Spiritual Change - 4 of 4: SPIRITUAL ACCOMPANIMENT

A short 4-part series on spiritual change.
by Father Nathan Miller | Source: www.FormationToolbox.com

We continue our 4-part series on spiritual change in 1. Virtue 2.Prayer 3. Purification and 4. Spiritual Accompaniment.

   Is this article the frosting on the cake? Well, at least it does present an overview of the first three. Remember that our goal with this series is very simply to put things into proper perspective, without getting into the meticulous—albeit necessary—details of spiritual progress.

   The relationship between a soul being accompanied and the accompanying guide should always be dynamic. The spiritual journey is meant to be precisely that: an upward journey.

   If you hike, you should get better at it; your surroundings should vary; and the way your guide helps you should also change, little by little.

   The first task of any good guide is to make sure you know what you are getting into “Are you SURE you would like to climb Mt. Everest?” This is essential spiritually, for many souls look to be “guided” without understanding much at all of the journey which lies ahead, or of the real relationship which should exist between a soul and their spiritual accompaniment.

   “This is where we’re going. Here’s a map. This is how to hold your stick. You might want to tighten those laces. Keep in mind, I am not going to be carrying you up. You’ll need to learn to stand on your own two feet.”

   Motives for seeking spiritual accompaniment can also be varied. Here are a few examples: a shoulder to cry on; a spiritual friend to share with; clarification in moral choices; loss of a loved one; an addiction; need for catechetical instruction, etc. Yet even desires to overcome crises can be used as a bouncing board to help a soul set out with zeal on the trek to the top.

   Three points of change are the goal of spiritual accompaniment. A good guide makes sure these are the focus, and not other punctual crises, which could be very well attended to by a catechist, or a psychologist, or even by a good friend.

1. Education of the individual in true interior freedom, such that they are able to make mature decisions based on Gospel principles.

2. Teaching the person to be able to discern what God’s will is and to follow it in their lives, taking into account the desolations and consolations they experience.

3. Learning true docility to the Holy Spirit in everything. This must be taught, later the Holy Spirit becomes the soul’s guide.

   And once again, three are the attitudes that should be changing as one grows:

1. Interiorization: It’s not enough that the soul know what to do, the principles taught must reach the heart and become habitually who they are. This is directly linked to their prayer, because prayer is where God’s principles are taken to the heart.

2. Directive to non-directive: At the beginning the accompaniment must unwaveringly show God’s commandments, which do not change, and later, when those are taken for granted, leave more space for God’s grace, which works differently in each soul. This is linked to growth in virtue.

3. Learning how to face and overcome obstacles: This is linked to purification, which also differs on each level of the journey.

   To the degree that spiritual accompaniment is efficacious, the soul being accompanied grows humanly and spiritually and the need for assistance on the part of the guide diminishes.

   Towards the end of the journey, it may often be enough that the guide be present. Not unlike the coach who tells the young gymnast at the Olympic games “Go get ‘em! We want GOLD!”

Fr. Nathan is editor of www.formationtoolbox.com

This Catholic Formation Service is also available by e-mail.

To subscribe please write to: editor@formationtoolbox.com

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