Can a religious superior tell a sister under her care to change spiritual directors? Would the sister be obliged (vow of obedience!) to find a new priest?


I was told that if the novice mistress doesn’t like you seeing a particular priest for spiritual direction because he’s too young or your too close in age or some other reason like that, she will tell you that she would prefer you choose another director. I realize that religious vow obedience, but this vow has limits. Like if a superior asks you to do something sinful then of course we do not obey. Can a superior ask you to find a new SD? SD is something so personal between the directee and God, I’m just not sure if a superior can legitimately ask a sister to find a new one…

I could understand if there was some unhealthy relationship between the sister and the SD, but just because she doesn’t like the priest? Or thinks he’s too young? Or too close to the sisters age? Come on.


I’m pretty sure obedience to a Superior is one of the first rules of consecrated life.

Sounds reasonable to me.


Nope. Not really. Obedience means obedience.

We’re not talking mortal sin. We’re talking about changing spiritual directors. If you look at the lives of the Saints, you will see – over and over and over again – obedience to the direction of their superiors (if they were religious) and their spiritual directors.

Actually, a spiritual director worth his weight in spit would tell the novice in question to follow the orders of her superior. Period.

God bless you!



Yes, she can, and if she does she will no doubt have good reason.


As others have said, obedience is obedience in religious life. And yes, in some cases having someone who may be too young (little experience in spiritual direction) or similar ages could be detrimental to one’s spiritual growth depending on the individual situation.

I guess I’m disturbed by your last statement – Come on. As someone who has posted her excitement about entering the convent, I hope you have prepared a better response to your novice mistress than this.**


Yeah, I’m a fallen human. I’m really sorry that I disturbed you, but I have yet to leave some childish ways and bad habits behind. Perhaps God is asking me to enter a convent because I need the extra help. :slight_smile:

I suppose I don’t think about obedience as black and white. I’m probably wrong in how I think about it though, I fully admit that. It’s just that I know there are some things that we MUST disobey if a superior tells us to do them, surely a superior would not tell us to do sinful things on purpose though… But it likely happens inadvertently at times… they are fallen humans too.


Your are likely smarting because she made it sound like there was something too personal going on with you two. And your response says that yes, you are too attached to him. Good that she picked up on this. And realize that in your situation, your focus should be on growth, not individuals.
God bless you on the journey. Sounds like you have a good Superior who cares deeply for you.


**]I think that you are looking at extreme situations, most people in religious life hardly encounter. Saying that, the temptation is to equate a superior ordering someone to do something they may not personally agree with as the same as being asked to do something sinful. They are not always the same thing, and to assume you would always know best is a dangerous path to take, not just in religious life, but life itself. That would indicate to me, either as a novice mistress/master or a supervisor on the job, as someone who is not willing to listen to other points of view or be open to other possibilities. I’m not sure I would want that kind of my person at my employment or in my religious community. Remember you can always ask for an explanation and any good person in authority would/should give you one. Also remember discernment is a two way street **


The superior has the obligation to lead hearts away from the world, and turn them entirely to God. Therefore, she has an even greater obligation to change a sister’s director if that director is not entirely suited to the sister. Doesn’t matter if he’s old or young, he must be wise.

St Teresa of Avila advised her superiors to take anything away from a sister that she gets attached to, including her cell (switch with another sister). When asked about SDs – holy or wise – she said “A wise one.”

Therefore, the religious must strive to be so detached from all created things that they will not bat an eyelash if the superior removes it. However, if a superior removes something necessary for the life/remunerative work of the monastery or convent, that should be called into question if no replacement is provided. Such would be akin to the Pharaoh removing the straw the Israelite slaves needed to make bricks.



Okay. Part of the issue is also tat I’m the type of person who is slow to trust and not quick to open up, so for me, because I’m not even in the convent yet, for it to get personal so quickly is a little …surprising… to me anyways.

Yeah, she is really great. I’m fortunate to have her in my life.


It’s entirely possible. I expect that’s why He led me to my Secular Order. :smiley:


Just remember that the Holy Spirit works through others and possibly the Holy Spirit is working though the Superior have a better outcome. Trust in God and put your fear behind you. If you say you trust in God, then fear has no place in your life. My prayers are with you.

Pax tecum,



Mother Superior can command her sisters under obedience to find another spiritual director simply because she doesn’t like the mole on the tip of his nose or because he has a missing tooth. There is merit in obeying even this.

So yes, there is no “come on”. If Mother commands under obedience (and does not merely “suggest”), then obey.


Obedience has moved on considerably from by-gone days of as you’re told when you’re told… Authority in religious life is not absolute, it needs be understood as a way to help the community to seek and achieve the will of God. Matters of spiritual direction and confession are also given strong protection in terms of the rights of the individual. That said, there are of course limits - for example if a sister wanted to use as an SD a priest (or other religious) who was not in good standing with their bishop or superior this wouldn’t be allowed. Something more than a missing tooth (or indeed teeth) would be required IHMO.


This klnd of argument i what has caused the downfall of religious life ie letting the world dictate. Obedience is the lynch pin of religious life. Immediate and unquestioning . op I am not clear; you are in an order and are canvassing support on an internet forum? OH DEAR!


She’s not in an order yet…she’s about to enter.


If you tell a child not to do something or act in a certain way…what do you have? A naughty child. If you tell a religious not to do something or act in a certain way…what do you have? A naughty nun.:smiley:

On a more serious note, if you can not abey in small things how will obey in greater matters.

After Vat. 11 their was a big exodus from religious life because everyone wanted to do their own thing.


Actually, the research on why people left religious life after Vatican II does NOT sustain the claim that “everyone wanted to do their own thing.” Many who left should never have been in religious life in the first place. They were admitted because of inadequate or nonexistent screening, among other things. Then they stayed because they were told that religious life represented a “higher state of grace,” and that God would condemn them if they “betrayed” Him by leaving. [Never mind what the Catholic community would do.] Of those who left because of the “changes,” the research shows that about half left because there were too many changes, and half because things were not changing fast enough…


If anything I would say the opposite is true. Immediate and unquestioning obedience (in all matters) was one of the hallmarks of the ill-fated Legionaries of Christ who had as one of their rules of life a prohibition on criticising a superior. It’s also important to remember that obedience doesn’t apply to everything - a superior couldn’t, for example, dictate what type of toothpaste their community should use - but only to those matter which are covered by the order’s constitutions.


Of course it can be and sometimes is abused. That does not invalidate Holy Obedience in any way. And no you do not criticise a superior who is as Christ and to be obeyed if it is not against your conscience or the law. If you get worried re eg the brand of toothpaste then maybe you should think again re your vocation… being obedient in small things matters.

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