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Guided by the Spirit: A Jesuit Perspective on Spiritual Direction.

Guided by the Spirit: A Jesuit Perspective on Spiritual Direction. By Frank J. Houdek, S.J. Chicago: Loyola, 1996. 181 pages. Paper. $18.95.

Frank Houdek has several working assumptions about God and the person seeking spiritual direction: God exists; God exercises a caring concern for the human family; there is a personal God; God is knowable; God invites us into a relationship with God and with one another. The person seeking spiritual direction needs to have the capacity for self-reflection, verbal skills, and a sense of the mystery in life.

Houdek writes that spiritual direction is an art involving conversation and dialogue. As the work of the Spirit of God, it expresses both faith and mystery. Furthermore, spiritual direction is neither psychological counseling nor psychotherapy. Spiritual direction is Spirit-driven.

I enjoyed the story of George Bernard Shaw's play St. Joan (Joan of Arc) when the presiding judge asks, "Do you mean to tell us that you hear voices?" Joan pauses and replies, "Doesn't everyone?" In spiritual direction we, too, hear voices ... the voice of the Spirit working in our hearts and in our minds.

There are four useful chapters discussing the directee and the process of spiritual growth; particular types of directees and their needs; prayer and spiritual discernment; and the director and the process of direction. Houdek underscores the notion that God is the initiator in the process of spiritual direction. The role of the spiritual director is not to get in the way of God's action. This thought needs to be uppermost in what we do as spiritual directors. This process is not about us; it is about following God's lead.

Chapter 3, regarding prayer and spiritual discernment, is most helpful. Prayer begins with God as the center and starting point of prayer. The spiritual director never pesters or nags the directee about his or her prayer life. Prayer is not so much about us as about God. A spiritual director can only assist the directee to become aware of God's action in life. Prayer is an awareness of God's constant and loving presence. Prayer involves giving God the power to possess us. I found it refreshing to hear Houdek's emphasis on the "unconditional love" of God. God offers compassion, mercy, and justice to everyone. After all, "God is love."

We need to come to an awareness that one cannot live without God. A good-spirited directee is one who is growing in personal responsibility, freedom, and maturity, as well as developing Christian virtue, particularly the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity.

According to chapter 4, both director and directee need to be aware of transference (directed at the spiritual director) and countertransference (directed at the directee). When these issues occur in a spiritual direction session, it is necessary to terminate the sessions and make a referral to a counselor or psychotherapist.

Supervision is essential for anyone practicing spiritual direction. I heard again that the role of the spiritual director is not to get in the way of God's action. The spiritual director needs to create a sense of ease, a safe haven, and a place of comfort in order for directees to relax and share their stories, thereby allowing the Spirit to do the work.

Chapter 2 made me aware of the numerous types of directees. Fear, anger, depression, sexuality, and authority are significant issues for any person. The whole section on dryness or aridity in personal prayer helped me reflect on the places to search for God's presence in work, leisure, nature, and relationships. I heard once again that dryness may actually mark the beginning of a more genuine gift of prayer.

Charles J. Lopez, Jr.

Anaheim, California
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Author:Lopez, Charles J., Jr.
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Article Type:Book review
Date:Feb 1, 2007
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