Spiritual Director & Limitations

Good afternoon and hoping everyone is doing well. Since I converted 7-8 years ago, I have wanted spiritual direction. I had arrangements with a wonderful young priest who was my first confessor, but he was transferred. I haven’t been able to connect with anyone since, until recently. We have a wonderful Deacon who is a great homilist, good hearted, and much loved by my kids and husband. I asked if he would be my spiritual director, and he said he’s technically ‘not allowed’ to because there is a particular training. I asked if he could be a spiritual mentor and he warmly agreed. I was greatly humbled by his warmth and willingness.

We have a meeting set up for next week to discuss what I’m wanting and what he’s allowed to do. Obviously, this will dictate our meetings going forward, but I was hoping to do some prior research going in. Does anyone know why and what restrictions surround the SD relationship? What additional training does an approved SD receive? Can anyone provide resources or recommend some reading I can do in preparation? I won’t belabour the details but this is an answer to years of prayer, seeking, and desiring to be a better person. I cannot express the hope that Deacon’s kindness has given me. I would never want to jeopardise or compromise his position and I am certain he will maintain the boundaries. I’m just hoping to go into this with a better understanding of what spiritual direction is and what it is not.

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I have no answers to your questions, but I am happy for you, and wish you all the best. :slightly_smiling_face:

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To my knowledge, there are no “official” restrictions. However, in my opinion a good spiritual director will follow a lot of the same protocol as psychological counselors so that boundaries are properly respected.

Not all SDs receive formal “training.” Traditionally spiritual direction was considered a charism, either a person had the gift of spiritual direction, or he/she didn’t. That being said, Teresa of Avila was very adamant that a spiritual director have formal theological education. John of the Cross on the other hand, following in the tradition of the Desert Fathers, was more concerned that an SD have direct experience of the spiritual life. He considered it a plus if that personal also had formal theological education, but in his mind theoretical knowledge was no substitute for the knowledge that comes from direct experience.

One book you might consider checking out is Dan Burke’s Navigating the Interior Life. The book is very practical and you’ll likely find answers to several of your questions in there (including the proper restrictions/relationship between a spiritual director and directee).

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I serve as a spiritual director. You should be aware that deacons, unlike priests, cannot offer direction in a closed forum, and that we are mandatory reporters.


Thank you so much for your reply. I’m guessing that perhaps our diocese has restrictions on who can offer spiritual direction, if it isn’t a formal rule from Rome. I can completely understand this. I will definitely look into the book you mentioned. Thank you.

Deacon, I appreciate your respond and understand the limitations. My husband is a law enforcement officer and I am a psychologist, so we also are mandatory reporters. I’m grateful our priests and deacons are also mandatory reporters, outside the seal of confession, of course. I have encountered so many abused men, women, and children and it is truly heartbreaking.

Thank you for your service to the church. I’m sure you are an immense blessing to your parish.

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I went through a two year program to learn how to be a spiritual mentor. In my class we were told that no one should call themselves a spiritual director unless they have an advanced degree in theology, but there are no national standards.

Some dioceses maintain lists of spiritual directors but I have never heard of a diocese restricting who can offer spiritual direction.

That said, it is a good idea to ask if the person you want to meet with has had any formal training and where they received the training, etc.

I looked at many programs before I chose one and some of the programs I reviewed were not orthodox.

The book Deacon Jeff recommended is excellent.

Out of curiosity, who did your two-year program?

Theoretically, spiritual directors are supposed to be good listeners who help you shape your spirituality rather than mentoring you with their spirituality. Your deacon really should wait for training or at least contact the diocese. I have seen a list of spiritual directors in my diocese which included about 30 names including clergy, laymen, and laywomen.

It is a program offered jointly by the Apostles of the Interior Life, a religious order whose charism is spiritual direction for the laity, and the School of Faith, which manages all Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Kansas City, KS.


You might want to check out the book: SEEKING SPIRITUAL DIRECTION, How to Grow the Divine Life Within, by Thomas Dubay, S.M., published by Servant Publications, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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I think it is wonderful to have found someone. Wishing you the best of luck!

You may want to check out the below site!

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