Purpose of Spiritual Directors?


When I joined CAF, I’ve seen many people talk about spiritual directors. I’m not too farmilar with them. Can anyone give me some information about what the purpose of having spiritual director is?

(If this is the wrong catagory, feel free to move it.)


They listen to what you’re being attracted to, then discern whether it’s the Holy Ghost doing the attracting. They can also make suggestions as to where your talents are the most useful. Any number of scenarios.

Dominicans leave the person to the spiritual classics, and have them go to Confession when they have a problem.

Mrs Cloisters OP
Lay Dominican


In the “old” days, a spiritual director was a person who was a trustworthy guide in moral and spiritual matters, in the journey of growing in the interior life, the life of prayer, toward holiness. He/she was deemed knowledgeable and faithful in the teachings and life of the Catholic Church, and (at best) personally experienced in the higher forms of prayer.

Now, we have institutionalized this to a point that troubles me. We have schools of spiritual direction that teach a formal course in spiritual direction and issue certification - a certificate in spiritual direction - to prove/verify it. Now, some directors may charge per hour for their “professional” (if I may use that term) counsel and advice.

These schools may have their own philosophy and curriculum, their own school of thought as to what constitutes “good” spiritual direction and what does not.

My advice: 1) seek holiness! seek sanctity! 2) find a good, holy, knowledgeable, wise, prayerful, faithful and experienced Catholic and seek advice when it seems appropriate and prudent. And if they want to get paid, look elsewhere.



I read what the Doctors and Saints of the church have written. Holy priests are rare today, even if you find one he may not have the time. Talk to St. John Vianney.


I think Fide has given an excellent response.

PianistClare once said you can often contact the chancellory office for your diocese and obtain a list of spiritual directors. The saints would pray hard that a good director would come to them. It’s essential to have one that is “good” … Fide has summed it up well.

Somtimes, I say sometimes, your confessor can be your s.d. It depends on a number of things though.


This looks like a good website to investigate for folk who are interested. I just came across it, but have yet to look closely at it.



The only school for Spiritual directors I know if is for people who want to be Ignatian retreat directors.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius require the direction of person who is well-versed in Ignatian spirituality and how the Exercises work.

And what is so bad with people going to school to learn how to help people on their spiritual journeys?
The classes they take not only teach spirituality, but also teach how to be an active listener, how to guide conversations to be productive to the director and the directee.

As someone who has had a spiritual director for years, and am working to get my certification in Ignatian Spiritual direction, I find your comments disturbing. There may be some who see this as “money-making” endeavor, but they are very rare indeed.


This is a good topic and also a big topic if people in the forum would like to get into it.

I think both your and Fide’s perspective have merit. I’m not sure if there are any spiritual directors who expect some amount of compensation.

Here is a book that seems to be worth considering by Dan Burke, “Navigating the Interior LIfe: Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God” . I have this book, but have yet to read it. :blush: Perhaps I’ll get the audio book since I’m a more adept listener than reader.


I am not a fan at all of Dan Burke or his site, so I will not comment. I was actually warned by my SD to not utilize his site.


Fair enough.

At first I thought, “oh, a s.d. needs to be a relgious because they are most versed in the spiritual life”, but I’ve come to believe that just because a person is a priest of brother or sister, that does not mean they will make good spiritual directors.

I think partly it may depend on how far a soul (the student) is already along in the spiritual life as to whether a particular spiritual director may be able to help them.


It’s usually a request for a donation rather than a fee for a certain amount, but yes, some directors do make such a request.

If you have a priest who is being supported by his parish (or a pastoral associate or other parish employee) then they don’t need to charge. But religious may request a donation which then goes to support their order. The same thing happens at some retreat centers where the fee goes to support the overall operations.


Is a spiritual director someone to talk with about what is and isn’t a mortal sin and when it’s appropriate to receive communion and such? Like of course we have rules but if consent due to habit or addiction or not full knowledge is missing it isn’t mortal sin. Is this a conclusion a spiritual director should make for us? Or a conclusion we can all make individually based on our experiences with habit and such?

I’m assuming this is a good thing to talk with spiritual director about?


For those folks, who may not want a spiritual director right now, but are avid readers, I’ve enjoyed reading this book as it get’s pretty detailed about every aspect of the spiritual life. Though in the beginning chapters, somewhere, the author will tell you how essential having a spiritual director is for those who are really serious about making the most progress in the spiritual life.


That would be one sort of thing you might talk with a spiritual director about. You could also talk about your prayer life (both highs and lows), where you experience God, what to do during dry periods, books to read, discerning where God may be calling you, developing and maintaining a plan of life, and on and on.

Spiritual direction and confession are not the same. You don’t have to talk about sin with your director (it might make more sense to discuss it with your confessor, assuming that’s a different person).


Recently, a priest who had been my spiritual director in the past- both well schooled and a truly devout and holy man- He told me ONE THING that I really needed to do if I was to go forward. It was excellent advice that I really needed to hear. It may have made all the difference between me staying in a bit of a rut for who knows how long or finally decisively going forward. I took it, and now I think I’m on my way forward.


If your spiritual director is a priest, would it make sense to do all the spiritual directing stuff and advice and then if needed follow up with confession? But do it in two separate phases as to not push them together?

Reason I ask is, for the past 2 years I usually just stare at my SD and say “yup everything is good” and it’s like a 5 minute meeting because idk what to talk about, or where is the line of what to talk about. So this has been helpful, your comments


You know, you were pushed into s.d. which is really not what should happen. It has to be your choice. S.D. is optional. Confession is mandatory.

Don’t be afraid to open up. You need to do that if your S.D. is to help you. If you think you will not be able to do that with him since he’s a friend of the family, etc. , consider getting another S.D if you do want to still have one.

My 2 cents.


I would say you need a new spiritual director then.

I have had both SD/confessors (priests) and just a SD. One was a lay woman who guided me through the 19th annotation of the Spiritual Exercises. I paid her a small stipend as the 19th is involved and requires a lot of time commitment.
My current SD is a deacon. I give him a small donation (between $20-50) 4-5 times a year for the various social ministries he is involved in, but that is my choice, he does not ask for it.

A SD is supposed to be helping you to find out where God is working in your life and where you are working against God. They should be helping you develop and mature in your prayer life and become more holy. They should be challenging you to move out of your comfort zone and to become a disciple of Christ.


Some people – including me – have one person who is both confessor and spiritual director. Others use different people to keep the two functions separate. (And, of course, if your director is not a priest then this isn’t an option.) It’s also up to the priest involved. He may prefer to keep the two functions separate and encourage you to go to someone else for confession.

Do you actually feel a need for a spiritual director? Five minutes of saying “everything is just fine” doesn’t sound like it’s very productive.

Or to put it another way, when I lost my long-time spiritual director I looked long and hard to find another. I was asking for recommendations, I was calling around, I was willing to do whatever I need to in order to find another. I knew how vital he was to my spiritual life. If your director suddenly moved away, would it make any difference to you?


I follow a spirituality movement and my spiritual director is also part of that movement. She is not a priest of course so I confess to my parish priests. She also lives several hundred miles away so we meet monthly by facetime. We hope to meet face to face 2-3 times a year.

Her role in my life is to help me discern what is next, what areas of my life need work, and where should I focus my attention. It’s been extremely helpful for me.

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