Faith Matters

Finding spiritual direction

When he experienced a period of 'spiritual malaise', Jonny Watson was encouraged to turn to Ignatian Spirituality. As Drumalis prepares for a new season of courses, he shares how the Ignatian principles helped 'the mist to lift'

'I felt like a hiker lost and disorientated in mist-covered hills, unable to find a bearing that would lead to a way out...'

ABOUT a decade ago I found myself increasingly apathetic and indifferent to the place of God in my life.

A painful experience of church imploding and an emotionally draining occupation as a social worker, alongside living with the ongoing challenges of depression and anxiety, had left me engulfed by what felt like heavy darkness.

I felt like a hiker lost and disorientated in mist-covered hills, unable to find a bearing that would lead to a way out. Many of the securities that I had previously relied upon were no longer present.

What little faith I had in God seemed to be slowly evaporating; I was angry, frustrated and blamed God for my life circumstances. Prayer, which I had previously valued, now just felt difficult, cumbersome and irrelevant.

A wise friend suggested Spiritual Direction. Rather than wallow in this state of spiritual malaise, he suggested that I should persevere and continue to pursue God, remain faithful to prayer, reading of scripture and seek out someone to spiritually guide me.

He shared how he had found the practice of regular spiritual direction essential in sustaining his vocation as a priest in a busy and demanding urban parish.

Although I had heard about Spiritual Direction before, I had eyed it with some suspicion and cynicism. The thing I felt I least wanted at this stage in my life was some 'wannabe guru' telling me how I should live.

However, I trusted this friend, so I took the plunge, made an appointment and turned up.

What transpired in the coming months and years was an introduction to Ignatian spirituality and, ultimately, a way to find God in the midst of my everyday life.

Interest in Ignatian Spirituality has grown in recent years; Pope Francis, as a Jesuit, brings many of its core principles into his ministry.

At its core, it is a spirituality grounded in everyday life. It insists that God is present and active in our world and lives. It is a pathway to deeper prayer that aids in making good decisions guided by careful discernment.

Over the last decade the Drumalis Retreat Centre has partnered closely with the Jesuits both in Ireland, Scotland and USA to make Ignatian Spirituality accessible to the many people who come through its doors.

As we gradually move into the post-Covid world, there is a sense that an essential part of Drumalis's purpose is to help people access the riches from this deep Ignatian tradition.

To this end, Drumalis offers a number of courses: Growth in Prayer and Reflective Living: Ignatian Spirituality fortnightly via Zoom from September to June; Rooted in Love monthly via Zoom; and Is That You, God? Making Good Decisions via Zoom over five evenings from September to October.

For me, as the years, have rolled on, thankfully the intensity of the mist and darkness that I found myself in has diminished.

Although I had sensed my spiritual fire was diminishing, I discovered there was still a 'divine spark' within me, which I desired to be fanned into flame.

I have continued to find principles from Ignatian Spirituality helpful in helping me to continue to hear the message God is trying to communicate to me through both my prayer and life experiences. My hope is that you might find that too.

More information from Drumalis Retreat and Conference Centre in Larne by telephoning 028 2827 2196, emailing maura@drumalis.co.uk and online at drumalis.co.uk.

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Faith Matters