[[Dear Sister, you do spiritual direction, don't you? When someone speaks of spiritual accompaniment does this mean the relationship is mutual? What I am asking is if I seek a director to accompany me, does she expect me to accompany her on her spiritual journey? If a person advertises through the parish that they offer spiritual direction as a form of "spiritual friendship" does this mean the relationship is one of peers or is it one of superior to inferior? That's not stated very well I guess but I think you understand what I mean. I would like to be friends with my director. I would like us to accompany one another. I would like to meet for lunch somewhere and talk about spiritual matters like equals. Why shouldn't I want this? Two other questions. My experiences in the spiritual life are kind of unusual. How do I find a director who has also had such experiences? Also, if a director charges for her accompaniment what do I do if I think that is inappropriate?]]
Yes, I do spiritual direction and the word accompaniment is one I use a lot to describe something of the relationship. What it means is that the director accompanies the directee in aspects of her spiritual journey with God. A person comes seeking direction of someone experienced in and a regular practitioner of prayer so that she (the director) may assist the directee in discerning the movement of the Holy Spirit in her life. The relationship is ordinarily a long-term one, is not oriented to problem-solving --- though it will also do this from time to time --- and does not work according to the transference/counter-transference dynamic which drives therapy or counselling relationships. In fact, it eschews letting such a dynamic drive the relationship or the growth which occurs there. For this reason among others it is a relationship which is often misunderstood in a culture so familiar with therapeutic relationships.
On Friendships and Soul Friends:
Personally, I have dealt with a number of persons who expect to become close friends, and especially in the beginning of the relationship, wonder why I am not sharing my own story, my own prayer experiences, my own concerns, etc. At this point they really have no sense how profound the sharing of SD actually is, nor how deeply they will be asked to go into their own hearts so that the focus can truly be their relationship with God. In time they usually come to understand that my refusal to change the dynamics of meetings serves to facilitate their own focus on this relationship, and more exclusively on their own growth in prayer and human wholeness and holiness. When the person refuses to accept that the SD relationship is not one of friendship in the common sense it usually means we will not be able to continue working together. People come to a SD for many reasons, some to discuss books and ideas or to talk "about God" in a general sense, some in search of a friend; that is not, however, what spiritual direction is really about and a good director will not allow the relationship to be redrawn in this way.
The Intimacy of Direction:
The skills required are those one learns in accompanying and being accompanied over a period of years. Otherwise, however, the directee must remember (as I would remind you to remember) that the director is already working with a SD and often a supervisor as well. She already has someone accompanying her as Anam cara and is not looking for a directee to come in and take his/her place! If you, for instance, are looking for friends with which you can discuss spirituality or theology, then there are other ways of seeking such persons out. It is more than a little presumptuous to contact a spiritual director for SD while expecting her to entrust her heart to you in the very same way. While I understand your difficulty with terms here (it is hard to characterize the inequality along with the equality of the relationship), the direction relationship is one between persons relating to one another in two different roles. The director and directee are equals in Christ and the director serves Christ and the directee with her time, her commitment, and her expertise. At the same time, she sets her own story, desires, and needs (including the desire or need for friendship in the usual sense) aside for the benefit of the directee and her relationship with Christ.
On Unusual Experiences and Spiritual Direction:
On Payment for Direction:
If you have a problem with a director being paid on a fee-for-service basis I would suggest you speak to the director and see why it is she accepts fees. You need to understand that SD is a ministry and that even when it is carried on by religious it is often the primary ways the individual earns a living. Some religious communities will subsidize Sisters who do SD but this is less prevalent today than it once was. It is wonderful when a person can accept clients and work with them gratis but it is simply not possible for many spiritual directors today. Even so, most work on a sliding scale and accept at least some clients who cannot pay. Some of us accept some form of barter, for instance. So long as the fees are reasonable, the scales can be worked out between director and directee and revised when needs arise, and the directee is assured of the director's care, competence, and experience, then the Scripture that should be kept in mind is probably, "The laborer is worthy of (her) hire."