Below are some suggestions for applying the SOCA method for women–that is, to help them attain their destiny which is union with God. This height cannot be forgotten, lest the danger of lukewarmness in the appearance of being a “happy Catholic” arise. The flourishing of the life of grace progresses more and more interiorly. Having external discipline is necessary for such interiority. Below are merely suggestions and I am certainly open to discussion and comments about how to adjust them. Finally, many of these suggestions apply to both men and women. I was just first asked how to apply this method of apostolate by a woman.
I suggest reading “the Method” first. Women are different than men…
-I’d except the “friendship” would look different. Perhaps the relationships is grounded in greater sensitivity yet more hands-on accountability. I would think this because men take longer to grow in trust, whereas women will quickly trust but this trust is more quickly lost. Women also tend to need more guidance, more frequently than men.
-Be careful to not let it become “coaching” about some matter insignificant to salvation (ex: the basic resolutions in a spiritual plan of life). If the trainee is not willing to talk about such matters and commit to doing them, I hate to say it, but I would say your time is better spent elsewhere. To figure this out, be straightforward: write down basic resolutions they should set as goals. If they hesitate, ask if they truly want to live for God. If they say yes, then this is a concrete manifestation of the habits they should begin to try to obtain. If they say they want to start striving and are honest/serious about it, then they should also be OK with having accountability with it. Clarity IS KEY.
-If you do not have a rule of life decided upon and consistent practice of it already yourself: do as Saint Teresa of Avila says (I believe in the 8th chapter of her autobiography): do not “appear” to come across as a teacher or an example. Suggest accountability as a mutual exercise. You can subtly say “this is what the saints recommend” in what the other is to agree upon. This should only be done in the context of 1) one’s close circle of influence (ex: immediate family or very close friend), or 2) someone asking for mutual (that is, you both aid one another) accountability. Otherwise, you will risk falling into activism and ruin your own spiritual life.
-I’d suggest not putting too much weight on yourself to “make this happen” and don’t put too much hope in the success of this immediate purpose you have. That can set you up for pride and serious discouragement–and attachment to having their good opinion to the point that you water things down and never really invite them to give everything to God with complete amendment of their life. Keep the standard high–and make it crystal clear: then they choose whether or not to “drink of the chalice”. They probably won’t–and that clarity will keep you from wasting your time worrying or trying to be so tactful that you never act. Don’t consider yourself much of a “salesman” with regard to their “yes or no”, other than reminding them of the reality of their soul’s situation in this short life before facing God and entering eternity. Let grace do the converting of hearts.
-Make a clear plan of accountability. For example, have a list of resolutions laid our in an excel sheet you two electronically share. Include rise time, mental prayer, spiritual reading, the rosary, and a brief examination of conscience. Plan to talk for an hour exclusively dedicated to things relevant to accountability. Choose a book to walk through with each other (recommended: either the Baltimore Catechism if that hasn’t happened yet, or a basic book on Saint Teresa’s method of mental prayer like Conversation with Christ).
-I think for women in particular it is important not to let it become a time to simply state a bunch of your emotional problems, etc. Often times this can just be an affirmation of vanities. There is a place to “talk things through”. But this must be moderated and regulated appropriately, in the context of keeping strictly to a rule of life and a schedule to follow in one’s day (lest the talks go on for hours and become an idol).
-Of course, this is all said in prudence with the particular circumstance in mind. Women particularly can have strong/sharp reactions to subtle things, so knowing who you are talking with is very important.