Pay for Lay Spiritual Direction?


#1

Is it considered OK within the Church to pay for spiritual direction? There are a group of women at my parish who have supposedly been trained by “Spiritual Directors International” who often have a notice in the parish bulletin. I suspect that “business is not good.” The ad says:

“Companions or Spiritual Directors who have completed a period of formation are available for you. At XYX, we are blessed with people who are willing to walk with you on your faith journey.”

I looked at some of the names and they didn’t appear to be competent enough to teach RCIA.
We have four priests at my parish and two deacons. Seems like maybe they should be taking this on? At the very least the “formed” laity shouldn’t be paying for the “service.” Thoughts?


#2

That is really strange, I think that it is something to stay away from. I would check with the diocese. Usually a diocese has an individual that is in charge of spiritual direction, I would look for that person and ask questions.


#3

It is not uncommon for spiritual directors to receive payment for their services. The only question is whether they are competent and helpful, not whether they are clergy, religious or laity. Note that most clergy and religious are not trained in spiritual direction.

Just as a point of comparison, I received training in a certificate program in spiritual direction at a Catholic institution. The cost of the training was $1,800 for a series of graduate-level courses. I did not charge to provide spiritual direction to my directees since I had a good income. However, I paid my last spiritual director (a woman religious) $60 a session (about one hour once a month). I was happy to do so since she was an excellent director and retreat ministry and spiritual direction was her full-time ministry and how she paid the bills.


#4

[quote="Exorcist, post:1, topic:289576"]
Is it considered OK within the Church to pay for spiritual direction? There are a group of women at my parish who have supposedly been trained by "Spiritual Directors International" who often have a notice in the parish bulletin. I suspect that "business is not good." The ad says:

"Companions or Spiritual Directors who have completed a period of formation are available for you. At XYX, we are blessed with people who are willing to walk with you on your faith journey."

I looked at some of the names and they didn't appear to be competent enough to teach RCIA.
We have four priests at my parish and two deacons. Seems like maybe they should be taking this on? At the very least the "formed" laity shouldn't be paying for the "service." Thoughts?

[/quote]

You are concerned that these spiritual director people might not be competent.

Well, you're right. They might not be competent.

Yet, think of this: Thousands of Catholics come to these very Forums and get answers from their fellow lay Catholics. If we are honest, virtually NONE of those giving answers on this Forum are competent to be teachers of the Faith in RCIA, or in a Catholic high school. Yet, this mass incompetence (including my own) doesn't stop people from coming here.

Yet, you raise the issue of payment. I agree with you that the requirement of payment "raises the stakes" and changes the picture.

Even so, one big reality is that there definitely are not enough priests and deacons to provide free, ongoing, in-depth spiritual direction to every Catholic who wants it. Many famous books say that a spiritual director is necessary to make progress. I know Cardinal Bona's book Guidance to Heaven says that, and I think Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis and Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales say that too. And when Catholics go on retreats and Marian conferences they are often advised to get a spiritual director when they go back home. But priests and deacons simply don't have time to do a lot of spiritual direction. Some aren't even sure how to do it, really.

Thus, it has become very common for lay people, and some nuns and monks, to get specific training in spiritual direction and to charge a fee for it. In a sense, they have a professional practice somewhat like a psychological counselor, except that the deal with spiritual matters.

The reality is that unless you are someone special, like a seminarian, or a U.S. senator, or niece of a bishop, you probably will not be able to get ongoing spiritual direction (for say, a matter of months or years). That means you'll have to pay for it.

So, you might end up paying for spiritual direction from someone who really isn't qualified, or even from someone who is a dissenter from some or many aspects of the teaching of the Church.

Nevertheless, despite all that, I, despite all my own incompetence to be your adviser, suggest that you try spiritual direction, if you can afford it. You must be feeling bad, or you won't be considering seeking spiritual help.

Even if the personal you are talking to and getting to know and who is getting to know you is kind of amateurish in spiritual matters, and even if they are a left-wing dissenter or right-wing dissenter from genuine Catholic teaching, they still might be helpful to you if they have "people smarts."

But I'd proceed with these guidelines:

(1) Only seek spiritual direction from someone who, upon meeting them, you feel comfortable with, and tend to like and respect. If the person seems weird or extremist, just get pretend that you just remembered that you left your stove on, and get out of their.

(2) Require that they give you a free trial session first. If they won't do that, then move on.

(3) Decide ahead of time how much you can afford for spiritual direction per month. Then, after the spiritual director reveals their fee, if it is more than you can afford per month, tell the person what you can afford, and stick to it. If that isn't enough for them, then move on.

By the way, this organization you mentioned, Spiritual Directors International, was founded by a Catholic nun. Of course, in this day and age, that is no assurance that what it does is approved by the pope or any bishop.


#5

[quote="Exorcist, post:1, topic:289576"]
Is it considered OK within the Church to pay for spiritual direction?

[/quote]

Yes it is.

Some people provide spiritual direction within a paid ministry (such as a priest or pastoral associate within a parish). Since those people are being paid by some other body they provide spiritual direction for free as part of their ministry.

In other cases, people aren't paid by the church or some other institution. They may provide their time for free, they may charge for their services, or they may ask for a donation. A place like a retreat house may charge for spiritual direction since that's one of the ways they cover their expenses.

There are a group of women at my parish who have supposedly been trained by "Spiritual Directors International" who often have a notice in the parish bulletin.

Why do you say "supposedly been trained"? Do you not believe them? If you think they're lying about their training and experience then you should not go to them for direction.

If they have a notice in the parish bulletin I expect that the pastor has approved it and thinks they are qualified spiritual directors.

I looked at some of the names and they didn't appear to be competent enough to teach RCIA.

It appears that you don't like these people. If that's the case they would not be good candidates to provide direction to you.

I'm not sure what RCIA has to do with spiritual direction or why you bring that up. It's a completely different type of ministry though there are elements of spiritual direction within RCIA.

We have four priests at my parish and two deacons. Seems like maybe they should be taking this on? At the very least the "formed" laity shouldn't be paying for the "service." Thoughts?

Your priests and deacons may or may not be trained in spiritual direction. They may or may not have time to offer spiritual direction. They may or may not enjoy doing spiritual direction. You are fortunate to have directors available in your parish.


#6

While not every priest is the ideal spiritual director for every soul, those that went to competent seminaries, primarily pre-VII and traditional seminaries, know a bit about it. The benefit of a priest being the director is that he has the "Grace of State". These "lay spiritual directors just do not have that. Nor can they hear confessions. Also, while I am sure that many non-ordained people can keep quiet about what a person tells them, it is part of the priestly vocation to keep such things confidential. Also, some moral problems may have to be dealt with that should only go though the priest.
I would not recommend anyone to any "formal" lay spiritual director. Now, a good spiritual friend/individual can at times give good, sound advice. No arguement there.

Those serious about their spiritual life can pray that God puts in their path a priest that can assist them. Also, you won't have to pay them a dime. Prayers for their perseverance in the faith will be enough.

CB


#7

[quote="Bartolome_Casas, post:4, topic:289576"]

Even so, one big reality is that there definitely are not enough priests and deacons to provide free, ongoing, in-depth spiritual direction to every Catholic who wants it.

[/quote]

Just to reiterate what was said earlier. Priests and deacons receive virtually no training in providing spiritual direction.

Why do some laity believe that spiritual direction should be provided for free?


#8

Because it’s “spiritual.” Hasn’t anyone told you that spiritual people don’t need to eat, pay rent, or buy clothes? :slight_smile:


#9

My director is a priest and he received no training in spiritual directon in the seminary, just a course on pastoral counseling, which is different. He did go for training as a director after he was ordained. He does not charge me, and would not accept money from me, but I do repay him by bartering my time to help him in several ways.

I do know some very good lay directors. They work at a retreat house and they do get paid by the hour and have to give part to the retreat house. I also know some sisters who get paid but they need to in order to support their community.


#10

I bought a guidbook on spiritual direction this morning before I saw this thread.

scepterpublishers.org/product/index.php?FULL=701

It is something I have been interested in for a while.

-Tim-


#11

[quote="SuscipeMeDomine, post:8, topic:289576"]
Because it's "spiritual." Hasn't anyone told you that spiritual people don't need to eat, pay rent, or buy clothes? :-)

[/quote]

If a layperson is trying to pay for food, rent and clothes by being a spiritual director, then I would like avoid that person.


#12

Graduate level, huh? Just out of curiosity, how many units of spiritual direction did you complete at the undergraduate level as a prerequisite to your graduate work?

$60/hour for spiritual direction? Really?


#13

[quote="Exorcist, post:11, topic:289576"]
If a layperson is trying to pay for food, rent and clothes by being a spiritual director, then I would like avoid that person.

[/quote]

Why?

What about a religious who is paying for such things?

[quote="Exorcist, post:12, topic:289576"]
Graduate level, huh? Just out of curiosity, how many units of spiritual direction did you complete at the undergraduate level as a prerequisite to your graduate work?

$60/hour for spiritual direction? Really?

[/quote]

There are no undergraduate spiritual direction courses. The graduate schools that offer spiritual direction do so as graduate level certificate programs.

There are other programs that you can go though for a spiritual direction certificate that are not offered by graduate schools but they do not offer any course credit.


#14

I really don't understand the negativity being expressed here.

If you want spiritual direction you need to find a qualified director. The director may be clergy, religious, or lay. Note that people in any of those categories may be qualified and gifted directors or may not be.

In some cases direction may be offered for free. In other cases there may be a fee. One thing to consider is that we often value what we pay for more than things we get for free.

In some cases you may be able to find someone located very close to you. In other cases you may have to travel some distance to meet with your director.

If spiritual direction is important to you, you'll probably be willing to inconvenience yourself in order to receive it. If it is merely one more activity in your life, then you probably want it to be as easy and inexpensive as possible.


#15

[quote="Friar_David_O.Carm, post:13, topic:289576"]
Why?

What about a religious who is paying for such things?

There are no undergraduate spiritual direction courses. The graduate schools that offer spiritual direction do so as graduate level certificate programs.

There are other programs that you can go though for a spiritual direction certificate that are not offered by graduate schools but they do not offer any course credit.

[/quote]

I think religious requesting alms is just fine, but to charge a rate/hour? No.

I suppose I am very circumspect of "graduate level certificate programs" that require little or no prerequisites. Sadly it seems like religion is choke-full of them. Just what makes them "graduate" programs?


#16

[quote="Exorcist, post:15, topic:289576"]
I think religious requesting alms is just fine, but to charge a rate/hour? No.

I suppose I am very circumspect of "graduate level certificate programs" that require little or no prerequisites. Sadly it seems like religion is choke-full of them. Just what makes them "graduate" programs?

[/quote]

If you do not want to pay, you do not have to. Just remember that in a lot of cases you get what you pay for and that the number of good spiritual directors is limited and they do not have an obligation to work with you, priests are few and busy while religious people have their own obligations. My suggestion is to talk to the diocesan person in charge of spiritual direction instead of arguing here and calling people incompetents or greedy because you feel that their education is not good enough.


#17

[quote="Exorcist, post:15, topic:289576"]
I think religious requesting alms is just fine, but to charge a rate/hour? No.

[/quote]

So religious may only request alms which by definition you do not have to pay or you chose what to pay, rather then being paid a fee for their services?

Just curious, what do you think the role of religious are?

I suppose I am very circumspect of "graduate level certificate programs" that require little or no prerequisites. Sadly it seems like religion is choke-full of them. Just what makes them "graduate" programs?

Most programs, both graduate and other, required that the person applying have pastoral experience and be recommended by a spiritual director.

What makes them "graduate"? The course work. Most graduate schools that offer this also allow the courses to be taken as course work for other degrees and/or graduate certificates.

I am of the opinion, though, that a spiritual director need not have any certificate.

The good thing about these programs is that the person in them works as a spiritual direction under guidance while in the program.


#18

I was able to pay more than the average person due to my higher income. She didn’t ask for or require that amount.

As for whether the graduate certificate program in spiritual direction, I have a deep background in theology, scripture, and spirituality that would probably exceed most undergraduate programs, and I’ve taken several courses at the undergrad and grad level. People were admitted into the program only if they could do grad level work.


#19

I know priests who go to lay (sometimes religious sisters) spiritual directors. Their comments tend to be that normal seminary training doesn’t prepare someone to be a true spiritual director, and that their fellow priests are too busy with parish management (bill paying, plumbing issues, the need to be in 3 places at once) to nurture their own spiritual lives, let alone guide someone else’s.


#20

[quote="Tarpeian_Rock, post:19, topic:289576"]
I know priests who go to lay (sometimes religious sisters) spiritual directors. Their comments tend to be that normal seminary training doesn't prepare someone to be a true spiritual director, and that their fellow priests are too busy with parish management (bill paying, plumbing issues, the need to be in 3 places at once) to nurture their own spiritual lives, let alone guide someone else's.

[/quote]

I REALLY hope you are wrong about that! That seems more like urban legend than anything else perpetuated by groups like "Spiritual Directors International." If a priest doesn't have the training to facilitate a single individual on their spiritual journey then they'll have no chance at being good pastors. Apples and orange? No.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.