How We Discern, Part 2: Indifference and Freedom

Whether we’re discerning between alternatives or just discerning a way forward, whatever it’s about, the first thing is always to keep the first thing the first thing. That’s our initial step of identifying our principle and foundation (p&f), or, the big ultimate “why”—as in, “Why does it matter that we discern this well?”—or the big ultimate “what”—as in, “What do we want beneath everything else?” St Ignatius of Loyola identifies this as the core human vocation: to praise and serve Gød. You might personalize it further. Either way, we’re not done with Step One simply by identifying our p&f. We need to make it our p&f actually. That’s where a concept called “indifference” comes in, but it bears explanation. Continue reading


How We Discern, Part 1: Our Foundation

I’ve been frequently asked since beginning my journey in spiritual direction and as a spiritual director what “discernment” is. I’ll unthinking drop it into conversation as an assumed concept, or someone will spy the cover of some book I’m buried in about discernment. Etymology, the origin of a word, can sometimes provide us a blind lead about its meaning. But in this case, I always return to the root of “discernment” for its clearest explanation. Like all good English words (and there aren’t many), it’s based in Latin: discenere (dis [apart] + cenere [to sift]), literally, “to sift apart.” Continue reading

Review: Imaginative Prayer

I’ve long held a personal axiom — never judge a book by its cover; judge it by its table of contents. Let this be true especially for Jared Boyd’s Imaginative Prayer: A Yearlong Guide for Your Child’s Spiritual Formation, with a caveat: the table of contents is more than a table of contents. It’s a poem — literally — a “credal poem” that your child is invited not only to memorize with you but to experience through playful and grace-filled encounters with Gød. This, for me, is so much of the genius of the work, beyond being in all respects an extraordinarily practical and in many ways revolutionary resource for parents. Continue reading

Never Give in to the Demands of Christ

“Never give in to the demands of Christ. Give in to the demands of your own love for him.” — Anthony De Mello, SJ

We would do anything for love. Those who have fallen in love know this. I’ve sworn it, because I’ve felt it. And though I don’t know that I’ve ever yet loved well enough for this to be entirely true, the essence of it is, for the simple fact that we are reckless in love, abandoned to it and abandoned to consequences. I’ve unashamedly made decisions and taken risks I wouldn’t have made had I not been in love—not all of them, I hope, selfish. Continue reading

Child’s Pose and Spiritual Direction: Stopping Along the Journey

I’m a complete novice to yoga, which is challenging because, like most people, I don’t like not being good at things. Worse still, it’s part of my goal as someone who lives in his head to better connect with my body—which I’m terrible at. I can’t study my way being more comfortable on the mat; I can’t brute-strength-train my way to feeling more embodied.

Much like making my beginning with spiritual direction, I find I have to adopt a posture that’s more teachable than determined, more attentive than sure and more playful than linear. Most of my life, I seek mastery; here, I practice, which includes practicing rest. Continue reading

Saying Goodbye in Direction

As a young spiritual director in training, one of the common challenges I’ve encountered is finding and keeping directees. A practice I’ve inherited from my teachers is that I ask for an initial six-month commitment, which can become helpful when early conversations suddenly become challenging and uncomfortable, or when the outcomes are not immediately evident or satisfying, or when meetings become inconvenient to schedule. Still, for many reasons, not everyone is able to see that initial commitment through. In my last year and a half of training, sadly, several have simply dropped off the map. Only one directee has stayed with me to term—in fact, for almost a year. Continue reading