Learned, Experienced and Discerning

Learned, Experienced and Discerning: St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross on Spiritual Direction by Mark O’Keefe OSB. The author gives us a historical and cultural view of the sixteenth century and the insights of two outstanding mystics and doctors of the Church who have learning, experience and ability to discern for themselves and their disciples. O’K fills his book with many texts from the best works of both spiritual directors.

O’K begins with a chapter on spiritual direction. What is it? (ch1) What is the context of the 16th century? (ch2) Part two gives background about Teresa of Avila: How is she directed by her confessors/directors (ch3) What are the three essential characteristics she emphasizes and the reasons they are essential (ch4) O’K’s next chapter examens Teresa’s director of others (ch5) and finally he points our Teresa’s emphasis on a holistic spirituality (ch6)

Part three examines the writings of John of the Cross. First John of the Cross as spiritual director in person and writing (ch7) Then O’K asks how does John of the Cross describe spiritual direction? (ch8) Next O’K explores what makes bad directors (ch9) and what makes good directors (ch10) The last chapter (Conclusion) is called insights for Today.

Here are some of the gems O’K discovers in Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross: Spiritual direction is accompanying someone who wants a deeper spirituality focused on contemplation. The Holy Spirit is the real director, and the spiritual director is the learned experienced and prudent person who learns from the sixteenth century doctors of spiritual direction. Like journeying travelers who need a map and a guide, so a spiritual director can assist those who need someone who is knowledgeable in matters spiritual.