What to look for in a spiritual director


#1

So it has happened. My parish is actively spreading a rumor that I want to be a priest. My deacon is complicit in this, and he is a wonderful man, I really can't blame him. But I really have to consider this seriously and get myself a spiritual director. Personally, I feel I am impeded from priestly ministry by a couple of factors, but I will entertain this vocation with due diligence since I have made it to 41 without being married.

So I am going to ask my pastor for a referral to a spiritual director. What should I look for? What kind of questions should I ask on the first appointment? Will it cost me money?


#2

Greetings,

I am glad to hear that you are taking these signs from God seriously. I am 16, and I am discerning the religious priesthood.

I went through a period of almost a year without having a legitimate spiritual director, while speaking with vocation directors across the country.

After speaking with a Jesuit vocations director, I finally figured out what spiritual direction meant and what it does for one's discernment.

From my experience, spiritual direction is a very important part of someone's faith journey (aside from vocational discernment). Spiritual direction should help one deepen their discipleship with and in Christ.

Spiritual direction is what you want it to be, and it's important to decide what you want from a spiritual director, i.e. someone who is a good listener, or someone who offers insight within conversation. It also important to choose someone you can reflect with comfortably.

It's recommendable to leave three to four weeks between meetings in order to be able to apply the different recommendations posed by one's director during a session.

I hope this helps; best of luck; and be sure of my prayers.


#3

On this page, Catholic psychotherapist Dr. Raymond Lloyd Richmond has some good things to say about the dynamics of spiritual direction, and at the bottom of the page are the questions that one should ask a would-be spiritual director to test their competence by personal and theological criteria: chastitysf.com/q_director.htm

Also, I once heard a talk from Fr. Larry Richards and he was discussing the need for spiritual direction. To paraphrase, he said that one of the greatest “tests” for finding a spiritual director, who is also a priest, is to see how he celebrates Mass, particularly during the consecration. By his reverence and piety, can you see that he believes that He is holding in his hands the King of the Universe? If a priest cannot discern that he is holding Our Lord Jesus Christ, truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, then there is no way he can discern how God is working in your life.

I hope that this, along with the questions provided in the link above, will help you. Spiritual direction should not cost you any money, although there are some people, usually who are highly qualified, who do charge, but I don’t think that is a very common practice. It is of utmost importance to be transparent with your spiritual director. How can a doctor diagnose a patient, or give them proper treatment, if the patient is not honest and does not explain all the symptoms? So it is with spiritual direction. Of course, there should be an atmosphere of trust and confidentiality. It is absolutely important that whoever you choose to be your spiritual director is a person that you are comfortable being with and speaking to. I spent almost 6 months with one spiritual director who I never felt fully comfortable with. I couldn’t be completely honest with them, so I decided to switch to a new spiritual director. In our first conversation alone I believe more progress was made than in all the months I had previously spent with the other spiritual director. This new person was someone I was able to be completely honest and transparent with. I felt comfortable with this person, and I felt that I could trust them. These qualities, I think, are very important in order to have a fruitful experience during spiritual direction.


#4

As Astroalbert has said, spiritual direction is what you want it to be so, first of all, you should work out what your needs are and what qualities you believe are needed in your spiritual director in order for him (or her) to help fulfil those needs. so for example, I decided I wanted a SD who would challenge me, get me thinking and draw me out of my comfort zone. I believe I’ve found that in the priest I. I’m not all that interested in his “conservative credentials” - I expect that, since he has a licence to preach and administer the sacraments from the bishop, that he’s orthodox. Of course if he started telling me that he didn’t believe in the real presence I would obviously be concerned (for him as much as for myself - I’d be wondering why he was a priest!). I have no interest in whether he smokes or drinks more than the recommended daily intake of caffeine, let alone what his height / weight ration is.

Your choice of spiritual director should also reflect the area of your discernment - so if your discerning a vocation to diocesan priesthood, then you should have a diocesan priest as your spiritual director. A good SD should also encourage you to set aside time each day for contemplative / silent prayer. At the first appointment, they will probably ask you about your prayer life, what you think God is calling you to and what your hoping to get out of / looking for in spiritual direction.

An SD should also not charge for their services. Above all else, you should be comfortable talking to them. What you get out depends on what you bring to the direction so its important to be open and honest with your - everything you say to your SD remains between you and him.


#5

With regard to charging for spiritual direction...sometimes, especially with religious, offering spiritual direction and charging for it brings necessary income to the community. I know many religious priests who charge. Most retreat houses ask for an offering for spiritual direction. This does not mean that they only see it as a job. I know many very good spiritual directors who do ask for a donation for their ministry. If a person can't pay then they will do it for free. These people take their ministry very seriously and put a lot of effort and prayer for their directees.

That said my long time director is a parish priest who will not take money, but I do pay him in other ways with a donation to his parish, a gift once in awhile or by helping him out with something that may be going on in his parish (even though it is not my parish). I feel that he gives me so much that I have to give something back.


#6

Ave Maria!

I’m sure you’ll get lots of info regarding spiritual direction, so I just wanted to add an interesting comment by St. Teresa of Avila - a spiritual guidance master IMO, especially of prayer and contemplation. I highly recommend reading her writings on the subject which you can find online. Not only is she a saint, but she’s the first female to be declared a Doctor of the Church for her teachings.

St. Teresa says that it’'s safer to find a knowledgeable priest who is not the holiest, rather than a holy priest who is not learned. Very interesting food for thought! Regarding a priest vs. lay person, that you generally want a priest, but that it’s better to find a holy woman than an ignorant, dissenting priest! (I believe these are from her autobiography).

In addition to St. Teresa who provides specifics on finding a director, St. Faustina writes in her diary about the importance of having a director and obedience to him. St. Alphonsus de Liguori and St. Francis de Sales also have outstanding writings and counsels. St. Alphonsus is also a Doctor of the Church, btw. As you can see, it is so important to read the lives and writings of the saints, following that of official Church teachings and documents.

Finally, consecrate yourself to Our Blessed Mother, Mary. She, who is the Seat of Wisdom, will guide you more effectively and perfectly to Her Son, than anyone else who ever lived or will live on earth.

In the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary,

Friar John Paul, FI


#7

Hopefully being 41 will mean you are mature, not cloistered from reality, have world experience and general common sense which is needed by priests. If you are lonely, the priesthood will not fill this void for sure. If, however, you feel compelled to serve Christ in the role of priest and pastor, look into a vocation.

I would not worry about past sins as God forgives us and can bring good from bad. In fact, these mistakes sometimes allow us to minister to others.

As far as a spiritual director goes, you should respect them, see them as spiritually mature, trust the individual, have a good rapport and trust them completely. Just because a spiritual advisor is old or seasoned with experience does not mean, he is the director for you. I suggest shopping around and finding one you really admire and get along with.

Also, remember we all have a vocation, even if this means not being a priest. I would also ask why I am considering joining the priesthood - what is your motivation? I would also ask why you are single as single laity also have a unique calling. By age 41, you should have a good sense of your calling and just need confirmation.


#8

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