Joseph Tetlow, SJ, is one of the of the most respected and knowledgeable Ignatian spiritual directors. For years he guided the 250 Jesuit retreat houses around the world in his capacity as head of the Jesuit General’s Secretariat for Ignatian Spirituality. So when Fr. Tetlow says something unusual about spiritual direction, it’s a good idea to listen.
What he says is that spiritual directors sometimes direct. You don’t hear that very often. Many spiritual directors don’t like to be called “directors.” The usual description of the job emphasizes listening and accompanying people on their spiritual journeys. That’s surely important, probably the most important part of the job. And Ignatius himself insisted that spiritual directors not get in the way of God dealing directly with people. Nevertheless, says Fr. Tetlow, spiritual directors do direct.
You tell a desolate woman to change her prayer as it’s mainly self-absorption. You instruct a young Jesuit not to change his current way of praying. You challenge a married woman, telling her that she would be wise to break off a relationship that is disturbing her marriage. You do none of this easily or without reflecting, and never harshly or judgmentally. But you do it.
In fact, he says, this is one thing that distinguished Ignatian spiritual direction from other kinds.