Today a short, but nonetheless rich interview (dated 23rd Nov. 2016) with Jesuit author and Spiritual Director William A. Barry (b. 1930). My introduction to Barry came well over a decade ago when, as a trainee spiritual director, I acquired his excellent book The Practice of Spiritual Direction (originally pub.1982 ) co-written with William J. Connelly S.J. The interview was conducted by e-mail.
Here are some excerpts:
Asked, What is spiritual direction…? Barry responded, “I guess the best answer is the one Bill Connolly and I described in The Practice of Spiritual Direction: “We define Christian spiritual direction, then, as help given by one believer to another that enables the latter to pay attention to God’s personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with this God, and to live out the consequences of the relationship. The focus of this type of spiritual direction is on experience, not ideas, and specifically on the religious dimension of experience, in other words, that dimension of any experience that evokes the presence of the mysterious Other whom we call God.”
Asked to explain his method of conducting spiritual direction, he explained (short answer) that he explains to those who come for spiritual direction that “I want to help them with their relationship with God and that, as a result, I ask them to pay attention to those times when they are in contact with God or trying to be in contact with God and to tell me what happens in those times. I don’t want to focus on problems, but on their experience of wanting to be in contact with God or being in contact with God. I also focus on their desires in relation to God. Once they get the hang of paying attention to their experience and talking about it, I then help them to discern (figure out) what is of God in their experience, and what is not of God. I tend to see people once a month.”
“… As I’ve continued in this work over many years, I find that my main task is to rely on God’s love and desire for a deeper relationship. I don’t have to solve problems and come up with solutions to difficulties; all I have to do is to keep pointing those who see me back to the relationship with God. I have come to realize that God has promised us only that he will be with us; God does not promise success, health, a long life; but he has promised that he will be with us through everything life throws at us. Such fidelity over centuries brings tears to my eyes. I have also learned through experience to trust the wisdom of Ignatius in the Spiritual Exercises, especially in his rules for the discernment of spirits. What a gift he gave the church in that book!”
You can read the rest of the interview here.