Two members of St Antony's team share some of their experience of Spiritual Accompaniment:
I first looked for a Spiritual Director 17 or so years ago during what felt like a very difficult time in
my faith journey. Since then I’ve had different directors and I really value what each has offered me.
A Spiritual Director offers a safe space and their complete attention for the session (usually an hour).
What I share is held in confidence and I know I am safe: safe to explore what’s been going on in life,
in relationships, in church, in prayer; safe to speak out my doubts, struggles and questions; safe to
explore whether I have a sense of where God is and be honest about where it seems God is not.
In giving my thoughts and feelings a voice I can sometimes hear myself in a new way and
perhaps sense what God is up to. A Spiritual Director is not there to ‘sort me out’ or give me
advice but walks alongside and helps me discover that, ‘God comes to us disguised as our life’
‘Take off your shoes for this is holy ground’ is what comes to me when I reflect on my ministry of
walking alongside others in their spiritual journey. For me it is an awesome and privileged
experience to be trusted with the story of another’s relationship with God, with others, with
themselves and the world. I feel creating a sacred space and taking a contemplative stance is
at the heart of spiritual accompaniment. ‘Holy listening’ is another phrase which resonates with me in this ministry of enabling the other to pay attention to where God is in their lives. Rublev’s icon of the Trinity has sometimes been a useful image for me in this ministry as I am always aware of the third person in the encounter God/Jesus/Spirit as well as the pilgrim and me, the companion. Being assured of that presence reminds me to let God be God in each encounter. I can hopefully offer compassionate, contemplative listening, a safe, calm space for the pilgrim to reflect upon and explore their inner landscape, but God does the rest. I am often humbled and deeply moved by the sacred story of another ‘s journey withGod and learn much about myself and who God is in the process. When I feel inadequate or helpless sometimes, I trust in the grace of the ministry and my deep belief that God desires each one to be their best selves. ‘I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.’ (John 10:10) So walking gently, reverently and humbly alongside another and honouring their story is indeed for me holy ground.
Sheila McNamara rscj
Spiritual Accompaniment (often called spiritual direction)
offers space and time for those who are seeking to deepen their lives, their experience of God, and their desire to pray and contemplate in the myriad of ways explored throughout the centuries and in new ways for today. It is not for experts, for clergy or holy people, but for everyone!
Paul Golightly, the Director of St Antony’s reflecting on his work says that when acting as spiritual companion he always has a few questions in his mind which might not get asked, but are at the core of meeting:
Where are you finding God in your life? (in living day to day, in praying, in relationships, work etc - that is, all of life not just the aparently religious bits)
What is happening in your prayer/reflection, contemplation? (is it happening, is it full of life and light or dark and dry .. whichever way it is that is OK it is the real stuff)
What am I being drawn to do at this time in my life? All of life is vocation in responding to God, to life, to love, so in big things and small things we are constantly changing and adjusting.