Cursillo Movement   Cursillo Home   Spiritual Direction Resources

More On Spiritual Direction

The Cursillo Movement’s purpose is to convert Christians to a deeper relationship with God and to help them to understand their individual callings to be Christian leaders. "To accomplish that purpose Cursillo has a strategy and a method. The method of Cursillo is basically one of perseverance. The method is used in the post-Cursillo (Fourth Day) phase and is a means for lay apostles to meet, share, and plan their apostolic work together in small groups (group reunion) and larger groups (Ultreyas) where Cursillistas meet to give life and impetus to a community endeavor." (Spiritual Advisor’s Workbook, National Episcopal Cursillo, 1991).

Part of the Fourth Day is to use a rule of life to continue to deepen one’s spiritual life. One part of that rule of life is spiritual direction. Spiritual direction is a developing concern within the Church generally and in the Cursillo in particular. Spiritual direction serves to guide the growing Christian into a deeper relationship with his or her Lord.  (pp 6,10 The Fourth Day First, NEC 1987)

Spiritual direction is mentioned in several Cursillo weekend talks, yet no elaboration is possible on the weekend. The purpose of this resource paper is to provide current and practical information about what spiritual direction is, is not, and whether this tool in the Cursillo method is something that you want to investigate further for your continued spiritual growth or ministry.


Summary: Spiritual direction is holy listening, guiding, and suggesting, from a person who is mature in his or her spiritual journey and experienced in the art of spiritual direction. He or she is able and willing to meet regularly with you, approximately once a month. The meeting frequency depends on the mutually perceived need. Every six months may be an appropriate frequency. Spiritual direction is not commanding, psychological counseling, confession, or psychotherapy. A spiritual companion is also under spiritual direction. In some situations, the communal (group) model of spiritual direction can be effective.

The person’s relationship with God is the focus of spiritual companionship and how that relationship is expressed and discovered in all other relationships. Pastoral counseling, on the other hand, focuses on self. An assumption is made that the person seeking a spiritual companion is basically healthy, and wants to continue to grow towards wholeness and freedom in God, self, and others. Yet not everyone will feel a need for spiritual companionship at all times.

Although the spiritual mentor need not be of the same faith as the one seeking direction, it is essential that the mentor understand the person’s faith tradition, such as Christian, Buddhist, or one not belonging to any faith tradition. Finally, and succinctly, the person seeking direction should expect a growing ability to discern the Holy Spirit acting in his life.

Here are some other thoughts and quotes.

From The Practice of Spiritual Direction: Spiritual Direction is help given by one Christian to another which enables that person to pay attention to God’s personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with this God, to live out the consequences of this relationship.  (pg 8)

Spiritual Direction IS:

Spiritual Direction IS NOT:

Potential characteristics of a Spiritual Director (Friend, Companion, Soul Friend):
...has a spiritual director himself or herself. grounded in the Scriptures sustained by a deep prayer life.
...has familiarity with human behavior.
...reflects mature Christian living in his life.
...reflects humility.
...has a sincere desire to seek the Lord. a good listener. able to keep discussions confidential. non-judgmental.

PITFALLS for those receiving spiritual direction
1. Seeking spiritual direction because it’s the in thing.
2. Seeking spiritual direction as a substitute for therapy.
3. Handing over responsibility for one’s spiritual life; dependency.
4. Expecting the director to be available at any and all times.
5. Being unwilling to put effort into one’s inner work.
6. Hidden agendas.
7. Expecting instant perfection.
8. Failing to share the negatives.
9. Seeing spiritual direction as an intellectual exchange.
10. Possessiveness.
11. Bringing other people’s lives to the shared time.
12. Staying with a director when there is no chemistry.
13. Trying to please the spiritual guide.

PITFALLS for those guiding others
1. Needing to be needed.
2. The heresy of good works.
3. Thinking there’s just one way to grow.
4. Forgetting just who is doing this work.
5. Having certain subjects off limits.
6. Overextending.
7. Not knowing one’s own boundaries.
8. Forgetting to evaluate and pulse-take along the way.
9. Not making expectations clear.
10. Giving in to blackmail.
11. Minimizing the dark side of life.
12. A mentality of privatism.
13. Fudging on confidentiality.
14. Being naive/untrained about transference and counter-transference.
15. Undertaking this ministry without solid experience in direction and
without proper training and continuing supervision.
16. Failing to provide a meeting space and atmosphere.
17. Being more interested in the theory than in the person.

Additional information from Spiritual Directors International web page:

Excerpts from An Interview with Jeffrey S. Gaines, MDiv. Published in Hungryhearts News (HHN), Summer '96 by the Office of Discipleship and Spirituality, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Jeffrey Gaines is a Presbyterian minister, co-pastor of the Seventh Avenue Presbyterian Church in San Francisco, and Executive Director of Spiritual Directors International.

What is Spiritual Direction?
Hungryhearts News (HHN): The first question people usually raise about spiritual direction is, "What is it?"

Jeffrey Gaines (JSG): Spiritual direction can mean different things to different people, but in my understanding it is the art of Christian listening carried out in the context of a one-to-one trusting relationship. It is when one Christian is trained to be a competent guide who then "companions" another person, listening to that person's life story with an ear for the movement of the Holy, of the Divine.

HHN: For many people spiritual direction is a new concept, and some people are uncomfortablewith the word "director" because of what it might imply. Is it a problem for you?

JSG: I would say that "director" really is a misnomer, because God is the Director and I am simply one who companions. There is a tradition of using the word "director", and I don't see that being changed, but truly God is the Director, and the spiritual director simply assists the seeker in uncovering and discovering the direction of God in that person's life. This enables the directee to see, claim, receive more consciously (Author’s comment), own, and reverence God's voice, God's nudging, and God's acting, in such a way that it elicits a natural and genuine response. Spiritual direction -- or mentoring, or companioning, or spiritual friendship has been part of Christian tradition for centuries (Author’s comment) since our Lord’s time, often under different names). (Note that spiritual direction was part of Biblical tradition before the Christian era. It's part of the discipling model. People sought out Jesus because they saw that he was wiser, and they respected his walk with God. John Knox sought out Calvin in Geneva and walked with him. In monastic communities a novice might have the abbot as his/her spiritual director. These kinds of prayer relationships have existed down through the ages.

Distinctions Between Direction and Therapy

HHN: Can you say something about the relationship between spiritual direction and pastoral counseling or psychotherapy? Are they the same thing?

JSG: If you were to be looking through two one-way mirrors and on your left was a spiritual direction session and on your right was a pastoral counseling or psychiatric session, they may look quite similar, but actually there are important differences.

In the spiritual direction session there would be a candle or some other non-verbal symbol representing the Holy. It may be an open Bible, a plant, a cross, or maybe some water -- something that is understood to represent the Holy.

Spiritual direction, unlike pastoral counseling, always happens in the context of prayer and spiritual intimacy. This is where intimate engagement happens. Whereas in psychotherapy the clinical distance is crucial to bring about objectivity and healing, in spiritual direction discernment is based upon the intimate engagement of two people walking into the sanctuary of God.

Another difference is that people usually enter pastoral counseling, because something is wrong in their life, whether it is an area of shame, or guilt, or abuse, or addiction, or poor self-image. They're coming because something is wrong and they want it to be made right.

HHN: So they're in some sort of crisis . . .

JSG: Yes. I really believe a crisis is what initially gets a person into therapy. It may not, however, be what keeps the person in the therapy, but it often is the initial threshold crossing. Spiritual direction deals with the assumption that the person is already whole, but hasn't yet fully embraced this truth for themselves.

Another important assumption of spiritual direction is that it is not for everyone, because it presumes some degree of psychological health in one's life. . .We're really listening for the stream beneath the stream of the person's life, . . . for those moments of encounter with the Holy. A classic question is "Where is God in the midst of this experience. . .?" "Directors do not create relationships between God and their directees, they simply foster these relationships so that they may deepen and grow. . ." (William A. Barry and William J. Connolly, The Practice of Spiritual Direction. New York: Seabury, 1981.)

Hearing the Inner Call

HHN: What will impel someone to seek out spiritual direction then? Assuming that the person who is coming to explore this for the first time is not in crisis, is there something else that usually will draw them to this?

JSG: . . . a yearning for God -- to understand meaning in their life; to gain a sense of discernment; to understand where they are going and how to live their life more fully.

HHN: So there might be some hunger or sense of something missing, but the real motivation is being drawn toward the possibility of living a more abundant life, as John 10:10 puts it?

JSG: Absolutely. I believe it really is a call . . . an inner longing and hunger for God -- which is confirmed outwardly when the person finds the right director.

Making the Connections

HHN: How does someone who feels this yearning --this inner call -- go about locating a spiritual director?

JSG: Well, they might initially begin by approaching someone whose spiritual life they respect, and asking that person to walk with them. That person may not be "trained" in the discipline of direction, but the directee respects that person's walk with God. This experience will often lead to further reading, which will then lead people to finding out there is such a thing as a discipline of spiritual direction. In terms of resources to learn more about spiritual direction, a wonderful book is "Holy Listening" by Margaret Guenther.

For people seeking a more formal spiritual direction relationship with someone who has been trained in this discipline, they might then ask their pastor or their friends to recommend a director in their community. Spiritual Directors International (SDI) does not endorse or recommend any particular directors, but we do assist in helping a person . . . by giving him or her the name of one of our regional contacts who may know spiritual directors in their locale. The mission of SDI is to connect people with one another as an individual network of spiritual directors.

HHN: What about monetary compensation for the work of directors?

JSG: It is all over the map! In certain parts of the world, even the thought of charging a fee is anathema, because it is seen as a charism -- a spiritual gift. In this country (U.S.A.), where it is someone's livelihood . . . the normal range is between $25-$45 per session. This is simply saying "I'm taking this seriously." In the USA to take something seriously, we usually put a monetary value on it. (Author’s comment: Ask potential spiritual directors what their expectation is about compensation/donations).

Training of Spiritual Directors

HHN: Is there any kind of credential or specific training that you would look for in a spiritual director?

JSG: I don't think you can be trained to be a spiritual director. First, you must have the gift, the charism -- the gift then can be fine-tuned by training. I think this is a really key distinction. There are about 350 training centers worldwide to train spiritual directors, that we are aware of, but there is no certifying body as of yet. SDI may do that in the future. . .

HHN: So you would look for someone who had gotten some kind of formal training in spiritual direction?

JSG: It would be a caution for me if a person hadn't been trained. And if a person was not in direction him or herself, I definitely would not go to him or her.

HHN: Does it matter if the director is a member of your own faith tradition or denomination?

JSG: I don't think that the director needs to be a member of your own faith tradition or denomination, because if a person is truly listening for the movement of God, they are listening beneath all the externals. . .

What to Expect

HHN: What might a directee expect?

JSG: A one-hour session per month which focuses on listening to and noticing what the movement has been in a person's life. (Author’s comment: Confidentiality concerning any discussion when under spiritual direction is mandatory, and this ground rule needs to be explicitly agreed upon by both the director and directee)

Reaping the Harvest

HHN: One last question. What kinds of benefits or fruit could someone expect from ongoing work with a spiritual director?

JSG: A sense of inner peace and inner calm, a sense of direction in their life, and discernment. And the fruit would be actually living in and embracing the wonder and awe of God.

What Is Spiritual Direction   Spiritual Direction Resources   Cursillo Movement   Cursillo Home