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Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction [Paperback]

By Margaret Guenther (Author)
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Item description for Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction by Margaret Guenther...

(PUBCowley)The former director of the Center for Christian Spirituality at General Theological Seminary in New York City outlines the implications of spiritual director as host, teacher, and midwife. She also addresses questions relating to time, setting, and privacy, as well as problems for female directors. 146 pages, softcover.

Publishers Description
Guenther uses the images of the spiritual director as host, teacher, and midwife to describe the ministry of spiritual direction today. She pays particular attention to spiritual direction for women, and addresses such down-to-earth questions as setting, time, and privacy. The stories of real people bring the practice of spiritual direction alive. In the pages that follow, I will attempt to describe the shape that spiritual direction might take for people of our time, aware that the subject is an elusive one. I am speaking to the beginner, those persons lay or ordained, with or without formal theological training, who find themselves drawn to this ministry. Perhaps they feel the stirring of their own unacknowledged gifts. Or perhaps they wonder about receiving direction, whether it is a ministry available to ordinary people or reserved for the especially holy. I hope some dark corners will be illuminated and some questions answered. "

Citations And Professional Reviews
Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction by Margaret Guenther has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Library Journal - 05/01/1992

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Cowley Publications
Pages   146
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.46" Width: 5.46" Height: 0.46"
Weight:   0.5 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 1, 2001
Publisher   Cowley Publications
ISBN  1561010561  
ISBN13  9781561010561  

Availability  29 units.
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More About Margaret Guenther

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Margaret Guenther is an Episcopal priest, spiritual director, and retreat leader. She recently retired as professor of ascetical theology at The General Theological Seminary in New York, where she was the director of its Center for Christian Spirituality. Her other books include Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction and Toward Holy Ground: Spiritual Directions for the Second Half of Life.

Margaret Guenther was born in 1930.

Margaret Guenther has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Cloister Books
  2. New Church's Teaching (Cowley Publications)

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > Womens Issues
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Clergy > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Protestantism > Anglican
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Protestantism > Episcopalian > General
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality > Women

Christian Product Categories
Books > Christian Living > Spiritual Growth > Discipleship & New Believer

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Reviews - What do customers think about Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction?

I Didn't Know How to Give 4.5 Stars?  Feb 15, 2006

Margaret Gunther's book on Spiritual Direction is an excellent resource for all persons who are professionally involved in soul care, whether clergy, counselors, retreat directors, or spiritual directors. I've read many books on this subject, yet this one kept me engaged from cover to cover. I read it in one evening. If you are involved in spiritual ministry to people, get this book.

That being said, I wish Gunther had added two more chapters. I am sure she is qualified and I would like to hear her views on a couple of related subjects.

I wish she had set aside a chapter dedicated to future goals in spiritual direction. Her first two chapters on Holy Listening (introduction), Welcoming the Stranger (chapter one), and Good Teachers (chapter 2) were first class. Her chapter on Midwife to the Soul (chapter 3) didn't keep my attention as well, but was a great transitional chapter that brought a climax to her entire work. I wish she had inserted a chapter here on the ongoing relationship between the director and directee. She could have encouraged the director in hers or his own personal growth, identified some dangers involved with long term relationships, and given clearer advice on knowing when and how to break the relationship. She could have laid out some long term goals for spiritual direction.

I also wish Gunther had added a chapter on Men and Spiritual Direction. She is a woman and the majority of persons who come for spiritual direction are women (page 119). Still a nice chapter specifically focused on men would have been the perfect "icing on the cake" for this book. I am sure she would have done a good job. All through her book, Guenther writes with a sensitivity that is alluring to both men and women.

The inclusion of these two chapters would have bumped my score from a 4.5 to a solid 5 stars. As it is now, I'm just going to have to search through this for more works by this author.
Do you hear what I hear?  Jul 11, 2003
In her slim volume Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction, Episcopal priest and spiritual director Margaret Guenther has provided a jewel of a book for those interested in spiritual direction, and more particularly, for those who are interested in becoming spiritual directors.

Spiritual direction is rather difficult to classify. It is part art, part science, part skill. It bears relations to pastoral care and psychological therapy, but there are important differences. `Spiritual direction is not psychotherapy nor is it an inexpensive substitute, although the disciplines are compatible and frequently share raw material. Spiritual direction is not pastoral counseling, nor is it to be confused with the mutuality of deep friendships, for it is unashamedly hierarchical.'

This hierarchy is one of the stumbling blocks for many, ironically particularly for those in the clergy. One must have trust in the spiritual director. To be a spiritual director, one must inspire trust, the kind of trust that enables the directee to understand that it is for that one's good that all effort will be focused. `What a gift to bring to another, the gift of disinterested, loving attention!'

Guenther's first chapter talks about this aspect of trust and attention by likening spirtual direction to a journey. Many spiritual writers have used the metaphor of the journey in the past, so frequently perhaps that it almost becomes an inside joke among some. However, Guenther's exploration of the importance of hospitality toward the stranger on a journey sets a good foundation.

For the spiritual director and the spiritual directee, many aspects of preparation are the same. A respect for silence, an importance placed on attention, and an openness and willingness for questioning are shared aspects. For the one seeking spiritual direction, the necessity for looking beyond books such as this toward a spiritual direction `in real life' is underscored.

Making the space a safe one is also important for the spiritual director. This requires more than simple confidentiality. It requires a degree of self-control in gauging one's reactions, allowing silence, not adding simple or quick answers, and recognising one's own appearance and tendencies for response.

In the chapter entitled `Good Teachers', Guenther explores the teaching and learning aspects of spiritual direction. `So what does the spiritual director teach? In the simplest and also most profound terms, the spiritual director is simultaneously a learner and a teacher of discernment.'

Discernment requires perception and judgment. The spiritual director needs to be open and experienced. The directee needs to be similarly open, and willing to be known and reflective upon the tasks of discernment called forth by the director. Both director and directee must be willing to discover deeper truths about themselves.

Using the example of Jesus as a teacher, and looking as qualities of good teachers, Guenther relates these to the tasks of spiritual direction. Just as teachers sometimes encourage elements of fun and play in their lessons, directors and directees must not get bogged down in a false sense of seriousness that puts a pall on the journey.

Quoting from the spiritual classic, The Cloud of Unknowing, Guenther relates the problem of this approach. The Cloud says of such displays of piety, `Sometimes their eyes look like the eyes of wounded sheep near death' and goes on to counsel avoidance of the extreme and the eccentric: `Far better a modest countenance, a calm, composed bearing, and a merry candor'.

Additionally, good teachers question, instill hope, and are willing to evaluate progress. Spiritual guidance may not be graded in the same manner as school work, but if it is to have meaning, there must be a way of evaluating. Finally, good teachers are willing learners. Guenther relates her own experience to being somewhat like Annie Sullivan, the teacher of Helen Keller: young, inexperienced, with imperfect vision herself, she set off to the do the near impossible.

One particular thing spiritual directors focus upon is the teaching and learning of prayer, and Guenther draws the experience and writing of spiritual leaders in the past. She says of homework she rarely assigns, but frequently suggests. Of course, the dedicated seeker will look forward to such homework and exercises. The task of the spiritual director will then be to test the validity of the experience for the seeker.

In her final two chapters, Guenther brings in her own experience as a woman in spiritual direction, and looks to images in the bible and in life for metaphors for spiritual direction. Drawing form Meister Eckhart and the images of the Hebrew midwifes, she likens spiritual direction to being a midwife for the soul. Drawing on fairly recent spiritual exploration and writing by women in academic and theological research, she looks at some of the particular gifts brought to the task of spiritual direction by women. Women have a greater likelihood to have a natural gift for listening. Also, given that women have been `outsiders' in clerical and spiritual circles for so much of human history, that can be a gift to those who have similar feelings of being outside, alone, or otherwise different.

This is a wonderful book for anyone who would like a glimpse of what spiritual direction is all about, from the standpoint of a woman who has been personally involved on both sides of the relationship. It is also a good guide for those who are interested in pursuing the vocation of a spiritual director.

Margaret Guenther is an Episcopal priest serving a parish in New York City. She is also on the faculty of General Theological Seminary, teaching topics related to spiritual direction. She is a popular speaker, retreat leader, and recognised as an expert voice in the growing field of spiritual direction.

Spiritual Direction IS Holy Listening  Nov 4, 2001
The characterization of a spiritual director by the description "Holy Listener" encapsulates the book's central theme. Through the progressive introduction of topics, the author guides the reader to a deeper understanding of the "art" in spiritual direction. Drawing on her own experiences as a spiritual director, the author relates guiding principles for providing spiritual direction from an variety of perspectives. Most insightful is her description of the spiritual director as "a holy listener", a soul-companion, whose heart and presence provides a hospitable haven for "fellow travelers". The experience and wisdom imparted through Margaret Guenther's writing proffers what could be viewed as the depth and breath of the art in spiritual direction. There is much to be gained by contemplating the various perspectives the author provides and in understanding the tremendous privilege it is to serve as a "Holy Listener".
Discerning Spiritual direction  Oct 25, 2000
This is a great resource for any person seeking information and understanding of their call in spiritual direction (Holy Listening),especially those begining in this ministry. It is an easy read and one that can be understood but also challenging. It does offer time to reflect on their own journey as Margaret tells her story as she proceeds with her ministry. I would highly recommend this book to all clergy and laity alike.
A primer and meditation both on spiritual direction  Aug 14, 2000
In "Holy Listening," Episcopal priest and theologian Margaret Guenther explores the ministry of spiritual direction, discussing it from the perspective of hospitality, teaching, midwifery, with a special chapter on women and spiritual diretion. Although she offers plenty of practical advice and suggestions, she avoids didactism, or lecturing. Her use of vignettes and stories are very helpful.

This book is invaluable both for a would-be or practicing director (or so I would imagine), or anyone currently receiving spiritual direction, or interested in pursuing it. In a very gentle, non-judgemental way, Ms. Guenther outlines stages, benefits and limitations of spiritual direction. Her writing style is warm, accessible, and engaging. An excellent resource for this ministry.


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