Spiritual direction outfitted for “nones”

Just as there is a growing number of nones…there is also a growing interest in spiritual direction both within and outside of the Catholic Church…Interestingly, as more Americans move away from participation in institutional religion, many seekers and nones are also seeking out places where they can have in-depth conversations about their spiritual lives,” writes Kaya Oakes in America magazine (November 25). The practice of spiritual direction has mainly taken place in liturgical churches, such as Catholic, Episcopal, and Orthodox churches, but Oakes notes that the website of Spiritual Directors International lists directors from many Protestant denominations as well as directors who are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist. “A number of evangelical programs in spiritual direction following the [Jesuit] Ignatian model have also sprung up in the past few years.” For the non-affiliated, spiritual direction has been further adapted away from institutional settings. For instance, a popular podcast, “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text,” which now has up to 100,000 listeners a week (and hundreds of people at its live recordings), guides people through an immersion in the world of Hogwarts, using a familiar though nontraditional text as an entry point into spiritual practices.

Oakes cites another gathering of Gen Xers and millennials adapting the Quakers’ practice of spiritual direction in group settings rather than one-on-one meetings with religious professionals; they gather once a month to talk about “life and spirituality and faith and politics,” in addition to keeping a running Google chat about the same topics. The number of programs for training spiritual directors is also growing among non-Catholics, alongside the traditional centers run by Jesuits at Creighton University, Guelph, and Loyola University Chicago. The growing ranks of spiritual directors presents a confusing array of options to non-affiliated seekers who are also wary of their institutional sponsors. Many spiritual directors maintain that the Ignatian model, involving contemplative listening and asking questions about God’s activity in a person’s life, can be adapted for people outside of religious contexts. As spiritual direction has become disconnected from the sacrament of penance and administered increasingly by lay people, with even traditional references to “God” deemphasized in many instances, it has become less intimidating to nones, especially those who have had negative experiences with organized religion and suffered “spiritual abuse,” Oakes concludes.

(America, https://www.americamagazine.org/)