would lead me. I literally felt lighter when I came out of our session last week and doing my homework is helping immensely. I'm not necessarily trying to convince you one way or the other :) - just wanted you (and anyone else who might be trying to decide between the two) why I chose spiritual direction over head shrinking :).

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  4. So glad you found a spiritual director you can trust! I have been looking for one on and off for 7 years! There have been a couple of priests who have just been too busy or they get reassigned. I tried going to spiritual direction to a woman on a retreat once and it just did not work out well. I left more confused than before. It made me realize I need a priest or a nun who I knew was faithful to Church teaching. I often turn to my DH for direction and rely heavily on confession by trying to go to the same priest as much as possible.

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  5. So glad you wrote about this. I've been going to a Catholic (very devout) head shrinker for 2 years. She's been great, but I don't know if I'll need her much longer. Maybe spiritual direction is in my future...I've often 'gone' there thinking I 'did' this to myself, too. We contracepted also. And weren't faithful to all Church teachings. While I believe those actions have consequences, I also believe that we have an all merciful God who loves us to no end and that He would give me a baby if that was His will. Thank you for sharing your story Rebecca! i love reading your blog.

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  6. I think you hit the nail on the head when you say that in some ways, it's easier to believe that you made yourself infertile than that bad things happen to good people for no reason at all.

    Scientifically, you can make yourself infertile with certain sexually transmitted diseases (e.g. chlamydia), untreated endo, untreated PCOS. Other than that, we don't have much control over our fertility. The birth control pill has never been linked to infertility.

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  7. I'm glad Fr was able to put your mind at ease about the cause of your IF. I understand wanting to KNOW from as close a source to God as possible. :-). I would need that confirmation too. :-)
    I am thrilled for you being able to have a great priest for spiritual direction!! It makes all the difference.

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  8. I have to add, I really agree with Sarah's comment above ... Especially ...
    I think you hit the nail on the head when you say that in some ways, it's easier to believe that you made yourself infertile than that bad things happen to good people for no reason at all.

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  9. I need to find a spiritual director. You already know some of my story, but DH and I have a hard time trusting priests, getting involved in church etc. I was so hurt by my last spiritual director, that I am reluctant to trust another man of the cloth. The wound is so deep, perhaps I'm not done healing. Anyway, I'm glad you found someone. Sounds like your time is fruitful and I'm happy for you!

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  10. I just finished a great book about Spiritual Direction called Navigating the Interior Life by Dan Burke. http://tinyurl.com/c38t6y2 I have also really liked books by Fr. Thomas Dubay, He wrote Prayer Primer for beginners and Seeking Spiritual Direction. The Dan Burke book though would be great for starters. I really got a lot from it.

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