Spiritual Theology – Father Jordan Aumann
Complete Spiritual Theology book by Father Jordan Aumann is available at: https://archive.org/stream/SpiritualTheologyByFr.JordanAumannO.p/AumannO.p.SpiritualTheologyall_djvu.txt
Spiritual Director Qualities
Learning. The learning of a spiritual director should be extensive. In addition to having a profound knowledge of dogmatic theology, without which he would be exposed to error in regard to matters of faith, and of moral theology, without which he could not even fulfill the office of confessor, the spiritual director should have a thorough knowledge of ascetical and mystical theology. He should know, for example, the theological doctrine concerning Christian perfection, especially regarding such questions as the essence of perfection, the obligation to strive for perfection, the obstacles to perfection, the types of purgation, and the means of positive growth in virtue. He should have a detailed knowledge of the grades of prayer, the trials God usually sends to souls as they advance from the lower to the higher degrees of prayer, and the illusions and assaults of the devil that souls may encounter.
Prudence. This is one of the most important qualities for a spiritual director. It comprises three basic factors: prudence in judgment, clarity in counseling, and firmness in exacting obedience. If a spiritual director lacks prudence, he is usually lacking several other virtues as well. Prudence enables an individual to do the right thing under given circumstances. Spiritual direction is not concerned with the general doctrine of spiritual theology, nor with theoretical situations that one may imagine, but with the individual soul placed in concrete circumstances at a given moment or in a given phase of spiritual growth.
Experience. This is one of the most precious qualities of a good spiritual director. Even if he is less perfect in knowledge and somewhat deficient in prudence, experience can make up for these deficiencies. This does not mean that the experience of the director must necessarily flow from his own spiritual life, for he may obtain the benefits of experience from his observation and direction of others.
Piety. It is easy to understand the necessity of piety in a spiritual director, and St. John of the Cross insists upon this quality with great emphasis. The piety of the spiritual director should be permeated with the great truths of the Christian life. It should be eminently Christocentric and orientated to the glory of God. The director should likewise be animated with a profound sense of our adoptive filiation so that he can see God above all as a loving Father. He should have a most tender affection for Mary, the Mother of God and our mother. He should practice recollection and be detached from the things of the world. A director who is animated with these sentiments will be perfectly at home in the direction of souls. He will understand their language and will be able to communicate with them. His own experimental knowledge of God and divine things will give him an understanding that no acquired science could ever provide. There can be no doubt whatever that piety is the first and most basic moral quality a good director of souls should possess.
Zeal for the Sanctification of Souls. The director’s ardent zeal for the sanctification of souls is a natural consequence of his personal piety. Zeal, as St. Thomas explains, is an effect of intense love. The love of God impels us to labor for the extension of his kingdom in souls, and the love of those souls enables us to forget ourselves so that we think of nothing but of sanctifying them in and for God. This is the zeal that urged St. Paul to become all things to all men in order to gain all, and gave him that beautiful sympathy by which his whole being was united with others in their joys and sufferings and sorrows (cf. 1 Cor. 9:22). Lacking this ardent zeal, spiritual direction will lose its power because the director himself will have lost the stimulus for persevering in his efforts in spite of any difficulty, and the direction will become an oppressive burden.
Humility. The director also needs a profound humility, and this for three reasons. In the first place, God resists the proud and gives his grace to the humble. Of what value is all human knowledge and wisdom if one is lacking in humility? Second, the spiritual director needs humility so that he will distrust himself when necessary and not rush forward to solve difficulties without reflection. Humility will cause him to study and meditate and to consult others more learned than himself. In this way he will avoid many of the mistakes and embarrassments that occur to those who are too proud to doubt themselves. Third, humility in a director attracts souls, while pride repels them. In this respect also the director should imitate Christ, who said of himself that he is meek and humble of heart and that he seeks only the glory of his Father.
Disinterestedness. Lastly, the director should love souls in a disinterested manner, that is, he should not seek to guide them because of any self-satisfaction or consolation that he would receive, but simply and solely to lead them to God. St. Augustine states emphatically that those who lead the sheep of Christ as if they were their own and not Christ’s, show that they love themselves and not the Lord. By means of this disinterested love the director will forestall many temptations that could arise in regard to pride and sensate affections, and he will be able to respect the liberty of the souls he directs.
The spiritual director is obligated to observe absolute secrecy in regard to the confidences he has received from the persons he directs, not only because many of these things are in some way connected with the internal forum, but also because the office of spiritual director obligates him to natural secrecy
The Person Directed
Sincerity. This is the first and most important quality because without it any kind of direction is impossible. The spiritual director has to know all: temptations and weaknesses, desires and resolutions, good and evil inclinations, difficulties and trials, successes and failures. If he is to guide the soul to greater perfection, his hands are tied unless he has sufficient knowledge of the soul. Although the spiritual director need not also be the confessor, it would be impossible to give any spiritual direction if the director were to know nothing of the sins and imperfections of the individual.
Perseverance. The very nature of spiritual direction requires that the person directed should persevere in seeking the help and guidance of the director.
Discretion. The person receiving spiritual direction should never forget that, if the director is obliged to the seal of confession or to natural’ secrecy, the one receiving direction is obliged to observe silence.
Confidence. In addition to respect, there should be absolute confidence in the director. It should be a confidence that is truly filial, and so absolute that one can always be perfectly natural and frank when dealing with the director.