Fellow catechists, it’s time to face the truth about the biggest, secret challenge we all face: the lack of time, effort, and discipline we put into our own spiritual lives. We’ve spent the day (and night) extolling the virtues of regular prayer, reading Scripture, and contemplative practice to others—only to find ourselves too drained and spiritually dry even to lift up a half-hearted “Hail Mary” before our heads hit the pillow. As a spiritual director I meet with hospital chaplains, ministry formation directors, and volunteers who time and again offer two complaints: “It just doesn’t feel like God is listening, or even cares about what I’m doing,” and “I can’t find the time or energy to pray.”
As ironic as it sounds, maintaining an ongoing, life-giving personal connection with God can be a huge challenge when we are involved in ministry. The temptation is to give of ourselves until the well has gone dry. We call it “taking up our cross,” “offering it up,” or a host of other platitudes we use to convince ourselves that it is enough for our work to be our prayer.
Christ never intended ministry to be this way. He said, “Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (John 4:14) Christ does not want us to do his work from a well that has gone dry, but to turn to him and the endless spring of water he provides.
This can be hard, but it’s not a path we need to walk alone. Spiritual direction—the ministry of contemplative listening and gentle, spirit-led guidance—can be an invaluable support for catechists. A spiritual director is able to help us create a life-giving and sustainable habit of prayer in our lives. In addition, having someone to whom we are accountable for conversations about the spiritual life is an invaluable help in keeping on track.
A relationship with a spiritual director is not simply one of accountability. The companion’s role as an objective, contemplative listener also helps us to become more deeply aware of God’s activity in our personal lives and in our ministry. This awareness is an essential tool for healthy spiritual discernment. It can be the difference between blindly making up what I will be doing this year for our parish families and beginning a new project with the confidence that this is what God truly desires for his people.
If you are curious about spiritual direction and would like more information, the following resources may be helpful: