Several years ago, I was with a team training combat patrol operations. The training was both day and night. The patrols only had a map and compass to guide them to their objective. There was no electronic help! The night patrol was exceptionally difficult because there was little natural illumination from the moon or stars, the terrain was mountainous, and the Soldiers were already weary from a day of training. One patrol had an especially difficult time with navigation. There were lots of arguments among the patrol as to which was the right direction but none of them seemed to have a clue about where they were going. Nothing is scarer than aimless wandering without a clear path for orientation.
After several hours of going in circles, my fellow trainer came up to me and asked that we give them some help. He stated that the blind were very definitely leading the blind and that we needed to put an end to the training event before someone got hurt. I went to the patrol leader and gave him some much-needed direction. I gave him a dispassionate “outsiders view” of where he was, then with some gentle encouragement, a reminder of where he was going, and a general idea of the right direction to attain his objective. You never saw such an ecstatic smile, even in the darkest night.
I think everyone, sometime in their life, gets a little, or a lot, lost and we start to wander. Sometimes we move in endless circles, mired in indecision, or we set off into a direction, and later realize it is the wrong direction. We can often blindly latch on to an idea or someone who claims to have a solution that marches us in the direction we want to go even though our conscience is screaming, stop, pit ahead! That is when we know that we, and those that look to us for guidance, are headed toward trouble. Jesus tells us today,
“Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher. (Luke 6:39–40 NABRE)
That pit is the darkness of sin and despair. We should always seek the path to eternal life with the light of truth and an attitude of hope. This is not always easy. There are many false trails with yawning, dark, pits. Although we may think that once we enter the Church through the Sacraments of Initiation and decide firmly to live in the Lord that it will be all sunshine, butterflies, and roses; it often is not. There are times of doubt and uncertainty. Jesus tells us, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 NABRE) Yet, He also tells us,
“How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:14 NABRE)
We need Spiritual Directors, someone who is Christ centered and competent, in our lives to help us on the way, to find and follow that narrow road. In the book of the Acts of the Apostles we hear about St. Philip and the Eunuch,
“Philip ran up and heard [a Eunuch] reading Isaiah the prophet and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him.” (Acts 8:30–31 NABRE)
We are often like the Eunuch, we need an earthly guide, someone to clearly establish where we are, encourage us to move forward, and remind us of our objective, and point out the way.
The Lord tells us today that this guide must be like his teacher and aspire to be like Him in every way. St. Paul calls us to,
“be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.” (Ephesians 5:1–2 NABRE)
To live as Christ, we need help! Certainly, God the Holy Spirit is within us as a guide but, we also need the help of others through whom the Holy Spirit will speak and challenge us. St. Paul in his Second Letter to St Timothy gives us some idea of the attributes of a Spiritual Director. He or she,
· Lives in the imitation of Christ,
“a workman who causes no disgrace, imparting the word of truth without deviation. [Who avoids] profane, idle talk, for such people will become more and more godless, and their teaching will spread like gangrene. (2 Timothy 2:15–17 NABRE)
· Strives toward virtue, someone who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. Someone who
“turn[s] from youthful desires and pursue[s] righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord with purity of heart. (2 Timothy 2:22 NABRE)
· Stays focused on the path and speaks the truth in love. He or she,
Avoid[s] foolish and ignorant debates, for you know that they breed quarrels. A slave of the Lord should not quarrel, but should be gentle with everyone, able to teach, tolerant, correcting opponents with kindness. (2 Timothy 2:23–25 NABRE)
· Is guided by the teachings of God’s Church. St. Paul writes,
“But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.” (1 Timothy 3:16 NABRE)
Finally, the Lord gives us the most important characteristic of a good spiritual guide, he or she bears good fruit,
“A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thornbushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles. A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. (Luke 6:43–45 NABRE)
We are not destined for the pit, following a blind guide. All of us need a St Philip, a Spiritual Director, to follow the Lord as a faithful disciple. Most importantly, even those who call themselves “Spiritual Directors,” should have someone to whom they turn to shed light on obstacles to grace and guide them along the road that leads to eternal life. If you do not have a guide, seek one. If you have a faithful Spiritual Director, treasure them.
We do need direction! Sometimes we need a gentle nudge to grow in faith, a Spiritual Director. God is always there if we will listen. St. Peter Claver, whose Memorial we celebrate today, tells us,
“Seek God in all things and you shall find God by your side.” (Scheenstra, 2022)
New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.
Scheenstra, V. (2022, August 9). Prayers, quips and quotes: St. Peter Claver, feast day September 9. Prayers, Quips and Quotes: Our Lady of Sorrows, Feast Day September 15 -. Retrieved September 8, 2022, from https://catholicfaithpatronsaints.com/prayers-quips-and-quotes-st-peter-claver-feast-day-september-9/
Please pray that God will provide an excellent Spiritual Director in my new location. You have been a most excellent guide and example Deacon Mark! I am so grateful to God to continue to have access to your reflections through this platform!
Without being firmly planted in the Holy Spirit and His guidance, there will be a tendency to use the spiritual director as a substitute for the direction that we are supposed to be getting from God. This could leave us vulnerable to wrong direction depending upon the spiritual formation of the director. The title of spiritual director is no guarantee of truth.