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March 4, 1988     The Message
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2 Faith Today Supplement, The Message, Catholic Diocese of Evansville, March 4, 1988 I i I II A spiritual 'sounding board' By Father Eugene LaVerdiere, SSS NC News Service C ould I bounce a few things off you?" That's how spiritual direction often starts. Someone asks you to be a sounding board, hoping you will be able to listen. Sometimes it happens in the mid- dle of a conversation. Someone says, "There's something I've always wanted to ask about. Maybe you could help me." A personal story unfolds, a con- cern is shared, a confidence en- trusted. You listen. A level of trust is established. For that person, you may have become a spiritual director, some- one through whom the person will steer a better course through the shoals and rocks of life. A spiritual director is the kind of" person we all look for when we try to be more open to God's will, more serious about living a Chris- tian life. For most of us, it is a good friend who provides this service. For those who want to go fur- ther, it is a matter of talking to people to find a good spiritual director. This may be a priest or someone on a parish staff, at retreat houses and monasteries, perhaps even on the faculty ,.of a Catholic university or college. A spiritual director needs to be a good person, someone who tries to be a good Christian, interested in others and endowed with common sense and discretion. Being a good spiritual director also means knowing limitations. There are times when a. spiritual director recognizes that a personal spiritual matter requires greater expertise. A marriage difficulty, for exam- ple, might call for a marriage counselor. A struggle with voca- tional choices often should be referred to a vocational counselor. What do you look for in a good spiritual director? First, a spiritual director is some- one who listens, who is interested in what is being shared, who ac- cepts what is being told as a per- son's experience, concern or problem. A good spiritual director doesn't take over the conversation, but avoids every temptation to jump in and tall about his or her own spiritual experiences and concerns. Spiritual direction is no time for one-upsmanship. Second, a spiritual director is someone who can act as a good mirror for another's experience. You share something. The director listens and responds. The response may be a word, a look, a smile, a raised eyebrow or even silence. It helps you to focus on something you said. With that you see more clearly what you should do. You understand better how you are to pray and you can see what God asks of you. Third, a spiritual director is someone who can support you as you seek out the direction you should take in your life journey. No one can make big decisions for us, but it certainly helps to know that someone is with us as we make them. Sometimes a spiritual director will not agree with a decision you have made. Even so, a good direc- tor will let you make that decision once you are aware of all the issues. Good directors do not think they are infallible. The best spiritual director I have ever had was an extraordinary, quiet man. Sometimes he said nothing at all. He just let me talk and usually I found my own way to what had to be done. At the end of a short session, I would thank him for all his help and advice. Then I would get up to leave and he would just smile. Spiritual directors like that are hard to find. (Father La Verdiere is editor of Emmanuel.) An embarrassment of riches B' Father John Castelot NC News Service hen I first began giving courses in Scripture to parish groups many years ago, I often hit an embarrassing snag. At the end of a course people would ask how they could build on the foundation they had received. Could I recommend works for private study? I would hem and haw and perhaps come up with a weak sug- gestion. The fact was that Catholic biblical scholarship then was still trying to catch up with studies done in other circles for a century or two. It was only in 1943 that Plus XII issued the landmark en- cyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu en- couraging Catholic biblical scholars to capitalize on the work of their colleagues in other churches. It took some time before the work of Catholic scholars was available for popular consumption. There were many technical studies available, but the problem was precisely that they were technical. I might have recommended excellent things by authors who were not Catholics, but in those days one didn't think in ecumenical terms. Now I am embarrassed in the other direction. Today there is an overwhelming wealth of material in all branches of biblical science available to the general public. I generally look for two criteria in works I recommend: up-to-date solidity and readability. A book can be solid and dry as dust; it can be fascinating but scientifically unreliable. But more and more works have appeared which are both solid and readable. There is the monumental Jeromc Biblical Commentary, already in the process of revision 20 years after publication. It has proved to be im- mensely useful. There are several other commen- taries written in an engaging style. Without prejudice to others, I can mention a few 1 have found par- ticularly usable, beginning with "Old Testament Message" and "New Testament Message" (Michael Glazier Inc., Wilmington, Del.). Each is a series of paperbacks on individual books of the Old Testa- ment and New Testament. Liturgical Press in Collegeville, Minn., has just updated its vastly popular commentaries in pamphlet format under the general title, "Collegeville Bible Commentary." Outside the Catholic world, one can call attention enthusiastically to the numerous publications of For- tress Press in Philadelphia. Today there are books for all tastes, all ages, all levels of academic background. My earlier embarrassment has changed to delight. What a thrill to have someone tell me that a work I recommended on Luke by Robert Karris moved him or her deeply or that Becoming Human Together, by Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, helped to transform a parish into a ' vibrant Christian community. Of course, some deny the need for such books. And there is no de- nying that the Bible can be read with profit without study. But if one really wants to understand it and derive full profit from it, one simply has to study it. For while it is the Word of God, it is the Word of God in the words of humans. There is a story in the Acts of the Apostles to illustrate this. A roya! official from Ethiopia, ap- parently a convert to Judaism, is returning from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. On the way he is reading the Book of Isaiah. Philip encounters the Ethiopian along the road and asks if he understands what he is reading. His answer, which speaks volumes, was, "How can I unless someone instructs me?" (Acts 8:31). (Father Castelot is a professor of Scripture at St. John's Seminary, Plymouth, Mich.) ...... Building a home library .... By Katharine Bird NC News Service S tart with liturgy and Scripture if you plan to build a home lib.rary on faith, recommends Gabe Huck, director of Liturgy Training Publications in the Arch- diocese of Chicago. # F.or Huck, a good edition of the Psalms in a translation "that a per- son would feel like using over and over again" is a necessity. The Psalms "are the text from which we learn how to pray," Huck ex- plained. They also help "shape a life in relation to God, to others and to oneself." The Psalms "are not for just dab- bling; they are for steady consump- tion over and over again," Huck added. Elaine Rendler, a faculty mmber at Georgetown University's Center for Liturgy in Washington, agreed. She noted that there are psalms like Psalm 42, which speaks of disappointment and loss but con- cludes with a statement of hope in God -- that can be applied to a child who is sad at losing a basket- ball game but also to an adult who has lost a loved one. Huck thinks it is important "for a person who is part of the wOi- shiping assembly on Sunday to find a way to read and ponder Scrip- ture" at home regularly. The most accessible way is through books tied to the church's year, such as missals, which include the readings for the three yearly Scripture cycles of the church. A frequent speaker at liturgy workshops thoughout the country. Ms. Rendler suggests that peopl z also look for works related to what is going on in their lives. For peo- ple dealing with the questions of mid-life, for instance, she might recommend F. Scott Peck's book, The Road Less Traveled. Ms. Rendler would have tapes on centering prayer in a home library. And she recommends keeping music that helps one to relax. "In the hectic pace we keep in most of our lives, being still is very impor- tant to finding God." The documents of the Second Vatican Council and the U.S. bishops', pastoral letters on peace and on the economy belong in the home library, Huck believes. They help us "to look at what it means to be a baptized Christian and part of a community. They teach us we can't wall ourselves off." Noting that the Vatican II documents are "formidable if look- ed at all at once," he recommend- ed taking them "a little at a time." #