At the most basic level, prayer is being attentive to the presence of God: being attuned to God’s word being spoken in scripture, in creation, in other people, in ourselves. In this sense, it is clearly fundamental to the life of the priest and an urgent priority in formation.
Yet there is, in all of us, a seemingly limitless capacity for illusion and self-deception. Staying on track is not as simple as we might like, and the biblical image of the narrow path strikes a powerful chord. From the earliest times, Christian tradition has recognised the need to accompany one another on this spiritual journey and, at Mirfield, we follow the tradition by providing a companion for each ordinand.
Who will your companion be?
Companions are normally brothers of the Community of the Resurrection, frequently referred to as a spiritual director. This is another piece of shorthand, for you quickly discover that it’s less about being directed and more about learning how to discern the marks of the Spirit of God. It’s also about being able to check out whether you’re on the right track, by comparing notes with someone who has been along the path before you. Regular meetings with our spiritual companion deepen our self-awareness and help prepare us for the ministerial priesthood that is our vocation.
What will you talk about?
For most people, surprisingly little of the conversation seems to be about prayer itself. There may well be lots of talk about childhood, relationships, health problems, current reading, and study. In short, about anything and everything! This points to the deeply unsatisfactory nature of the term ‘spirituality’. The spiritual life is not a discrete department within us that needs its own special attention and resources. Rather, in St Paul’s sense, becoming a spiritual person is becoming a fully alive human person! However, this leads us to discover that the greatest joy comes when we respond to God’s gift and call to become God’s children by adoption and grace. Then, joy and gratitude deepen our desire to be with God, to pray more, and to give God all that we are.
How often will you meet?
The expectation is that ordinands will meet with their spiritual director at least twice a term—but because we’re all different, the pattern will differ slightly from person to person, and from time to time. Such conversations also help to encourage more disciplined practice of prayer: as a minimum, we expect ordinands to spend at least 20 minutes a day in prayer, in addition to the corporate liturgy.