Purpose of Spiritual Directors?


No it would make no difference to me because I don’t think he’s helped me that much but I think a lot of that is I don’t know what to talk about and so if I say nothing we just small talk about prayer and books.

I guess I’m having trouble seeing why I can’t just direct myself. I talk a lot of stuff out with myself in my head, like in the shower for example and it’s very productive and helps me understand what I must do to grow in my faith or social life or whatever. But I know having an SD is important so I wish I felt it was important or knew why


Is this someone to talk to about like if I feel a strong calling to the vocation of marriage, is this someone to talk about how my following of this vocational journey is going? Like struggles or successes?


But it doesn’t sound like it’s important to you or important at this time. Perhaps at some other time in some other situation it will be.


A Norbertine sister I know says that spiritual directors are like mirrors. For example, I know I have a nose and a mouth and two eyes, but that alone won’t tell me what I look like. I need a mirror to show me the clear picture.


Are you where you want to be in life? Do you know your vocation? Do you know your habitual sins? Do you know how to overcome those sins? Do you want to purposely strive for holiness? These are the kinds of things you do with a SD.

Given that your SD isn’t actually giving you direction makes me wonder if he/she is actually a SD at all or just a kindly person who is willing to listen.

With mine we catch up for a couple of minutes, then we get to work. We review what we discussed in the last session, then talk about what I’ve done since the last session in following the plan we have put together over the last several months, change the plan if necessary and set some goals for the next month. Then we set a date for the next session. I don’t know if this is how all SD works but it makes a great deal of sense to me. It’s not therapy and it’s not supposed to be.


This is pretty much my experience also.


A spiritual director can see the bigger picture. He / she can see things in us that we are blind to, like certain faults, for example.

Most of us do direct ourselves, but I think we do not reach the degree of holiness or progress in holiness at the rate we could have if we would have had a good spiritual director.


There are many programs that certify laypersons to be a spiritual director. Most of them require two years or more of part-time study and they vary widely in quality and orthodoxy.

My priest spiritual director encouraged me to enroll in one of these programs and after much research I narrowed it down to two. I really wanted to participate in a program in Florida that teaches one how to lead others through the Ignatian spiritual exercises but it required too many trips to Florida and I live too far away.

So, I ended up in a program in Kansas that is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Kansas City. It was very orthodox and I learned a great deal. I took eight courses online and traveled to Kansas four times for seven days each visit where we spent a lot of time in role plays and being evaluated by the instructors who were a mix of priests, religious sisters and lay instructors.

Once I received my certificate I met with several priests in my diocese and they recommend people to me. They also provide meeting space for me in several parishes. I don’t advertise and I don’t charge but if someone wants to make a donation I happily accept it.

If you are going to meet with a layperson it’s a good idea to inquire about their background and check into where they received their training.


Great Anne!

It seems as though you have found for yourself an awesome little apostolate for souls.


I enjoy it and my spiritual director acts as my supervisor of sorts. If I have questions about something that comes up with someone I meet with I ask him about it in a very generic way, of course. It’s very rewarding to see God at work in the lives of others.


I looked into it a few years back. One who was somewhat local incorporated yoga or zen or some such into “Catholic” spiritual direction. No, thank you.


i agree. It would take an extraordinary situation for me to receive spiritual direction from someone who does not have formal training in it. And despite having years of experience in spiritual direction, I could not in good conscience serve as a spiritual director for someone without going through some sort of training. Spiritual Companion, sure. Spiritual Director, no.

There’s too much at stake, and too much to know. The difference between “depression” (psychological) and “desolation” (spiritual), and the potential for harm in not being able to distinguish that in one’s directee just for starters.


I agree with you.

I was seeing a Spiritual Director in the past who had asked for a donation when I was seeing her. She was a nun, and Spiritual Direction was primarily her focus back then.


I would have no problem with anyone seeking spiritual direction from their confessor, but I am a firm believer that there is a time and a place for everything, and the confessional is not one of them. It is there for confession. I have been in line for confession in one particular parish where there is a family that can take 7 to 12 minutes in the confessional - and there are several kids of grade school age who do this as well as one of their parents. It happens to be a parish which has had confession more than just “4 to 5 on Saturday”, but most times they have confession do not extend more than an hour. 15 to 20 people in line, and you do the math - 5 or more may not be able to go because of the time spent.

Spiritual direction should be a lot more than just “how do I avoid this sin”. It should be a time of “how do I follow Christ more fully”, which may be prayer or action (or both together, for example, going to adoration - what am I doing; is there something else I might concentrate on then). It might be learning and following the Examine of Conscience, and seeking discernment as to how to do it better.


I too take umbrage with your post for two reasons.

  1. A good spiritual director isn’t some “trial by error” process. In the past there were fewer spiritual directors who really did much of it; your list could be applied to a whole lot of priests, many of whom might know all of your list, and be poor at teaching or leading. Training hopefully can weed out some who may have a base but no delivery, and help those trained to be able to lead a variety of people (from the theory that one form does not fit all).

  2. I happen to have a relative who is a spiritual director, has a Masters in Theology, charges, and spends a whole lot more time with their regular seekers than just the time one on one. Further, they live a life of poverty. I take your comment about as well as I took comments concerning the Pennsylvania crisis, of those who felt they owed nothing to the dioceses re: the settlements. That left a feeling that “yeah, it’s terrible, but we owe nothing to the victims”. Not exactly what I would call a Christ-like response to the lowly.

Priests are paid a salary, and spiritual direction is part of their commitment as a priest (and not all make good spiritual directors, nor do all have time for many who wish continued direction). And anyone else who is going to spend a significant amount of time over a period of perhaps years with a significant number of people is highly unlikely to be able to do that for free. This is not a hobby.


I could only have a spiritual director who is male, and very orthodox. That’s a tall order, in my neck of the woods.


Hello CilladeRoma - you wrote “And what is so bad with people going to school to learn how to help people on their spiritual journeys?” I would answer that depends on the school and the teacher, in this crucial sense:

  • Spiritual direction is not merely a natural act, requiring merely natural knowledge, skills and abilities.
  • Spiritual direction is essentially, crucially a supernatural act, requiring primarily supernatural gifts including supernatural knowledge, counsel, wisdom, charity, and mercy.
  • IF one possesses and lives according to the supernatural virtues and gifts (gifts that only God can give), one has what is of necessity. The natural talents - which can be acquired and polished and expanded by natural means, through human helps/teachers - are helpful to those having first of all what is essential: spiritual experience and divine wisdom.

Spiritual direction is not merely “counseling in a religious context using religious language and subject matter.” Spiritual direction has a motive, end, purpose and subject entirely different from the psychological, cultural, developmental human characteristics that humanistic counseling deals with. The difference here is the radical difference between the natural and the supernatural, and natural means cannot attain supernatural ends.

What is most needed, in a word, in a spiritual director is spiritual maturity. This does not mean an old Catholic - it means a Catholic mature in the faith. A man can be 75 years old, a Catholic all his life, and still be a long way from mature in the faith! Maturity in the faith is not learned in schools, it is gained under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in time, by a disciple of great abandonment to the Lord, no matter the cost.


And just how does one gain the knowledge, etc. with schooling?

I don’t necessarily disagree with anything you say. I just think its your language and the idea of questioning the motives of people who choose to develop the gifts they have for just personal gain that bother me.


You wrote, “And just how does one gain the knowledge, etc. with schooling?” I’m not sure whether you are asking about the natural knowledge, or the supernatural knowledge that I wrote of, or both?

  • Natural knowledge of natural things can be acquired from natural observations, readings, human teachers, human schools of certification, theology, etc.
  • Supernatural knowledge is a gift of the Holy Spirit given in Baptism in potency (see Isa. 11:2 and Catechism 1299), and (potentially) developed in life with actual grace, along with the virtues and other gifts, toward spiritual maturity. The “school” of the Holy Spirit is the life-walk of a disciple with Him.

I’m not sure how you came to “just personal gain” out of what I wrote, or what exactly you mean by those words. Can you explain this for me?


This is conpletely true. And is why training is so important.

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