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Lafia Explains How Spiritual Direction Can Deepen Your Relationship With God

June 2, 2015

Colette Lafia, author of Seeking Surrender, discusses spiritual direction, connecting with and surrendering to God, and her friendship with Brother René.

Q; Colette, many people might not understand what a spiritual director is, thinking maybe it’s only for people in ministry. Can you describe what a spiritual director does and how it can help Catholics who aren’t in direct ministry?

Colette Lafia:  Spiritual direction has been around for a long time with a rich tradition, serving to help people deepen their spiritual journey by sharing it with a trusted individual. Spiritual direction is for anyone who longs to deepen his relationship with God.

The intention of spiritual direction is to cultivate an openness and responsiveness to the Spirit’s presence in a person’s life. Spiritual direction is the art of listening carried out in the context of a trusting relationship. A spiritual director is a trained and competent guide who then companions another person on his spiritual journey, listening with that person to his sacred stories and the movement of the Spirit.

Q: What made you decide to become a spiritual director?

Colette: As I describe in my book, my experience of being in spiritual direction was so healing for me while I was handling infertility, feeling grief from my sister’s death, and dealing with my husband’s work challenges. I truly believe that through the deep listening that happens in spiritual direction, I was able to hear God’s call for me to surrender and trust how my life was unfolding.

Through the healing journey that I experienced in spiritual direction, and growth of intimacy with God, I began to hear a calling to become a spiritual director. I didn’t know if it was the right path for me, but the doors kept opening and God kept calling me. It was a process of discernment. Spiritual direction is a calling and then skills are developed in a formation program—that is why spiritual direction is called an art and a practice.

Q: Life is so hectic for most people. What is one thing we can do each day to slow down and connect with God?

Colette: We must find a way to pray every day, and allow that to change if it needs to.  As they say at the monastery: Pray, Pray, Pray.  How we pray can change and shift, but keeping committed to prayer is the foundation. Right now, I am using the Liturgy of the Hours and saying the Morning Prayer, which I follow with Centering Prayer. At other times, I have used the Daily Examen and art journaling as my primary prayer practice. Even though everything can be prayer, I find that a daily spiritual practice is essential to staying connecting to God. 

Q: Your book includes excerpts from letters you exchanged with a Trappist monk from the Abbey of Gethsemani for more than five years. What drew you to the monastery in the first place and how did you meet Brother René?

Colette: During an especially difficult time in my life, a good friend of mine who had visited the Abbey of Gethsemani many times suggested that my husband and I get away for a while and visit the monastery. We were struggling with infertility, with my husband’s business challenges, and with the recent death of my sister from cancer. On the first day of our visit, I met Brother René at the hospitality desk. At one point, I spontaneously asked him if he was ever lonely. That question, and his subsequent reply, was the beginning of our unexpected friendship.

Q:  How did you grow and change as a result of your friendship with Brother René?

Colette: Brother René had absolute confidence in God and in the power of love. He was a mirror reflecting faith and trust during a period of great darkness and loss in my life. Over time, with the help of Brother René’s wisdom, I understood I was on the path of surrender. I just needed to have faith in it, embrace it, and learn how to live it. His friendship was so important to my growth. I believe that spiritual companionship is such an essential part of our spiritual journey. We need each other!

Q: What is the first step in surrendering ourselves to the will of God?

Colette: The first step is realizing you are LOVED. Without receiving God’s love, and living in God’s love, nothing makes sense in the world of surrender. We must trust that we are surrendering in the loving arms of God.

Q: In your book, you write about how surrender allowed you to move from grief to grace. Can you tell us about that?

Colette: When I arrived at the door of surrender, I was in a deep state of grief. I was drenched in loss, and I wanted to run and hide. It was in this complete state of vulnerability that the grace of surrender entered my heart. As I followed the path of surrender, the grief slowly transformed into living with more trust and acceptance, and grace deepened in me.

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