Spiritual Direction with Carl McColman

Trappist monk Brother Elias Marechal, OCSO chats with Carl McColman.

The director, and the person who is being directed, are both seekers: they are both parts of a spiritual direction, a current of spirituality, a divine-human process of relationship. `Spirituality’ and `spiritual life’ are not religious departments, walled-off areas of life. Rather the spiritual life is the life of the whole person directed towards God. Kenneth Leech

Spiritual direction is a way to embrace a deeper relationship with God through an ongoing conversation of reflecting on your spiritual journey with a companion — a spiritual director, guide, or “soul friend” to use the lovely Celtic term for this kind of ministry.

This is for anyone who seeks to grow closer to God and to foster a more meaningful and conscious relationship with the Divine Presence. You do not have to be a monk, nun, priest or minister to receive (or give) spiritual direction. Today, like in ancient times, this ministry is especially for the “ordinary” folks.

Spiritual direction began with the ancient desert mothers and fathers, who regularly offered one-on-one guidance and mentoring to those who sought them out. Many of the great mystics, such as Julian of Norwich, Ignatius of Loyola, and Evelyn Underhill, were gifted in the art of accompanying others in the life of prayer. While spiritual guidance has at times been particularly associated with monasteries and convents, it is not just for people who live in a cloister — it’s for anyone and everyone who seeks a deeper intimacy with God.

What Is Spiritual Direction Like?

There is no rigid structure to spiritual direction: it’s adaptable to the needs of the individuals involved. However, it is customary for the director and directee to meet once a month for about an hour, with a few minutes devoted to prayer and silence and the rest of the time available for conversation centered on the directee’s spiritual life and relationship with God.

Since spirituality can impact all of a person’s life, the conversation can be wide ranging and can touch on a variety of matters. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that spiritual direction is not the same thing as other forms of interactive care, like psychotherapy or life coaching — the focus of spiritual direction is always the nurture of one’s spiritual life and intimacy with God. Therefore, spiritual direction often will pay special attention to topics such as prayer, meditation, contemplative and mystical practices, religious observance (including conflict with religion), ministry and care for others, the teachings of the great mystics and saints of the past, and how to integrate all of the above into a meaningful and joyful life.

Here is a great description of spiritual direction from the Ignatius House Retreat Center in Atlanta:

What is spiritual direction?
A spiritual director is essentially a co-listener. He or she helps listen with you for the movement of God’s spirit in your everyday life. St. Ignatius believed that the “Creator communicates directly with the creature.” This means you can hear the voice of God through the movements of your soul, and the feelings and experiences you have. You typically meet with your director for about an hour, once per month.

You can expect:

  • No judgement or agenda: just a welcoming presence who is there to help you discover the “life in your life.”
  • Someone who will listen attentively and reflect back the presence of God you are experiencing and discovering.
  • Reverence and respect for the spiritual movements in your life, in the contest of your religious background or belief system.
  • Confidentiality: everything you share in spiritual direction is held in confidence.
  • Encouragement and hope to gently nudge you toward the wisdom and love God is already pouring into your life.
  • Freedom to discover your deepest desire and move toward freedom from all that distracts from that desire.
  • Meaningful connection to yourself, God, and others, to respond to the movements of your heart and to make choices in line with your truest self.
  • Support: noticing God’s action in your life, and finding valuable inner peace during difficult times.

About Carl McColman

Carl McColman is the author of several books on contemplative spirituality and Christian mysticism; he is a sought-after retreat leader, speaker, and teacher on the subjects of spirituality and mysticism. He received formation in the practice of Spiritual Direction from the Institute for Pastoral Studies under the mentoring of Dr. John Westerhoff. He is a life-professed Lay Cistercian — a layperson under the spiritual guidance of Trappist monks. He is also a commissioned Centering Prayer presenter through Contemplative Outreach.

Practical Matters

Carl is available to meet in person at the Ignatius House Retreat Center in Atlanta and St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Decatur, GA. For people outside the Atlanta area or who do not wish to meet in person, he is available for meetings via Zoom or telephone.

Carl is a practicing contemplative Christian and so his language and culture draws primarily from the Christian tradition. However, he is comfortable working with sincere seekers of all faith traditions or without any religious affiliation. His mission as a spiritual director is to support you in your unique journey of deepening intimacy with God, in whatever form that takes.

Carl asks that directees make an investment of $100 per session. Partial scholarships are available — no one is turned away for inability to pay. Please contact Carl if you have any questions.

Getting Started/For More Information

If you are interested in working with Carl McColman as your spiritual director, please inquire by filling out the Inquiry Form below.

Carl and his dear friend Mary, who was his spiritual director from 1990-1993. They saw each other at the Trappist Monastery of the Holy Spirit in 2019 — first time in about 25 years!




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