Reflections on Spiritual Direction

25 August 2007

Today I met with my Spiritual Director in a darkened church office, darkened because of the rain and storm knocked out the power in Evanston. As I always seem to say when I speak of him, he is a very wise man.

I described to him something I have not really mentioned on this ‘blog: a health scare which happened a little earlier this month. While I knew intellectually the likelihood of anything serious being wrong was very small, emotionally/subconsciously it was a week of anxiety and worry. I prayed constantly —the Office, the Rosary, Litanies, and unstructured, personal prayers of supplication to God— and shortly after the doctor gave me the “all clear,” we left town for a week. I prayed the Itinerarium, as always, before we left.

And then, nothing. During the trip I did not pray the Office, partly because I find it hard to pray while I’m away from home because it is hard to find the 10 minutes or so to pray Lauds or Vespers. Since returning, as I have noted here, very little praying of the Office. I remarked to my Spiritual Director that it might be different if I prayed the Office in common, but I don’t, and right now I don’t feel as if I can give very much nor gain much at all from the Hours.

I related this to my Spiritual Director and he did not find this progression surprising. He (a former monk) described the Office as something that draws you to prayer; novices need to be constantly reminded to put down the work, go to the oratory, and pray. He also stipulated that for monks of long standing, the Office becomes a sort of background hum of prayer; instead of being something that brings the older monk to prayer, it is something he does to help the younger monks come to prayer, the older monk’s life already having become a kind of constant prayer with the Hours as daily milestones in the greater prayer of his life.

My Spiritual Director felt as if the frightening health crisis was a kind of catapult; instead of going to prayer as a calming, centering, divinely oriented part of my life, I was praying for my life, praying for health, for more time, for literal redemption from the possibility of a death much sooner than expected. Before this crisis, he posited, I was more of a novice, finding the Office as something that brought me to prayer; during and after the crisis, I have come to a point, at least temporarily, where I not only pray constantly but I also am thankful, aware, mindful, and cherishing much of my life.

His interpretation of these two components of the last month rang true for me.

I will probably slide, slowly, back into novitiate (for lack of a better word), or at least part of me will. I will, probably as soon as I start teaching again, need to be drawn toward Lauds and Vespers, those poles or hinges upon which the rest of the office turns.

He also counseled me to consider more frequent and regular monastic retreats to punctuate my prayer life; he also urged me to try the Benedictines of Benet Lake, St. Procopius Abbey, or St. Gregory’s for retreat soon. I would really like to go to St. Gregory’s; maybe I will find time this fall.

At the end of the session, I felt very refreshed and renewed. I even feel called back to the Office. It is a wonderful feeling.

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5 Responses to “Reflections on Spiritual Direction”


  1. […] Reflections on Spiritual Direction Today I came across this post by The Winged Man. I am including the whole article here for two reasons. […]

  2. Pastor David Says:

    One of my liturgy professors pointed out that there is a reason we call it the Daily Office. From the Latin “officium”, it is work. Like your director said, it does not always draw us in in the same way that Sunday morning does, and it can at times feel like a chore. I found it helpful once I started to draw that distinction, and after a while of approaching it as officium, it eventually became my joy – the background hum that centered my day. Not that it doesn’t, from time to time, become work once again – but that is the up and down of the spiritual life.

  3. Michelle Says:

    I am blessed to be able to join the local Augustinians to pray the morning Office prayed in common, but I too, sometimes find it challenging to pray the office when I’m on vacation, particularly with family. It can be hard to find 20 undisturbed minutes to pray even once a day!

    From my experience praying the Office in common, I would say that you would indeed find a retreat where you can join a monastic community in its prayer would be renewing. Just taking a regular time for silence and concentrated prayer is also life giving. I drive about an hour each way to see my director, and try to go up the night before an appointment and stay in the guest wing at the retreat house. It the difference between a shower and a bath – the night and morning let me soak in God’s presence in a way I cannot in my daily life.


  4. […] Reflections on Spiritual DirectionToday I came across this post by The Winged Man. I am including the whole article here for two reasons.1. Because it resonated with our struggles with the daily office and the role it plays in our prayer life2. It is so well written that there is no point me adding anythingToday I met with my Spiritual Director in a darkened church office, darkened because of the rain and storm knocked out the power in Evanston. As I always seem to say when I speak of him, he is a very wise man.I described to him something I have not really mentioned on this ‘blog: a health scare which happened a little earlier this month. While I knew intellectually the likelihood of anything serious being wrong was very small, emotionally/subconsciously it was a week of anxiety and worry. I prayed constantly —the Office, the Rosary, Litanies, and unstructured, personal prayers of supplication to God— and shortly after the doctor gave me the “all clear,” we left town for a week. I prayed the Itinerarium, as always, before we left.And then, nothing. During the trip I did not pray the Office, partly because I find it hard to pray while I’m away from home because it is hard to find the 10 minutes or so to pray Lauds or Vespers. Since returning, as I have noted here, very little praying of the Office. I remarked to my Spiritual Director that it might be different if I prayed the Office in common, but I don’t, and right now I don’t feel as if I can give very much nor gain much at all from the Hours.I related this to my Spiritual Director and he did not find this progression surprising. He (a former monk) described the Office as something that draws you to prayer; novices need to be constantly reminded to put down the work, go to the oratory, and pray. He also stipulated that for monks of long standing, the Office becomes a sort of background hum of prayer; instead of being something that brings the older monk to prayer, it is something he does to help the younger monks come to prayer, the older monk’s life already having become a kind of constant prayer with the Hours as daily milestones in the greater prayer of his life.My Spiritual Director felt as if the frightening health crisis was a kind of catapult; instead of going to prayer as a calming, centering, divinely oriented part of my life, I was praying for my life, praying for health, for more time, for literal redemption from the possibility of a death much sooner than expected. Before this crisis, he posited, I was more of a novice, finding the Office as something that brought me to prayer; during and after the crisis, I have come to a point, at least temporarily, where I not only pray constantly but I also am thankful, aware, mindful, and cherishing much of my life.His interpretation of these two components of the last month rang true for me.I will probably slide, slowly, back into novitiate (for lack of a better word), or at least part of me will. I will, probably as soon as I start teaching again, need to be drawn toward Lauds and Vespers, those poles or hinges upon which the rest of the office turns.He also counseled me to consider more frequent and regular monastic retreats to punctuate my prayer life; he also urged me to try the Benedictines of Benet Lake, St. Procopius Abbey, or St. Gregory’s for retreat soon. I would really like to go to St. Gregory’s; maybe I will find time this fall.At the end of the session, I felt very refreshed and renewed. I even feel called back to the Office. It is a wonderful feeling.The Winged Man. […]


  5. […] I still see the Divine Office as the fulfillment of an obligation, in the same way that I am obliged to do, say, and even feel certain things for my loved ones, things are now more complicated than that.  These thoughts are certainly influenced by spiritual direction. […]

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