“Father, what is spiritual direction?” the young college engineering student asked.
I rummaged through my mental archives looking for a quick wiki definition. “Well, I guess you could compare it to some sort of spiritual curriculum.”
“A spiritual curriculum…,” he ruminated on the phrase as though trying to digest it as he mumbled to himself.
“Yup, a spiritual curriculum towards a specific identity or make-up that will help you to personally claim ownership over your baptismal vocation.”
“Wow, you mean towards graduating towards my heavenly degree?”
“Well, I couldn’t put it better than that,” I was happy to see that he was catching with the analogy I put forward. “But it shouldn’t straightjacket the Christian into some sort of a dry or dull spiritual life. On the contrary, it serves as a guide which one can personally enrich when he gets familiar with the basic ingredients necessary for his spiritual life.”
“Basic ingredients?” he seemed a little lost. Then without taking his eyes off mine, he pulls out his cell phone from his pocket.
He may have set his device on vibrating mode. I paused in order to give him some space to check his cell. I was, however, impressed that he only glanced at his cell, clicked a key, and looked to me again as his fingers dexterously texted a message.
Having regained his attention I continued. “It can also be compared to wanting to learn how to paint.”
“Paint…,” he muttered. He glanced at his phone again, then immediately looked back at me as if not to say that he was all ears again.
“Yes, paint…,” I said. At this point I was feeling a little uneasy with his cell. But I felt it was more important to get my message across than to allow myself to be irritated with his texting someone. “Let’s say if you wanted me to teach you how to paint, then you wouldn’t expect me to provide you with the canvas, the brush and the paint. I suppose, being the student, you should provide them yourself.”
“Right…,” he said as his fingers stopped texting.
I was quite relieved to see that he can now pay more attention to what I was about to say. “The canvas can be compared to your life, the brush and paint are the means to draw out your spiritual life. The priest has the role of teaching the person the basics: the right symmetry, proportion, combining shades and hues, etc. combining the paint of prayer, sacrifice and the sacraments. All with the end of painting the portrait of Christ in one’s entire existence.
“Super!” he exclaimed. His fingers were once again zapping out a text to someone.
Interiorly, I couldn’t help feeling annoyed, especially when he always seemed to start texting someone after I had just made an important point. But I held my cool and continued, “That isn’t all! Once someone has learned the basics, he can now work on acquiring his own style and form in painting out the fruits of faith, hope and love in his life.”
“That’s really ubertastic, Father! I really never saw spiritual direction in this way.” He again looked at his cell, and started out to text another message.
“That’s it!” I said to myself, “If he does it one more time I’m going to teach him to have more manners when having a conversation.” But I guess I didn’t have to say that when I saw him slowly pocketing his cell phone. [WHEW!]
“This, however, doesn’t mean that one can just forego one’s director or spiritual guide even if one has gotten quite a good hand in living his spiritual life. Since the end towards which our spiritual life is headed for is Someone, and not something; Someone infinitely powerful, knowing, merciful and loving, it means that we will never reach a point of being satisfied with our progress. We will constantly need clearer points of reference and guidance, so as to come out with a more refined way of loving and serving God and our neighbor.”
As I ended he took out his cell again. That was the signal I was waiting for, but not wanting to extinguish his interest to spiritually grow, I tried my best not to sound irritated, “Jed, who have you been texting all this time, while we were talking?”
“Oh, no one, Father! I forgot to bring my notebook, and was simply jotting down everything you were telling me so I wouldn’t forget it,” he said with a wide smile.
[SIGH] “Lord, What will the youth think of next?” I said in silent prayer.