Essential books on spiritual direction

January 6, 2012

The print version of the Century's recent
feature on spiritual direction
included an annotated book list,
which I compiled based on recommendations from three professors in the
discipline: Marlene Kropf (Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary), Marcus
Smucker (Eastern Mennonite University) and Angela Reed (Baylor University).
Here are those selections:

The Art of Spiritual Direction, by W. Paul Jones (2002). Jones, formerly a
Methodist theologian, now a Trappist monk and Catholic priest, draws on both
the Wesleyan and Catholic traditions. He offers a broad history of spiritual
direction, outlines what happens in the practice and suggests how to choose a
spiritual director. Included are helpful appendices on spirituality and the
Myers Briggs Type Inventory, the enneagram and family systems theory, and other

Holy Listening, by Margaret Guenther (1992). Beautifully and
simply written, Holy Listening uses
the theme of hospitality and the images of a teacher and midwife to the soul to
describe the role of spiritual directors. She concludes with a chapter on women
and spiritual direction.

The Practice of Spiritual Direction, by William A. Barry and William J. Connolly
(2009). Two priests draw on insights from modern psychotherapy, focusing on
religious experience, not knowledge, as the locus of spiritual direction. They
include chapters on what can go wrong in the director-directee relationship and
on the importance of supervision for directors.

Sacred Companions, by David G. Benner (2004). The author covers
spiritual friendship, spiritual direction and group spiritual direction,
discussing the characteristics, challenges and possibilities of each activity.
Spiritual direction is a journey that leads toward making humans whole and
holy. An extensive, annotated bibliography is included.

Seeking God Together: An
Introduction to Group Spiritual Direction,
by Alice Fryling (2008). Group spiritual direction is increasingly
seen as an important approach, one that lends itself to the formation of
congregation-based groups. Fryling provides practical help on how to start,
lead and participate in spiritual direction groups and how to be sensitive to
different personalities within them.

And here are some additional
recommendations of mine:

Truths: A Novel
, by Susan Howatch
(1996). This novel, part of Howatch's Church of England series, is an
illuminating fictional entrée in spiritual direction.

Illuminating the Art of Spiritual Direction
, by Susan S. Philips (2008). This book uses the narratives
of actual spiritual direction narratives, along with theological and
theoretical analysis.

Care of
Mind/Care of Spirit: A Psychiatrist Explores Spiritual Direction,
by Gerald G. May (1992). May relates spiritual
direction to psychology and counseling, showing how they are both similar and

The Dark
Night: A Gift of God
, by Daniel
Schrock (2008). Schrock helps distinguish the common Christian experience of
the dark night from depression. He shows how a dark-night experience can
actually strengthen our faith, discipleship and sense of Christian mission.

for the Soul: Pastoral Care and Spiritual Direction
, by Jean Stairs (2000). This book shows how
the resources and techniques of spiritual direction can be incorporated into
pastoral care, thereby renewing the concept and practice of "soul care."

Pastor as Spiritual Guide
, by
Howard Rice (1999). Among the plethora of images (shepherd, theologian,
administrator) that shape the pastoral role, Rice sees the pastor as spiritual
guide. He challenges pastors to be willing to share their own spiritual journey
with their parishioners.

Director, Spiritual Companion: Guide to Tending the Soul
, by Tilden Edwards (2001). Edwards's two-part
book provides both historical perspective on the resources of spiritual
direction and more practical advice about how to find a spiritual friend and to
form spiritual direction groups.

For questions to think about in
seeking a spiritual director, see this resource from Anam Cara.


More resources for books and questions

Thank you, Richard for your helpful annotations to books about spiritual direction. Marlene Kropf, Marcus Smucker, and Angela Reed are active members of Spiritual Directors International, a global, ecumenical learning community that supports the ministry and service of spiritual direction. SDI has published an imprint series of ten books, including Candlelight, in your book list.

Also in the resource Web Library, more books may be found by category.

SDI questions for seekers of spiritual direction may be found in the Seek and Find a spiritual director section of the website. These resources are free and we hope will help us reclaim the ancient ministry of spiritual companionship.

Peace be with you,
Liz Ellmann, MDiv
Executive Director
Spiritual Directors International