Purpose of Spiritual Directors?


Hello otjm, we are looking at this issue from very different viewpoints.

Jesus spoke of two very different kinds of religious leader, in this passage from John 10 - the “Good Shepherd” teaching:

John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
John 10:12 He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
John 10:13 He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep.
John 10:14 I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me,

Note that strong distinction between a good shepherd with his sheep, and a “hireling” - a hired man - a man who is watching and tending to the sheep as a job for which he expects to be paid money.

There is a similar distinction among men fighting an enemy: there are soldiers of an army fighting, risking their lives, for the love of home and country. And, on the other hand, there are mercenaries who are “professional fighters”, paid for their work, who risk their lives for the money, the pay.

And again, there are medical doctors, who have a calling - a vocation - to the ministry of healing, who labor in that field for the love of God and His people, because God gave that call, that vocation, to them. And on the other hand, there are medical doctors in it for the money and for the other personal benefits of that profession (human respect, the title of “doctor” in this culture, the power and authority they are given in their work, and so on).

The priesthood is not a job. He should never be paid a salary, nor ever think of himself as a “hired man” - a “hireling”! His work is for God, and his “pay” is up to God and is paid by God, not man, not men, not a finance committee. God provides - and the priest labors for God and His people, without care or concern for the money If he is a man of God, he should know it, and live it: a man of God.


Oh, I don’t know, maybe this comment

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.


And “some directors may charge per hour for their “professional” (if I may use that term) counsel and advice.” means “choose to develop the gifts they have for just personal gain”?

It seems to me that you have read into my words, your own [inaccurate] interpretation. My words leave room for many motives, not “just personal gain” - but the presence of monetary payment for spiritual work is a mixture that is troubling. It is one thing to have a basket at the door for voluntary gifts from the directee for the director, in gratitude to him/her for sharing his/her spiritual gifts from God. That would be beautiful, and appropriate: a sharing of gifts with one another.

It is another thing entirely for the spiritual director to sell to a brother or sister, the spiritual gifts that God gave him or her. If that is the intention of the spiritual director - that he/she is selling a skill and deserves payment for it - then the person being directed is being built up with one hand and being torn down with the other. You cannot buy the things of God; holiness is not for sale.


You seem to be objecting either to my comment that a priest is paid a salary (that is a fact), or that not all priests make good spiritual directors, and I submit that is a fact too.

I don’t recall saying that the priesthood is a job. Further, that has noting to do with his ability as a spiritual director, so I am not sure why that is thrown into the discussion.

And your comment about never being paid a salary - how do you think he buys groceries or puts gs in his car? God does not pay him; the diocese does. Perhaps that is news to you, but it is a matter at least in this diocese that was settled long, long ago.

I expect a priest to be a man of God, and over about 70 years I have met many, many priests, and find almost all I have known to be men of God. Most. Few and very few would I consider capable of being a spiritual director (as opposed to giving a bit of spiritual direction occasionally to some)>


As I read this thread I am not too sure if Spiritual Accompaniment and Spiritual Direction are being mixed up…or at least here they are different things…
For example where I live ,Spiritual Accompaniment is a 4 year ( not sure if 3 or 4…)certification with a thesis studied in well known Catholic centers for lay people.
I know two very good friends of mine have done it, basically as a tool for themselves and their families. One has just finished and I do not know if she is planning anything special about it. About charging anything, both have said no, that they do not.
Anyway,just in case somebody is thinking of one instead of the other . I thought of this when you spoke about studies.
Skip my post if it doesn’t apply,please. I sometimes get a bit lost in these conversations …sorry…


I met with my spiritual director yesterday and we talked for an all-time record, 40 minutes! (More than the usual 5 lol). I wouldn’t say it was amazing but I do think it helped place some of my worries to rest, just being reminded that God does have a plan for us even if we can’t see it sometimes


BTW, Happy Birthday Gracie!! :slight_smile:


That is excellent, my friend, now you have made some progress. Good job.


Thank you,Jamal!


I was only trying to suggest a different, and I think helpful, way to look at this issue. It seems my suggestion is not received. I’m sure I have not articulated it well.


Thank you for mentioning Navigating the Interior Life. I am currently in my second read, and have found good information within, though I don’t agree with everything said either in this book or on Dan Burke’s Web site. Still, reading this book the first time helped me understand that the spiritual direction relationship I was in at the time was doing more harm than good and that I needed to end it. (Others close to the situation had already said so; I did not take this termination lightly and the book was not the sole reason I went ahead with it.)

For the OP: this book answers many questions about spiritual direction, including its purpose, the question you have asked in starting this thread.

I understand that Dan Burke isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and there’s nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, the book has both a nihil obstat and imprimatur, so at least we can be confident that there is nothing in it contradictory to the Catholic faith. I say this only for others reading this thread who may get the impression that it would be bad to read the book or peruse the site. I emphasize also that you did not say it would be. God bless :slightly_smiling_face:


Thank you for sharing. I can’t put my finger on it, but when I have thought about getting an SD, and did some looking into it, I, of course came across his website.

But I never got comfortable there. I am not even sure if having a SD is the right course for me, at least at this point in my life.

I remember him once saying that everyone needs a SD. I am not sure if I agree with that.
Perhaps for me, having been a former Mormon, and the distortions that left me with (that I still find myself dealing with even decades later) I tend to be skeptical about something like this,


Yeah, me neither. That was one of the things stated in his book that I have never been sure about.


Does he mean an SD that you meet with regularly, or one that you may go to from time to time as the need arises?

I’d be skeptical of the former, but the latter makes sense to me.


I understood him to mean the former. The latter makes sense to me too, and is what I’ve been doing since my last SD bailed on me was transferred out of the Archdiocese. :grinning:


How is an SD going to get to know the directee if they don’t meet on a more frequent basis? How can discernment take place if the director doesn’t have a sense of who this person is?

It’s my understanding that a SD is someone who knows you better than just about anyone, even perhaps one’s own spouse.

How can they (SD) “walk with you” if you dont have something more than just a "mere acquaintance "


If the directee and director are not strangers, these concerns can be somewhat mitigated.

I’d also imagine that one’s purpose for seeking direction might also affect the questions you raise.


An SD shouldn’t be a friend, is what I have been told. So, often, one does start off as strangers. Again, I dont see how direction can be effectual if they dont know each other.

It takes time to develop the level of trust needed for spiritual direction. That takes meeting on a frequent basis, at least in the beginning.


I’m not sure that friendship is an issue. We have several examples of saints who were great friends with their director/directee. St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac come to mind.

Still, I think there are lots of ways someone could end up finding a director that one knows well, but is not a friend. For instance, one could be blessed to have a priest at your parish who is a gifted SD or one could be a part of the same apostolate as a gifted SD, etc.

I can also imagine a scenario where someone might start out seeing an SD regularly, establish that close relationship, and eventually agree to meet with much less frequency.

Again, I think all of this is very much dependent on why you are seeking direction in the first place.


Good point.
Which goes back to my thought about Burk’s opinion that everyone needs a SD. I not of that opinion.

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