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IIC: 137 Live Q&A with Fr. Boniface Hicks on Spiritual Direction and Personal Formation


Fr. Boniface Hicks joins us once again as we continue our series on integrated personal formation, this time with a Q&A from our live audience. Fr. Boniface answers a wide range of questions about spiritual and pastoral formation, including: 1) What counsel can you give to those who have experienced poor spiritual formation, especially from formators who only acknowledge the spiritual realm? 2) How do you deal with St. Ignatius of Loyola’s “evil spirits” from the IFS perspective? Would this involve a more compassionate approach to temptation? 3) How do you leverage parts in spiritual direction when your director has no experience with IFS? 4) In the context of Colossians 1:15-20, can you share how your inmost self holds space for an encounter with Jesus and some of your exiled parts? 5) Can spiritual direction be positive and productive if the directee has a strong hiding part or protectors that don’t want to be transparent with the director? 6) Can you talk about the prophetic timing of human formation in the context of Pastores Dabo Vobis, given the cultural issues of the meltdown of the family, marriage, etc.? 7) How do different kinds of suffering relate to our parts? 8) In resisting spiritual bypassing, is there not also the risk of bypassing the spiritual, bypassing the walk with Jesus? Is there a way to navigate this?


Dr. Peter: [00:00:11] Well, I am so excited to be with you today for episode 137 of Interior Integration for Catholics, and – I’ve been waiting for this – we are having Father Boniface Hicks return with us to take your questions. This is a Q&A on personal formation and spiritual direction, and we really wanted to hear from you. What was on your minds, what was on your hearts about our last episode. So I did a long introduction of Father Boniface because he has so many accolades, and so I’m going to do a little briefer introduction today, because I really do want to make as much time possible for this to be really interactive. At Interior Integration for Catholics, we really want to bring you in. We really want to hear your voice. We really want to address your concerns, to answer your questions, to address what’s on your heart. And so, to that end, we’re bringing you Father Boniface. So, Father Boniface, first and foremost, I said last time, he’s a man. And that’s really important. He is a man and he’s a father. And I was really reflecting on this over the last couple of weeks; he is a father, and he takes that so seriously, and you can feel it embedded in, sort of, his being. And he’s sharing that with us today. And I’ve gotten to know him over the last few years. He’s a Benedictine monk of Saint Vincent Archabbey. He’s a Catholic priest. He’s the director of spiritual formation at Saint Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. He’s the director of the Institute for Ministry Formation at Saint Vincent’s Seminary. They offer degrees and so forth. He’s a retreat master who is in high demand, had such a wonderful experience on the RCC retreat with him, the Resilient Catholics Community retreat with him last August. He’s an author of four books, and they’re just excellent, especially, you know, Personal Prayer: A Guide for Receiving the Father’s Love. And so I, you know, what I want to do, he’s got a PhD in computer science. I could go on and on and on. But what I want to do is to say, this is the kind of experience that I want to be able to bring to you, and for you to be able to respond. So without a lot of further ado, I just want to turn it over to you, Father Boniface, to be able to maybe bring up a point or two from our last episode that you want to reemphasize, or maybe something new that you felt like we should have mentioned and didn’t spend enough time on, or a reflection you’ve had in the last couple of weeks that you might want to add. So anything like that for us today.

Fr. Boniface: [00:03:09] I will just – not for the sake of self-promotion, but because I think it’s actually relevant – I’m actually the author of five books. The most recent one just came out a week ago, The Hidden Power of Silence in the Mass. So I suppose that happened since our last episode, but hopefully it is a nice combination of some of those elements of human and spiritual formation. So more about the interior silence and interior participation and that really builds on the human level. So I actually reference – well, there’s a little bit of IFS language in it, because if we’re going to engage the Mass, I think bringing some of these elements into prayer, we pray from different parts, through different parts, from different parts, whatever the right preposition would be for that. So I do a little bit of that in that book. And I guess, well, I just have really appreciated our last conversation and the chance to think about the way that different formators form people, that we’re really formed through relationship and that sort of main point that we circled around in several ways has remained with me. That value of having multiple formators with an emphasis here or an emphasis there, but the way that just very naturally things overlap. You know, to think of the dimensions of formation being completely isolated – what would a human formator be who only focuses on the human, you know, what would that even look like? That would be a very strange creature, I suppose. He wouldn’t be able to speak because he would have no intellectual formation. He would, I don’t know, be coming from outer space with no spiritual formation. He would be living in a silo. Anyway, so obviously we integrate these things in our persons and then our relationships with others help to integrate that in them as well. So I just, I really appreciated the opportunity to think through that and just the relational influence, I guess. And then how valuable it is – of course, you want integrated formators. And so, perhaps with a specialty in one dimension or another, but you really want all of your formators to be integrated in all of the dimensions. You don’t want a guy who’s never had a pastoral moment in his life forming anybody in seminary, even though he may not be the pastoral formator. Likewise, a guy who didn’t pass any of his classes shouldn’t be the spiritual formator or the human formator. Yeah. Just really appreciated that exploration of the influence of different formators in the seminary context.

Dr. Peter: [00:05:42] Well, beautiful, beautiful. And I’m sure we’re going to get into a wide variety of topics today, all relevant to formation, personal formation, those four dimensions of formation human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral from Pastores Dabo Vobis, the 1992 apostolic exhortation from Saint John Paul II. And we had a person call in and leave me a voicemail that we would like you to address. So if we can go ahead and roll that tape and hear that question.

[00:06:13] Father Boniface, I enjoyed your conversation on the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast episode regarding formation. In that conversation, you pointed to the fact that we are integrated beings and made a good point that we shouldn’t isolate any of the four pillars of formation because none of them happened independently from each other. The one stipulation I appreciated you saying is the formators should know what they do and don’t know. However, I’ve experienced a lot of unwarranted and unhelpful advice from formators, where the spiritual realm was only acknowledged with little to no regard for the other three elements of formation. So my question for you is what counsel can you give to myself and others who’ve had bad spiritual formation, especially when there are several God images which don’t jive well with the self about how God cares for me and loves me, but only seems to care about my spirituality, divorce, and all the other elements. So God bless you and thank you for your answer.

Fr. Boniface: [00:07:17] Well, I want to acknowledge, first of all, my sorrow at the bad responses that our questioner has been given in trying to deal with very hard things. Divorce is a very hard thing, and to not address the human dimensions of that, well, I don’t know exactly how it’s been relegated merely to the spiritual. I can guess in a few ways. And he talked about God images being reinforced that are really unhelpful and that’s, uh, not great and painful and and damaging, reinforcing negative God images. Well, I guess I would also commend the one asking the question, and I don’t know how he’s come to that, but even for him to be able to make that statement that he’s received a too narrowly spiritual approach, spiritualized approach to problems that certainly have very human consequences. Good for him to have discovered that. I might ask the question back. How did you come to that process of discovery? That’s really what the rest of our viewers and listeners need to hear. I think your podcast, Dr. Peter, is a great help with that, because it does help to tease out and to reinforce the human dimensions and prevent us from going into a narrowly spiritual approach to problems, to the struggles of life. I just learned about pieces and rotating. So I want to name all of those different pieces of pieces, but all of those different areas of our life where we suffer and struggle, and they need to not just be sort of sprinkled with prayer and touched with devotions, but actually addressed at a deeper level that addresses our emotions and and our responses and takes into account the human dimensions. I guess, you know, one of the things that came up in our conversation before, Dr. Peter and I, part of my confession of being a serious dimensional trespasser, I just don’t really know how to do spiritual formation without a serious amount of human formation.

Fr. Boniface: [00:09:30] I find that the spiritual dimensions almost fall out of the human dimensions because we are so inherently spiritual. Our relationship with God is through so much of our life. Well, it’s through everything, really. But I find that when I care for the heart, when I model God’s own response, when I mediate his love, which all comes through the human – that’s the Incarnation. I mean, that’s our faith, those spiritual dimensions flow so naturally from that. But to try to impose the spiritual without doing that first, I find just falls so flat in the way that our listener has suffered from. So I’m not sure if I exactly addressed his question, but those are a few of the thoughts that I have about that, those dimensions of integration.

Dr. Peter: [00:10:18] So, yeah, I don’t know, would you say it this way? I’ve been toying with this in the last few seconds, so I haven’t thought it through. But would you say that we need to be human first and spiritual second? Or would you say we need to be human and spiritual simultaneously? You know, like how would you frame that question? I mean, we have from Pastores Dabo Vobis that, you know, human formation is the basis of all formation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re just layered in clearly defined strata. But yeah, I mean, would you as a spiritual director, start out with the human?

Fr. Boniface: [00:10:53] Well, I mean, necessarily we do. The first time that I meet with somebody, I shake their hand, I look them in the eye, I give them my name, I ask about their name. I mean, the human dimensions are precisely the context of my spiritual direction. I don’t know how to do spiritual direction other than having a human encounter with someone. And all of those dimensions of the humanity are so present. I do like — I guess, another follow up in the meantime from our last conversation — I do like those four causes, that causal approach. Well, I like all of the models actually, that you proposed and that now I forgot his name… Matthew Waltz also offered. But that sort of hylomorphic relationship between human and spiritual, I mean, it’s sort of like, how do you touch someone’s soul, right? By touching their body. Pointing at their face, right. Where does the soul live? It lives here, you know. So the embodiment of the soul, the soul’s expression through the body is also how sort of the spiritual and human tie together in formation, I think.

Dr. Peter: [00:12:10] Well, we’ve got questions coming in and we’ve got people that are willing to join us. So, definitely, let’s go ahead and start with Mantez, might be up.

[00:12:19] I have two questions actually. So the first question would be, could you imagine the future of spiritual direction being more based on the IFS model? And the other question, I guess it’s a little bit more complicated, about the discernment of spirits and IFS, and especially dealing with evil spirits or the enemy from the IFS perspective, it seems that Ignatius of Loyola would say, would be kind of more harsh, you know, and say kind of reject it. And Jesus also would, you know, kind of say like, don’t debate, don’t talk to the evil spirit. So I wonder from the IFS perspective, could you use kind of a more compassionate stance and attitude, kind of trying to understand where is it coming from, like temptations or all those things. So thank you.

Fr. Boniface: [00:13:17] Great questions. I would say thank you, Mantez, very much for very thoughtful, deep and meaningful, important questions. In terms of basing spiritual direction on IFS, I can certainly see in terms of spiritual direction, you’re always using some model of interiority. I mean, we need to have some conception of what the human person, how the human person works interiorly, since the the interior life is the locus of spiritual direction. So what does the interior life look like? And then, as I teach in my spiritual direction program, I give several models that are kind of overlapping that serve different purposes. But I’m always integrating IFS and I’m always speaking in IFS language. So I think I’m developing a bit of a reputation for being the IFS spiritual direction program. I am not tied only to IFS in the sense that I sometimes find a Thomistic model or, you know, sort of the Greek anthropology or, I don’t know, a few different psychological models are helpful in different contexts to sort of get to the point that I’m aiming at a little bit more quickly. But I think you could easily build around an exclusively IFS model, for sure. And then to go into the second question in terms of the inner relationship between, well, it’s in part, I think your question is about the relationship between parts and spirits, and I think you can go in various directions with that. But I think understanding parts is really important for a healthy approach, an appropriate approach to understanding spirits as well. I work with the unbound model not because I think it’s perfect, but because I think it has enough of the qualities that are necessary and the relational space, kind of the human space, that make it helpful for addressing some of the difficulties that people go through and giving them a path of healing and inner freedom.

Fr. Boniface: [00:15:24] But it’s really important to understand parts well enough to understand where someone is, whether they’re blended with a part, what part of them is renouncing a spirit, for example, and to make sure that you’re not renouncing parts. The parts don’t need to be renounced. Many of them are struggling from that problem already and don’t need more of it. So I do think it’s really useful to understand parts language and some of those interior movements in a more compassionate and gentle way of dealing with our interior life, our hearts. And then I actually, I really like — I’m going to forge out to give a little larger context, to then narrow in on an image for the interaction of parts and spirits that I was affirmed by with Dr. Peter — so, you know, the word angel is the word messenger, it comes from messenger in Greek, and a messenger has a sender and a receiver. So I think of angels as being associated with relationships that are connected in love and truth. And so, demons are the opposite. “Diabolos”, “to throw apart,” is a broken relationship. It’s distorted or disconnected. And so I think we can see that on the natural, on the sort of interpersonal level. And I think even in terms of nature and things like that, the angels that should be holding together and keeping the universe in harmony have become fallen in some cases.

Fr. Boniface: [00:16:52] And I think we experience even hurricanes and tornadoes in a way, because of the fall of the angels and our fallen world. But in any event, the distortions and disconnections between people, I could say are diabolical in the sense of those broken connections. And then I think we can see that interiorly as well, that there’s an influence of the diabolical on the separation of our parts and that a part being driven to isolation and then potentially being blended with is going to act out in some strange ways, I suppose. So I think there’s a nice interaction there. And I think from an Ignatian perspective, how do we see desolation as spirits, maybe isolating parts, pushing us to be blended with a certain part, pushing a part into exile. And I don’t think separating that, as I suppose, how we’ve been talking about not separating the human and the spiritual, having a sort of purely spiritual model that a demon coming in out of nowhere is doing this thing on its own, I don’t think is very realistic, but that that’s interacting in some way with our humanity. That what we might see as our own exiling process or our own blending process is getting sort of agitated or amplified by the spiritual influence. And so then Ignatius response to desolation, meditation, prayer, examination, suitable penance, I think are ways that we can also see grounding, getting into self, unblending, and engaging different parts of us. So I think there’s a nice confluence there between some of those aspects of the spiritual world that have been spoken about traditionally, and then an understanding of parts.

Dr. Peter: [00:18:50] Well, beautiful I think, yeah, I would echo a lot of that. Obviously I think that this idea of parts, systems, multiplicity, unity that’s going to have a huge impact on how we understand the human person. And there’s going to be some metaphysical developments about that, kind of like there were when we became more aware of the unconscious, right. That wasn’t like discussed for a long time. It was a development that really came up, started in the 18th century, developed towards the end of the 19th century, 20th century. So I think, yeah, I think it’s going to impact us, but not so much particularly specifically necessarily in the spiritual dimension, but yes, in the spiritual direction because of the human dimension, you know, in terms of that understanding. So absolutely. Super excited to see those developments happen and to see spiritual directors now becoming more and more interested in these ways of understanding the natural, the human formation of individuals. We have a question from someone who cannot join us with the video, but she asks:

[00:19:54] I’d appreciate some guidance leveraging parts in spiritual direction when your director has no experience with IFS.

Dr. Peter: [00:19:59] Okay, so this is a person that’s familiar with IFS, uses IFS, Internal Family Systems. It’s really relevant to her human formation, I’m assuming. But then in spiritual direction, the spiritual director is not familiar with Internal Family Systems, which of course is going to be really relevant to so many of you in the audience. So what would you recommend there?

Fr. Boniface: [00:20:27] Well, I have to say, that’s actually how I originally learned Internal Family Systems; it was having a directee simply referring to parts and just hearing it, it made so much sense. And I said, “What are you talking about? This is really interesting.” And she said, “Oh, this is IFS.” And I said, “Well, how do I learn more about this?” So she pointed me to Jay Earley’s book. You know, this is ten years ago, more than that now. So you may end up introducing your spiritual director to parts language. I guess I would say, well, I mean, a good spiritual director should receive from you. So if you have a good understanding of parts, at least in terms of the insights that are coming out of that, I would be confident about it and express those insights, recognizing how internal parts are interacting, how you’re getting blended, where maybe you’re dealing with burdens or exiles. I wouldn’t hesitate to use that kind of language. You may need to explain something here or there. And, you know, I think, we can be led into that. If you have a spiritual director who’s skeptical about that, then that’s maybe a different situation. Then I would direct them to Dr. Peter’s podcast and have them listen to episode 71 and then maybe 72, 73, 74. But I find in general with people, we have some of this language that has permeated kind of the Catholic space.

Fr. Boniface: [00:21:56] We often distinguish between mind and heart. You know, if I had a dollar for every time I heard that, getting it from your mind into your heart. We have that, you know, kind of floating around in our thought, in our language. And so we have some sense of parts in that. And I think just the language of, you know, parts, actually works. There’s a little part of me, there’s a little child in me, I think people understand that pretty well spontaneously and don’t need a lot of explanation. So I guess I would just sort of use it in a natural way. And where you might be drawing some insight from that that the spiritual director wouldn’t understand from a full picture of parts, you might be able to just explain how some of those dimensions interact interiorly. So I would not require, I wouldn’t be bashful about using parts language, and I wouldn’t sort of require the spiritual director to go and get a degree in IFS, but I wouldn’t hesitate to also introduce him or her to a podcast or more information to go deeper into it.

Dr. Peter: [00:23:04] So it sounds like bringing it up in a really human way with your spiritual director, being really human with your spiritual director about a human need, right, to be able to discuss this. And then just kind of see what happens, you know. I mean, I’m hearing you say, strike out, use the language, because I know sometimes it could be on the spiritual directee’s end, you know, some overabundance of caution or, you know, concern, fear about bringing this up, sounding weird or whatever, and wanting to preserve the relationship. But I hear you saying, go for it. You know, bring it up with your spiritual director, see what happens.

Fr. Boniface: [00:23:41] Yeah. And I think especially, you know, with your podcast and now with Gerry’s book also and so many articles, I think it’s easy to tie it together that it’s a coherent psychological model in a Catholic space, and it’s coherent with Catholic anthropology. And so, yeah, I would say just use it in a very human way, and there’s plenty of kind of backup. If the spiritual director is skeptical for some reason.

Dr. Peter: [00:24:05] Great. So we’ve got another one ready to join us. So good to have you with us, Avis.

[00:24:11] Father Boniface, the the four dimensions, the pastoral dimension. So I’m a lay spiritual director, and I’m interested in understanding the pastoral, my pastoral dimension. The other three I can comprehend. But I don’t know if it’s my poor catechesis or whatever, but the dimension of pastoral development in a lay person and then using those gifts in my spiritual direction practice.

Fr. Boniface: [00:24:42] Yeah, I think the simple thing is the pastoral dimension is our outreach for others. So it’s the way that I’m interacting with and ministering to others. So it’s precisely what you’re doing in spiritual direction, which the other dimensions of formation support. So your own spiritual, human and intellectual formation are going to posture you then for that action, that activity, that ministry of spiritual direction. Obviously in the Pastores Dabo Vobis, which is focused on the formation of the priest, that’s going to be all of those dimensions of ministry as a priest, ministers to the poor or ministers to the staff or preaches from the pulpit or whatever variety of things that he’s doing, but he’s really conformed to Christ in that. And I guess I would just add in terms of spiritual direction, the thing that’s been most helpful for me, in locating the sort of unique contribution of spiritual direction, is the way that the spiritual director is aligned with God, with the directee’s relationship with God. And so there’s a much more immediate impact that the way that I mediate God to a person in my relationship with them is going to have a much more immediate impact on their relationship with God than maybe a counselor or a friend or a neighbor or a coach or whatever else. So all the more so as spiritual directors, how much we need to be really conformed to Christ, that everything that we’re doing, saying, presenting, the way that we’re interacting with people is as God-like as possible. And that’s very much the focus of the Program for Priestly Formation as well, is that the priest is really conformed to Christ and then also in specific ways for priesthood. But that’s basically the pastoral formation. You could push out into pastoral formation the ways that we do spiritual direction. So, you know, think of it in terms of listening skills and certain interventions or invitations to prayer, or again, just the way that we present ourselves, echo back to somebody. All of those would be aspects of pastoral formation.

[00:26:57] Thank you. That’s helpful.

Dr. Peter: [00:26:59] It made me wonder as you were having that conversation, Avis and Father Boniface, like, is the pastoral formation in spiritual direction a particular way, in that relationship, of helping the directee to love? I mean, could we sum it up as saying, like, this is how I’m helping you to love. Or would you nuance that? Is that too simplistic? Would you say?

Fr. Boniface: [00:27:23] It’s, I think, always a good answer. Helping people to love is in some sense what we are and should always be doing. So the pastoral formation is the way by which I am loving people. And then that ministry is helping others to love. Again in spiritual direction, because the focus is on the relationship with God, there’s a maybe particular emphasis on how we love God in particular. But of course, that’s only going to be expressed in the context of how we love others as well. But yeah, I think that’s great.

Dr. Peter: [00:27:58] Peter Martin was telling me that he sort of sees it this way, like the human formation is the inward turn, the spiritual formation is the upward turn, and the pastoral formation is like the outward turn, you know, to the neighbor. So kind of self, God, and neighbor with those.

[00:28:14] So one of the things that I just wanted to comment is it’s love, but a lot of the direction is being loved, allowing to be loved. That’s one of the, what I hear the most is that internal critic that just doesn’t feel worthy, so that I spent a lot of time in that area.

Fr. Boniface: [00:28:35] That’s excellent. Yeah.

Dr. Peter: [00:28:37] Well, thank you. Yeah, so good to have you. So yeah, I would imagine, you can tell me if this may be some analytical parts of me, but I’m almost thinking of like percentages, like, you know, in spiritual direction. And I know, I can sort of already sense that you might push back on this, but yeah. What percentage of time is doing human formation? What percentage of time is doing spiritual formation? What percentage of time is intellectual, what percentage of time is pastoral? And it may depend on where the person is on the path. You know, some folks may come in and it’s really all about a lot of human formation with some spiritual formation, some intellectual formation. Some may be, you know, in some ways, I think further along the path and much more outward focused, because the fires within, there’s not a raging fire in the castle, right. So they’re freer to go visit other castles. So I don’t know.

Fr. Boniface: [00:29:27] Yeah, it’s interesting, and it’s even more so the case because of who I am as a monk and a priest. But I would say that the spiritual is really present through all of it. So even the ways that I’m doing human formation, so to speak, is really through the lens of spiritual formation, right. Because it’s the whole context of the relationship. It’s spiritual direction. And so even though we may not be talking about prayer explicitly, or I might not name God explicitly for, say, 70% of our meeting, the whole context is about prayer and God, because the whole focus of the relationship is about the directee’s relationship with God. So, I mean, I think most of the time, I’m not sort of analyzing people’s prayer. I mean, most of the time, I’m in people’s hearts which are being lived out. I’m going to have to memorize that “pieces” because I have a feeling that in the pieces is where people are living their lives. And so that’s also what they’re bringing into spiritual direction.

Dr. Peter: [00:30:32] We have a question here from Diane and she says:

[00:30:37] Can you discuss developing self leadership?

Dr. Peter: [00:30:42] And just for folks that might not know, that’s a particular IFS term, I will sometimes use the word recollection in the natural realm, helping / unblending the parts, coming into better relationship with the innermost self to lead and guide. But yeah, developing self leadership, presumably in the context of spiritual direction.

Fr. Boniface: [00:31:02] Do you think as the spiritual director how I do that for myself, or helping the directee?

Dr. Peter: [00:31:07] Boy, I don’t know, it didn’t say in the question, but I would say both. Yeah. If you could address both of those, because I do believe this may be a spiritual director. I’m not sure.

Fr. Boniface: [00:31:16] I feel like you probably would give a better, a more immediate answer to this, but I’ll give it a shot. Obviously, the first thing is self-awareness. I mean, we need to know when we’re not in self and be able to to recognize when we get blended and why we get blended, and you know, what’s happening interiorly. And then I think, something I’ve just been learning recently is how often a self-like part can end up having an agenda about being more in self. So I think you’d want to be careful about that also; that the effort toward having more self leadership doesn’t become the agenda of a part that’s trying to take over and make things better.

Dr. Peter: [00:31:57] Because then it would only be a caricature, right? It wouldn’t actually be the real thing, right. It couldn’t be. Yeah.

Fr. Boniface: [00:32:04] Right. So in that sense, I mean, it’s the whole process of interior integration is the answer to the question. So listen to all 137 podcasts. And that’s the answer to how we do that. I guess I would say maybe what’s particular about the spiritual direction context. You know, I think the spiritual director is of course, is modeling self at different times and is helping people to connect and have compassion with themselves. Avis mentioned the inner critic and letting ourselves be loved. That certainly is a huge theme. It’s one of the easiest things I do in spiritual direction, I would say, is love people who have an inner critic and love the inner critic too. I mean, there’s something about that, like, driven, principle-oriented part that really has high standards. I mean, there’s something about that, I just, I love that part, very genuinely. I befriend those protectors. But then having access to the exile that’s just been struggling, herding, pushed aside, or even other protectors that are, you know, firefighters that have caused problems trying to manage some of that. So just really loving those parts of people, obviously helps them to, to get into self more. And hopefully, you know, I do have directees that will tell me, you know, “I hear your voice, Father Boniface, when I’m driving and I’m about to do this, I see your face, I hear your voice.” And so hopefully that’s all helping people to be a little bit more self-led.

Dr. Peter: [00:33:45] You know, and I think it helps so much just, again on the human level, but I would also imagine on the spiritual level, if the spiritual director is recollected, you know, is in right relationship inside right. That the director also needs to consider those internal relationships between her innermost self, his innermost self and the parts and be able to bring that in that pastoral dimension, as you were talking about, to the directee. So I’m super excited when spiritual directors are really working on their human formation. I have 17 in my Foundations Experiential groups. We just opened those up for the first time to spiritual directors and coaches, and it’s just so lovely to work with them, you know, on their own human formation. Because, yeah, there’s the old saying, you can’t lead someone, you know, where you’ve never gone yourself.

Fr. Boniface: [00:34:33] Yeah, it’s so critical that we’re doing our own work, right. I remember one of the first times, I don’t know, I heard you, I talked to you. Anyway, it’s an early memory of you saying, you know, the biggest obstacle to therapy is the therapist. And that was just so obvious when I heard it, but I hadn’t thought of it in those terms. And I have someone in my spiritual direction class who is a counselor. And of course, I go into a lot of these things, especially in the Advanced Spiritual Direction course about accompanying people, being with people. I actually gave them a podcast with Adam Young and Kurt Thompson, that’s some really beautiful insights about just the power of being with people. And that’s so important. A lot of times the pressure in spiritual direction is having the answers. It’s like, no, the transformational thing is being with the person. And so we were talking about that. But then one of my students who is a counselor, said, “You know, to be with people in some of these places, you really have to do your own work.” And I was so glad she brought that out because it’s absolutely true. It can be really, really hard to be with people in those places. So yeah, absolutely. Being self-led, being recollected, the spiritual director paying attention to what’s happening in him or her and really working on that interior integration is critical.

Dr. Peter: [00:35:59] Well, we have this from Pat. And he said, he describes himself as a recovering spiritual bypasser. Okay, so a lot of insight there. He says:

[00:36:10] In the context of Colossians 1:15-20, the primacy of Jesus, can you both share how your inmost self holds space for an encounter with Jesus and some of your exiled parts? In other words, can you share your personal experiences?

Dr. Peter: [00:36:25] So he’s interested in how do we hold space for an encounter with Jesus. And he says in some of your exiled parts.

Fr. Boniface: [00:36:34] Yeah, I think it’s a great question. It’s been a really helpful insight for me that being aware of different parts coming into relationship with Jesus in my prayer has been really enlightening. I have a little part of me who loves to share and especially this dynamic. It sort of developed because of my older brother. At least that’s how I’ve been able to locate it in my own story. And so especially with figures who are sort of father figures, older brother figures, that part can get hurt and then really recede. And so, being conscious about that in prayer that I have things to share. And there are some elements that have come out. Saint Benedict appeared as a big brother for me, which is also kind of not obvious. We call him Holy Father Benedict, but he really sort of presented himself as a big brother and connecting with him in prayer has really helped me to be in touch with, to activate that part that can often get exiled, that little part of me that loves to share things, and that I can gather up all of my discoveries and show them to my big brother and and to feel really received by him. So I’ve done the process of sharing and not being received. That’s sort of where the painful thing is that sometimes shuts down, not even sharing, but to really feel him receiving me in prayer and delighting in me and being proud of me and these kinds of things. It’s been very beautiful for me to take into my own prayer.

Dr. Peter: [00:38:07] I was thinking about this in that I do work with my parts usually more in the natural realm before I pray, and just kind of checking in with them. Because if they do get distanced from me, if they’re not in right relationship with my innermost self, then they’re going to go back to dysfunctional God images, right. And so to connect with them for my innermost self, for me as my innermost self, to be the secure internal attachment figure for those parts helps them to taste the love of God first. If I’m loving my parts, that actually is coming from God. I can’t generate love on my own. And so they begin to remember them, right, because now they’re back. They’ve got a broader perspective by virtue of being in relationship with the innermost self. It’s not just their particular little narrow focus. And then that flows into prayer for me. So I have a five year old part, very fun loving, who loves to be with Jesus at eight years old. He likes to be with Jesus when Jesus is eight. So we play out these scenes where my five year old is like, because five year olds look up to eight year olds, right? But they’re not like so huge and big that, you know, so the two of them can play, right.

Dr. Peter: [00:39:21] And that might go on for a while. So when I think we hold space for parts and we really love them, it’s also holding space for God to be able to come in in the way that seems right and good and beautiful for those parts at that time. So yeah, in this case, the five year old part of me could ask to be with Jesus at age eight, you know, and Jesus was open to that, like loved that, you know. So it was a sort of a collaboration there but really attuned to the attachment needs, the integrity needs on a natural level of the parts as well as the spiritual needs. So there you have that kind of connection across the dimensions, you know, that we’re talking about. Yeah, and in that experience, I have to say it does feel like it’s one, right. I’m not saying, oh, we’re now focusing on the human formation needs and now we’ve shifted to the spiritual needs or whatever.

Fr. Boniface: [00:40:13] I love what you added that was inherent in what I said, but I haven’t really thought of it in those terms. But when you love that part — so that was the necessary step for me also to love that little boy in me that loves to share, and then having that connection to self and then being able to bring that into relationship with Saint Benedict, in my case. But yeah, beautiful. We have to learn to love those parts of us first.

Dr. Peter: [00:40:41] Yeah. And I think it just makes it so much easier if they have a sense of being loved in the natural realm. Because I think a lot of times people want to go immediately to the spiritual and sometimes, you know, Saint Saint Paul talks about milk and meat. You know, sometimes these parts just need milk, right. And I sort of see that as sort of processed through our bodies, our humanness, you know, like a mother’s milk is. I mean, she eats the meat, you know, and then, you know, she can make it into milk for the little ones, right. And we’re kind of doing that with this relational stuff because they can’t tolerate necessarily the full on exposure that some of our spiritual managers might want to offer them, you know, right away.

Fr. Boniface: [00:41:21] As, as we did on retreat too, and I found to be very beautiful, fruitful is reflections with Scripture and a kind of Ignatian contemplation of identifying with some different parts in Scripture, something like what we did with the Good Samaritan on retreat, but that you can do with something like the the blind Bartimaeus and seeing some of the the tension that develops this blind beggar in me. I have a directee that had that prayer experience — a part of her that she despised in the way that the apostles despised Bartimaeus, and tried to quiet him, but then was able to experience Jesus sort of setting those managers aside and approaching that part that felt, you know, and she really identified with dimensions of him being on the side of the road, down in the dirt, smelly and offensive. But Jesus approached and she was able to encounter him in that interior place.

Dr. Peter: [00:42:20] It’s beautiful. So I do believe this imagery of our Lord, not just imagery but the reality of our Lord in the Gospels reaching out to the most outcast, right? The most, if you will, exiled, the most rejected members of society. And that’s an example for us, I think, for our internal work. To be able to connect with those parts inside that are lost sheep, that are lepers, that are blind, that are lame, that are condemned for various things, and so to be able to reach out to them in love. So in my role as a psychologist… So if I’m working with clients, I definitely want them to be able to experience that from our Lord. I definitely want them to be able to experience that from their own innermost self, that they can love themselves in an ordered way. But also from me. And the question then becomes the order, right? Like what makes sense in terms of what parts can tolerate? I do have some concerns that, and sometimes in spiritual direction, there’s a collusion between the spiritual director’s manager parts and the directee’s manager parts to confine spiritual direction in certain ways, to exclude other parts of the directee, because they’re threatening to both the managers of the directee and the director. So I think what happens then is that there’s a sort of tension that develops, because I think there actually can be real benefits to those spiritual manager parts. But if we leave the other parts behind, the more that there’s a progression of the spiritual manager parts, but leaving the other parts behind, there’s more tension that can develop there. So I don’t know if that resonates with what you’ve experienced.

Fr. Boniface: [00:43:58] Yeah, totally. That’s really well said. Yeah, I think, yeah, the collusion between the the manager parts and that discomfort in receiving the whole person. Yeah. I’ve been exploring, you know, of course, people have often… the Ignatian model of spiritual direction is so prominent in the modern day. And really, the monastic model is foundational even for Ignatius. And the monastic model is sharing. So it’s focused on thoughts. So dialogus or logos, and essentially sharing everything that’s going on inside. So the monastic model is very clear also about the duration. You know, that this is a spiritual father, spiritual mother. This is a optimally lifelong relationship. And then what is shared is everything. So everything in the interior is fair game. And then you’d say, well, you can’t literally share everything. What should you share? Well, share the most vulnerable things. Go to the places that are most vulnerable, most tender. So nobody should be reinforced, at least at an ideological level. Now, in the point of intellectual formation, let’s remove the idea that spiritual direction should be limited to manager parts. And really it should be open to anything in the interior. Yeah.

Dr. Peter: [00:45:16] So you’re describing in that monastic tradition of spiritual direction, a structural invitation for all parts to make their voices heard. That’s how I’m sort of thinking. It’s like it’s built into that model of spiritual direction. We have a question here:

[00:45:34] Can spiritual direction be positive and productive in instances when the director has strong hiding parts or protectors that don’t want to be transparent with the director?

Dr. Peter: [00:45:48] This is dovetailing exactly with what we’ve been talking about. So what happens, right, when the directee has parts that want to be open, right, want to share, want to reveal the heart to the director, but where exposure, vulnerability has, you know, resulted in really problematic outcomes in the past, right. There’s parts that are gun shy about that revealing. So can spiritual direction still be productive, can still be beneficial in those kinds of situations?

Fr. Boniface: [00:46:18] Well, I see that as a need for developing trust and the way that I reverence those hiding parts, and, you know, as you said, they’re gun shy, there are stories there of bad experiences or they wouldn’t be protecting. They’re protecting something. And so, I reverence those parts. In some cases, there are directees who are hiding things, who are not aware that they’re hiding things. In other cases, directees are hiding things that they are aware that they’re hiding. In some cases, they actually tell me that. There’s more there, and I’m not going to tell you. And I’m always kind of charmed and challenged by that. Like, okay, I’m not going to forget that either. And I’m going to win your trust and I’m going to know when the breakthrough happens, that that hiding part knows that I’m safe enough to share that with. But I consider that a challenge for me. Well, anyway, an invitation for me to develop trust. And then trust takes time. And so the way that I reverence the parts that are able to speak and that do trust me, so that they can also maybe step aside or help me to speak to other parts.

Dr. Peter: [00:47:29] You’re talking about just sort of honoring where the person is in these parts, like to not just force a complete manifestation of all that’s going on inside. It sort of sounds inhuman, like it’s violent. Yes. That it does violence to the internal world of the person. And I would also argue it may not be natural or prudent for the directee. Maybe I’m wrong about this, but for the directee immediately to manifest everything. I’m not sure that that necessarily is the best course, because, you know, there might be reasons that parts are picking up on that. This director may also need time in some way.

Fr. Boniface: [00:48:10] That’s right, yeah. That can be hard to take. But that’s really true. Yeah. There may be some things in myself that I need to work on in the way that I’m receiving the person or understanding them.

Dr. Peter: [00:48:21] Yeah, I think sometimes the assumption can be from parts, that if there is difficulty in spiritual direction, that it’s all the “fault” of the directee, you know. And that goes back to that first question that we had, you know, and how do you recognize that and so forth. Can you appreciate that? Can you own that? Because I think, I mean, I know the way I was raised, you idealized priests. I mean, you know, spiritual directors, like, that was a big deal. And you didn’t challenge them. They were holy. You know, they had given their lives to God. And, you know, so there was this, you know, sort of structural idealization that happened. And that doesn’t mean, again, to approach this with too much suspicion or whatever, but just to, again be attentive to what’s going on. And I think our parts do inform us about — and this is one of the reasons why they’re so precious and so important — that they do inform us of things that are really going on, and we don’t want to just diminish that.

Fr. Boniface: [00:49:14] Yeah, I’m often reinforcing, trying to live out myself and reinforcing with my spiritual directors to make it as easy as possible for the directee to push against something that you might be saying. Because I think not only can a directee think the spiritual director is always perfect and I must always be the problem. Spiritual directors also reinforce that because nobody wants to be the problem, it’s always better if it’s the other person that’s the problem. So if they’re already willing to be complicit with that misconception, then we can push into that. But we really, as the ones who have the power in the relationship, we need to be the ones, the spiritual directors who are willing to admit fault, acknowledge that, did I just say something that hurt you? It seemed like I just shut you down. I’m sorry, I misspoke, or that when a directee is having a struggle that I’m willing to admit my part of it. I just a couple of weeks ago taught on forgiveness and repair, in my spiritual direction class, which I hadn’t taught before. And it was really, really helpful to go through. Spiritual directors need to be able to initiate repair when when we make mistakes. And maybe some of that repair is particularly magnified because of the woundedness, the sensitivities, the story of the directee, but it also contains something I did wrong and I need to acknowledge my part. The repair after that rupture can bring the directee into an even more beautiful place, the relationship to a more beautiful place.

Dr. Peter: [00:50:47] That’s exactly, and it teaches something real about relating, right? You know, like that’s so important. I think it’s important for parents too, to be able to apologize to their children because, yeah, otherwise there can be crazy making, you know, like the child will wind up owning everything, even that which is really the parents. You’re describing that in terms of spiritual fatherhood or spiritual motherhood in the spiritual direction relationship, because that’s something that often people did not get with their natural parents. It’s beautiful. We have another question that has come in:

[00:51:24] Father Boniface, can you talk about the prophetic timing of human formation in the context of Pastores Dabo Vobis, given the cultural issues in the meltdown of the family, marriage, etc.?

Fr. Boniface: [00:51:35] Yeah. So in other words, why in… Was it ’91 or ’93?

Dr. Peter: [00:51:40] I think it was ’92 that Pastores Dabo Vobis came out.

Fr. Boniface: [00:51:43] Split the difference, right. Why was it at that time that the dimension of human formation was made explicit in seminary formation? And was there a prophetic aspect to that because of the things that were happening culturally. I would certainly say so. I mean I think that’s a very good proposal and it’s only gotten worse, I think since the 90s. And that disintegration of relationships, you know, it’s kind of my broader proposal in general that a lot of the things, some of the sexual things, ideologies, gender, just a lot of the identity challenges. We derive identity from relationship. And so where relationships have fallen apart, I mean, the whole social matrix is just shredded. And then isn’t there going to obviously be a lot of these other things that are emerging? And so we keep doing symptom management, but we’re not getting at the heart of the cause. And so, yeah, I think John Paul II, he was so in touch with the body, with human sexuality, with marriage and family at so many levels. I mean, before he was even the Holy Father. And so I imagine he was particularly sensitive to how things were coming apart. And then to bring that into, you know, a seminary should be in some way like a family and has the potential to repair some of the damage that some of those family relationships may have left wanting from various parenting styles, from the ravages of divorce. And then the, I think even the lack of additional supportive relationships when we had real neighborhoods, when we had extended families that were close by, when even with teachers and coaches, and it seems to me that there was a lot more committed, parent-like relationships that were happening in the broader society. And yeah, so as a lot of that has come apart, I think the need for human formation, we’re formed, again at the level of identity and emotional regulation, and a lot of real basic elements of our humanity are formed in relationships. And as those things fell apart, I think to make that explicit became more and more important.

Dr. Peter: [00:53:57] More and more important, right, because we need to be perhaps more intentional about it in this day and age, more intentional about formation. Things that we could have maybe taken for granted would happen just as the met, in the normal course of living for most people, are harder to come by. And so there’s going to have to be more of an intentionality there. Yeah, I think so. I think so. So I’m curious about what you’re noticing inside, just as we kind of talk. Like I’m wondering if just kind of from your own personal experience, like what’s going on with your parts, like, even in this, if I can ask that, if it’s okay, just with your parts right now, as we’re having these discussions. Are you noticing that there’s a part of you that, you know, might want to say something or might want you to speak for that part, or that might be telling you something. Like sort of an invitation just for you to kind of go inside and just connect at a deeper level that says, no, you really need to make this point or, or something, just kind of speaking from sort of that part’s own experience right now.

Fr. Boniface: [00:55:10] I love that question. Mm. Well, something I’ve been aware of, maybe throughout this conversation and the last one as well, I’m really trying to express everything in parts language, probably one degree more than I normally do, and I’m feeling a little inadequate in that. I feel like I’m munging vocabulary and I’m mixing concepts and I’m trying to force, not force something, but maybe express something in terms that I normally express in language, use language that I know inside and out and all of the different dimensions of it. And I suppose especially talking with, not — I was going to say especially talking with you, Dr. Peter — not that I feel any pressure or any judgment at all from you. You’re just receiving me so nicely. But I’m just aware of, I know you do know this language and live in this space, so I’m just that much more aware. With other people, they’re not going to have any idea that I’m, you know, sort of blurring categories or something like that. But you’re receiving me so beautifully as well.

Dr. Peter: [00:56:19] Well, and to just kind of reach out to that part of you, to let you know, you can use whatever language is helpful to you. You don’t have to try to use IFS language. I would just invite you to use language that you’re most comfortable with, the language you’re most familiar with. There’s no need to try to shoehorn it into the language of this podcast, which is really, since this is mostly a solo cast, has been really largely a solo cast where I talk a lot on my own, you know, that’s my voice, that’s my language. But I would love to hear your voices, right. The voices of your parts and the way that they would like to express it, you know, without feeling like, you know, there’s an obligation to, to conform to something, some expectations here. Because I don’t feel that. I really like to connect with your parts and to have them be more fully present, because then when they’re more fully present, you’re more fully present, you know. And I really do want that relationship with you here.

Fr. Boniface: [00:57:17] That’s really beautiful. What’s happening in there… I think, well, I suppose there may be a couple of pieces to that. I’m aware of the context and the time. And so there’s maybe a part of me that feels a need to be a little bit more efficient. And then, for the sake of efficiency, if I use your language, you’ll understand me more quickly. And so, rather than recreating my own whole context in order to answer something — which I would feel more free to do if we were sitting for hours on your back porch. So there’s probably a little bit of that, too.

Dr. Peter: [00:57:58] Well, thank you. So there’s an act of love there in trying to make it, trying to speak in the mode of the receiver. Yeah. Beautiful. Well, we have David on deck and ready to share with us. So yeah, let’s open it up to that.

[00:58:12] All right. Hey, Father Boniface, this is David from Wichita. Last time we we were talking, I was on page 117 of Personal Prayer, and now I’ve made it to page… No, I’ve actually read the book a couple of times, but my question is about suffering and how that relates to our parts, right. And the pieces that come up in our life that are those desolations, that are really gifts inviting us deeper in, right. But to not spiritual bypass so that they can all get rotated, right. And you talk about three different levels of suffering here. I think. And so just if you maybe had a comment on that and our parts, making sense. So “there is suffering that comes from self-absorption. This suffering is not to be borne but should be eliminated if possible. And that happens by dying to self and becoming absorbed in the Lord. It happens every time we turn away from self and turn toward the other. Some suffering comes from — so this is part two, I think — from deprivation and this often can and should be eliminated. And I think this is three — suffering that comes from outside myself and which cannot be eliminated, can be assimilated during prayer by being accepted and possibly offered up, rather than becoming a cause for self-pity or self-absorption. And then fourth — but the suffering that comes from love while being purified should not be eliminated and usually serves to deepen love even further.”

Fr. Boniface: [00:59:45] Well, you’re inviting me to learn from my own book, David. You have probably thought about this paragraph more than I have at this point. And that is a little bit of a mixture of Father Tom and me. I recognize some of his voice, especially those dimensions of self-absorption. But I think the basic thing is that there is suffering that can be resolved, there is healing that can take place, and suffering that can be resolved or reduced or eliminated, in precisely the ways that we’re talking about here. So the suffering that comes from an inner critic hating a little part of me that doesn’t understand or misbehaves or hating a firefighter in me. So there are places of internal tension that can be resolved through interior integration, and they should be. And I think I’m forgetting what that second one was that should also be eliminated.

[01:00:43] Yeah, some suffering comes from deprivation and this often can and should be, and on and on.

Fr. Boniface: [01:00:49] Yeah. No, that’s right, that’s right. So deprivation that… so not in an unrelated way that there are parts of me that are carrying burdens, that if those parts were loved and supported, then perhaps those burdens could be released, that suffering could be released. So we should work towards the elimination of suffering in that sense, but also realize that in this fallen world… Well, I would say one thing is we are where we are, and none of that suffering is useless. And it does a number of things. One thing is that it motivates us to work on it. It’s a sign that we’re not meant to be in this place of maybe internal conflict or deprivation, and the pain that we feel motivates us to do something about it — find a therapist or a spiritual director or a friend or talk to somebody. So it’s helpful in that sense. But it’s also already integrated with the sufferings of Christ, so he is also with us in it. There is no suffering that is foreign to him. And so there are parts of us that can be in relationship with him in the suffering. And so it’s not just when I finally get over this suffering, then I’ll be able to get on with whatever I want to get on with, but already in the suffering, there can be communion, there can be a relationship, that relationship with Christ.

Fr. Boniface: [01:02:09] And then as Dr. Peter and I have been talking about, the relationship with the therapist, the spiritual director, in the very sharing of the suffering. So in recognizing that it can be healed or eliminated, I wouldn’t want to send the message that you need to get over it and you can’t bring it up, but to the contrary. It’s healed through being brought into communion. But then even having come to a place of being, let’s say, self-led and having interior integration, there will still be suffering, in part because we’re entering into the suffering of others. We’re actually being affected by those who are suffering from deprivation or have internal conflicts or in relational distress or have, you know, so in our compassion for others, there’s going to be a suffering that we share in, that we come into communion with. And that’s really necessary, so that the healing comes by entering into communion with it in a way that it’s not sort of abstracted and intellectualized, spiritualized. The spiritual bypassing in many ways, as we’ve also talked about, is a way of avoiding entering into things. We have parts of us that might be afraid of feeling what somebody else is feeling, being touched by their depression, being touched by their self-loathing, or the after effects of abuse, being touched by the painful things that people go through.

Fr. Boniface: [01:03:32] So being able to enter into somebody’s suffering, which is not feeling it in the same degree and intensity, necessarily, but it is feeling it, is entering into it, is an essential part of love. And then we’re going to suffer simply because of the evil everywhere in the world. So it’s evil, it’s things being not yet heaven, not the way that they’re supposed to be, not what we’re made for, which causes suffering. And so insofar as we live in this world, there will be suffering. And being able to bear that, again, we don’t bear it alone. We bear it with others and we bear it with the Lord. And we also have a reason for hope that helps us to have what we need to move through it. It’s a sort of basic structure of Jordan Peterson that I like very much. He says, you know, there is suffering. You’re not going to eliminate it. The best you can do is find a reason to push through it. And so then we need an adequate reason. And it’s sort of a Viktor Frankl’s approach to logotherapy as well. Did I get into your question enough, David? Is there another dimension that you want me to expand on?

[01:04:41] That was beautiful. And then I think just, I think you hit on the first three and the last one… maybe you did and I just didn’t quite… but the suffering that comes from love while being purified should not be eliminated, but usually serves to deepen love even further.

Fr. Boniface: [01:04:56] Well, I guess the suffering that comes from love is in part the compassion that I was talking about. So being in relati`onship with another is going to be in relationship with their suffering. The other thing that would be the suffering that comes from love is the fact that love is not fully consummated, it’s not where we’re meant to be in heaven. So there’s always… Well, for example, this podcast will come to an end, and if I didn’t love so much, that wouldn’t be so painful, right. So there’s a suffering that’s inherent in love because of the limitations of this world, our humanity, which has not been fully divinized. A suffering which will not be there in heaven but continues to be there. And that’s kind of my understanding. I’m always hesitant to talk about other religions or other beliefs or something like that, because I don’t know them that well. But my understanding is that the Buddhist’s sense is that all suffering comes from desire. So the elimination of desire will lead to the elimination of suffering, and that would lead to the elimination of love. If there is no desire, if there is no love, then there is no suffering, at least in some, we’re affected by it in a different way, I suppose. But as Christians, we suffer that we are not yet fully aware. Love longs to be in an eternal and unending communion. Thanks for the question. Great to talk to you.

Dr. Peter: [01:06:22] I think we have one more question here that we can address in the time that we have. And it’s come in:

[01:06:27] In resisting spiritual bypassing, is there not also the risk of bypassing the spiritual, bypassing the walk with Jesus? And is there a way to navigate this?

Fr. Boniface: [01:06:40] That’s a great question. I actually have one of my handouts in my SD1, my Art of Accompaniment course actually says exactly that. It flips those those two — not to focus so much on the spiritual that we lose the human, but not to focus so much on the human that we lose the spiritual. And yeah, I think, it’s a very funny contrast too. So Father Tom and I teach together. Now, Father Tom is the psychoanalyst who probably let the spiritual go at a certain point. He never went sort of anti or anything like that, but maybe focused a bit more on the human. And now when he teaches it’s like really pushing Jesus and speaking about God. And I’m the guy that started from this like spiritual bypassing world and have pushed in the opposite direction. So we have this funny complementarity. But yeah, I think just the awareness of that danger is probably enough. That I shouldn’t avoid bringing God in or resist it. I think that was a good word that was used. If there’s a natural door that’s opening, if the directee or the counselee is speaking in that language or open to that dimension, or, you know, and just our own openness to the Holy Spirit. I suppose it just comes out of being self-led too. I mean, if there’s a part of me that’s trying to keep God out of it, I mean, that’s a manager with an agenda. Or likewise, if I’m trying to keep the human out of it, it’s a manager with an agenda. But just, the openness in relationship, I think, will remedy that.

Dr. Peter: [01:08:14] Yeah. And I refer to what this listener was talking about as naturalizing, right. We can spiritualize. We can take something that’s fundamentally in the natural realm, more or less, and elevate it to the spiritual realm. Or we can something that’s spiritual and naturalize it. And the reason I talk more about spiritualizing and spiritual bypassing as a subcategory of spiritualizing, is that you tend to see that more commonly than naturalizing when it comes to devout Catholics. We tend to see spiritualizing and spiritual bypassing more commonly than you see naturalizing. In our secularized culture, there’s an incredible amount of naturalizing of things, though, right? If we’re not in touch with God, right, if we’ve gone into a kind of passive agnosticism, you know, and we’re not really seeking and we’re having consequences of that, you know, the consequences of that, we can say, oh, this is a natural level problem. You know, that the things that I’m struggling with are really because of natural level issues, because all that person sees is the natural realm. They’re not really considering the spiritual realm. And so I think you tend to see more of the issues in our culture around naturalizing in folks that are not seeking the connection with God. I think the impulses can be more towards spiritualizing with those that are really invested in connecting. So it also depends on like kind of where is the person on their journey as well.

Dr. Peter: [01:09:38] Well, I want to extend to you, my dear Father Boniface, I just love this time you talked about, you know, the pain about the time ending. And I’m sharing in that. I could go on for hours and hours, you know, talking with you, especially with the contributions of those that are in our audience, just love to be able to hear from people and kind of where they’re at and what’s on their minds and hearts. But we will be bringing this to a close. So I want to thank you, so fully, right, and to thank all of your parts, you know, for being here and for contributing, because I sense that this is not just your innermost self that you’re sharing with us. You’re also sharing the beautiful things that your parts hold, you know, that they have to offer. And so I really appreciate that. We’re going to be continuing with this series on the integration of personal formation, these different domains. We’re going to be bringing in a number of different guests to the podcast to be able to share with us how they approach this question of integration, of formation, particularly looking at, you know, the formation of formators, but also, you know, the ideas that are coming up that are so important for us as people to be fully alive, to fully flourish in love and being loved and in loving. And so I invite you to continue with us on this journey. It’s going to take us some more months to work through the lineup I have.

Dr. Peter: [01:11:01] I’m super excited about that. I also want to say that it’s less than a month away, that we’re going to reopen the Resilient Catholics Community, and I’m really excited about that. Our next cohort will be Saint Gertrude the Great. It’s our seventh cohort, and we already have more than 260 on the interest list. The interest has gone way up, I think, in part because of the work that you’re doing, Father Boniface, Dr. Gerry’s book, the podcast, the word is getting out there about Internal Family Systems approaches. The Resilient Catholics Community is all about your human formation and your intellectual formation, and as we have these conversations over the last couple of days, there’s more spiritual formation probably in there than I would have initially recognized or admitted. But, you know, but also, all in the service, too, of being able to live out the three loves and the two great commandments — to love your God wholeheartedly with all your parts, with all of your being. I think about Saint Therese of Lisieux and her aspiration toward the end of her life. She had this tremendous insight that her vocation was to become love, to embody love so fully that it permeates all of her being. And that’s what I want for you. That’s what I want for me. And so we’re looking at what gets in the way in terms of human formation. How can we flourish and grow? We have a year-long program that hundreds of people have gone through now.

Dr. Peter: [01:12:27] And we’re tuning that. And it’s an opportunity for you to really, in a structured way, work on your human formation and not by yourself, not as a lone wolf, not on your own, but in community, in the small groups that we call companies, after the Lord of the Rings, you know, that we’re in company together, journeying together, and with your companions. This is one or sometimes two people that you connect with on a daily basis for that accompaniment as well. So I’m going to encourage people to check that out. Go to, for Resilient Catholic Community, and take a look at that. And then also we’re doing a really interesting series where we take Gary Chapman’s work, his book, The Five Love Languages of Children, and he wrote that with Ross Campbell, and we’re going through that, but we’re bringing in this new dimension of parts, understanding what he’s writing about, these different love languages, from a parts perspective, from a parts and systems perspective, not just in the child, but also in the parent, and what makes that difficult at a deeper level. So it’s not just a skills-based kind of training, but actually connecting with what in me makes it harder to speak the love language of a child, my own son or daughter or another child, and also the child like parts in other people. It’s not just children because we have these parts that are often really, really young.

Dr. Peter: [01:13:48] So that’s what Souls and Hearts is all about. It’s all about helping you to tolerate being loved throughout all of your being, and then to reflect that love back to God, to neighbor, to yourself. And so that’s our huge adventure. We’d love to have you join us. You can reach out to me during conversation hours. Those are every Tuesday and Thursday from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time, that’s at my cell, my private cell number 317-567-9594, 317-567-9594. I’ll be happy to talk with you, usually about ten minutes, you know, and if you don’t reach me during that time, I’m on another call. Just leave me a voicemail. I’ll call you back. Just love to be able to get in touch with folks about, you know, what we’re talking about in the podcast episodes, what we’re talking about in the weekly reflections. I can’t do clinical consultations. We don’t offer any clinical services. I can’t, I’m not going to take your history and diagnose or, you know, try to provide, you know, psychotherapy over the phone. I can’t do that. But we certainly can engage with what these themes are. So I’d love to hear from folks that way. And so, just as we wrap this up today, Father Boniface, just any final thoughts that, you know, maybe a part of you would like to share, or your innermost self, that come from your innermost self, anything that you would like to leave us with to consider as we move on with the rest of our day and our week?

Fr. Boniface: [01:15:13] Well, I’m just so grateful for you, Dr. Peter, and really, really delighted at the time that we could be together. You are so easy to talk with. You just make such a comfortable environment. I feel very loved and received by you and and delighted at our listeners and the questions. I just think it’s… So there are intellectual parts of me. They get so excited about putting all of the things together and seeing how things fit at an intellectual level. But all of that’s always getting sort of embodied in my own spiritual direction practice and then shared with directees. And then I just love hearing from listeners who are having, they’re doing their own process and gathering that together. And I love learning, and so, anyway. It’s really, really fun to be with you. And I just love the confluence that’s taking place in these different spaces. And I’m so happy that you’re bringing formators and having influence on formation spaces like seminaries and into the therapy world and bringing spiritual direction and coaches and anyway, just really, really love all that. And I’m very honored to be a part of it.

Dr. Peter: [01:16:23] Well, I’m just honored to know you and to be in relationship with you and to consider you a friend and a companion on the journey. And I love when we’re able to journey together, you know, for a time on the path, like in an immediate relationship with each other. And so part of it is the joy in bringing in the audience to kind of share what that’s like, because it is very much like this when we meet outside of our podcast episodes as well. Which does happen, right? It’s not solely confined to podcast episodes. So thank you. And I’m wondering if you would lead us in our invocations to our patroness and our patrons, to Our Lady Untier of Knots and to Saint Joseph and to Saint John the Baptist.

Fr. Boniface: [01:17:08] Let us pray. Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of this time together. Please bless all of those who have participated, who listen and who will listen. We make this prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen. Our Lady, Undoer of Knots.

Dr. Peter: Pray for us.

Fr. Boniface: Saint Joseph.

Dr. Peter: Pray for us.

Fr. Boniface: Saint John the Baptist.

Dr. Peter: Pray for us.

Fr. Boniface: And may Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Special thanks to the Human Formation Coalition, who provided the support to make this transcript available.

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