Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Thoughts on the Spiritual Life and Spiritual Direction (Thomas Merton)

“Spiritual direction is not merely the cumulative effect of encouragements and admonitions which we all need in order to live up to our state in life. It is not mere ethical, social, or psychological guidance. It is spiritual.

But it is important to understand what this word “spiritual” means. There is a temptation to think that spiritual direction is the guidance of one’s spiritual activities, considered as a part or department of one’s life. You go to a spiritual director to have him take care of your spirit, the way you go to a dentist to have him take care of your teeth, or to a barber to get a haircut. This is completely false.

The spiritual director is concerned with the whole person, for the spiritual life is not just the life of the mind, or of the affections, or of the “summit of the soul”—it is rather the life of the whole person.

For the spiritual man is one whose whole life, in all its aspects and all its activities, has been spiritualized by the action of the Holy Spirit, whether through the sacraments, or by personal and interior inspirations.

Moreover, spiritual direction is concerned with the whole person not simply as an individual human being but as a child of God, another Christ, seeking to recover the perfect likeness to God in Christ, and by the Spirit of Christ.

The spiritual man is one who, “whether he eats or drinks or whatever else he does, does so for the glory of God” (ICor. 10:31). Again, this does not mean the he merely registers in his mind an abstract intention to glorify God. It means rather that in all his actions he is free from the superficial automatism of conventional routine. It means that in all that he does he acts freely, simply, spontaneously, from the depths of his heart, moved by love.”

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)