Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction. By Margaret Guenther. Cambridge, MA: Cowley, 1992. 146 pages. Paper. $12.95.
Alan Jones, Rector at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, writes in the Preface that "all along we've had a spiritual life and we didn't know it." Margaret Guenther, says Jones, recognizes "God's amazing work in us and among us in the ordinariness of human existence."
Spiritual direction, Guenther writes, is about "holy listening," waiting (attentiveness), and presence. Her perspective is as a woman, mother, teacher, and Episcopalian priest. Welcoming the stranger or offering hospitality is at the core of spiritual direction when getting started with a directee. She emphasizes that the true director is the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, she underscores that spiritual direction is neither psychotherapy nor pastoral counseling, nor is it a deep personal friendship, but often it shares some of the raw material found in each. One major difference between spiritual direction and psychotherapy is that "the director must be willing to be known ... but known in her vulnerability and limitations as a child of God." The spiritual director is simultaneously a learner and a teacher of discernment. The first step in discernment is perception, and the second is judgment with a heavy emphasis on the "value of the present moment." In short, the director must be capable of discernment as well as being fully present with the directee.
The imagery of midwifery and the increasing role of women as spiritual directors and participants in spiritual direction is enlightening and insightful. Women finding and trusting their voice is important in this ministry. Guenther's book reinforces the role of spiritual director as listener, teacher, and midwife. The example of silently saying the Jesus Prayer--"Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner"--is important when there are times of silence with the directee. Self-awareness is part of the foundation for the spiritual director. Keeping a personal journal, having one's own spiritual director, and making a retreat all help keep the director sharp.
Chapter 2, "Good Teachers," was most helpful to me. Jesus was, after all, a rabbi, a teacher. There are some forty references in the...