Millennials Want Spiritual Directors

The Boston Globe reports an uptick in people seeking spiritual directors, especially amongst younger people.

Driving the growth are millennials like Weaver, who are more apt than previous generations to identify as “spiritual but not religious.’’ Ed Cardoza, Weaver’s spiritual director and the founder of Still Harbor, a South Boston nonprofit, mostly sees people in their 20s and 30s.

Some, he says, are evangelical Christians who have a strong relationship with Jesus but realize, after arriving in Boston from the Midwest or South to study, that they differ with their parents’ church over political or sexual issues. Others have little religious background but find themselves undergoing a spiritual awakening and do not know where to turn.

“What you recognize is there’s this growing population of folks who are out of the purview of traditional institutions,’’ Cardoza said.

That’s been my experience for sure. Lots of young people want to make time for this and seek a trusted source to help them make the big decisions of their lives. Some even like a group experience of doing this while others prefer a one to one companion.

The other group seeking direction according to the Globe are people who are thrust into a spiritual search because of traumatic experiences—again proving my book. The $20 is in the main, Boston Globe.

Ardently faithful people of all ages form the other major group seeking spiritual direction. Often, they are confronting a trauma or transition or want to deepen a particular aspect of their faith or practice. Asking their priest or rabbi for spiritual direction is not always an option. Often clergy limit the number of sessions they have with individuals in order to focus on the broader congregation. Many also lack the training to provide the kind of “sacred listening’’ required in spiritual direction.

In a society that is increasingly comfortable hiring experts as private consultants – personal trainers, personal organizers, life coaches – the decision to seek out a personal spiritual director no longer seems as exotic as it once might have.

I am offering this experience in Buffalo for students, faculty and staff and young adults and the occasional non-young adult. It’s been a great blessing for me in my ministry to sit and listen to the stories of others and seeing where they find God and helping them to form their own image of God more tangibly.

The truth of course is that spiritual directors really don’t direct anything. The real director is Jesus, we just companion people and keep them connected to Christ by pointing out where they might be more open and able to see God working in their life.

A young woman who has been one of my directees reminded me that often she’d come to me with the same experience that was troubling her. She felt disconnected for months and she sometimes wondered if direction was working. Together we stuck it out and she started to see glimmers of where God was working in her life and then, while praying in a Eucharistic Adoration service, she encountered the forgiving love that Christ offers her in a new and intimate way.

I think that’s what people really want from spiritual directors. They want someone who points them back to experiences of God and encourages them to remember that consolation is not far off, even when it seems that God is absent in their lives.

Spiritual direction is a ministry of listening. We hear where people are meeting God and try to connect them to that experience. We listen for God’s voice creeping in through the words and situations of individual souls who long for connection with the divine–especially when times are not good and things happen that are unfair or tragic and one just can’t seem to make sense out of it. But ultimately, God is really the director and my job is to point people in God’s direction.

People are often drastically in need of someone to talk to in a disconnected and alienated world. Some even desperately will seek having a spiritual conversation online through email, Skype or Facebook. And since St. Ignatius said allowances should be made for people to experience the spiritual exercises should be made, I find no issue with that kind of relationship in spiritual direction. Or I at least have no issue with experimenting with that.

That said, if you’re looking for a spiritual director, I’d be happy to help you find one–or even be your director if that’s a good fit for us. Spiritual directors international is another good resource.

Spiritual directors have been a blessing for me in my life. I pray that they become a blessing for you as well.