Important qualities to look for in a spiritual director

October 6, 2015 by  
Filed under Patrick's Blog

Over the last 25 years or so, I’ve noticed with bemusement an unfortunate trend in the United States in which an increasing number of lay people arrogate to themselves the title of “spiritual director.” I regard this as unfortunate because, except in certain rare exceptions, lay people are simply not qualified or competent to serve as spiritual directors.

Even lay people who have some formal training in theology do not, by virtue of that fact, have the requisite qualities necessary to be spiritual directors.

I’ve seen some real messes result from lay people attempting to give spiritual direction to others. For example, Regnum Christi (RC), the lay movement associated with the embattled Legionaries of Christ religious order of men, had for years appointed numerous goodhearted, sincere, and wholly unqualified RC lay women to be “spiritual directors” for other RC lay women in the absence of a priest. As you might imagine, problems and misunderstandings ensued. Eventually, at least here in the U.S., the Legionaries and RC leaders abandoned the moniker “spiritual director” in favor of the less dubious “spiritual guide.”

My guess is that virtually all lay people who style themselves as spiritual directors (including those who are regarded as such by others, even by some deacons and priests), are really just confusing spiritual direction with counseling. That such a benign confusion is prevalent these days shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, upwards of three generations of Catholics nowadays are, by and large, woefully under-catechized in the doctrinal and spiritual teachings of the Catholic Faith.

This is not to say that those goodhearted  and sincere lay men and lay women who present themselves as spiritual directors are necessarily themselves woefully under-catechized (although some may very well be), but their laudable service to others, insofar as they seek to offer helpful advice of a spiritual nature, does not make them spiritual directors in the classical Catholic sense of the term.

Don’t get me wrong. By all means, Catholic lay people should strive to offer good counsel and spiritual advice when the need and opportunity arises. Counseling can be done informally or formally, such as in the case of a man or woman who is properly trained in the art of counseling (for example, having earned a master’s degree in that field). But counselling and spiritual direction are not the same thing. It’s proper and good for lay people to engage in the former though, in my view, not the in latter.

Now, since I am confident that my remarks here will elicit some push back from those who are convinced spiritual direction is indeed suitable for lay people, I’d like to advert to the wise and erudite advice on this question from the late Father Jordan Aumann, O.P. (1916-2007), who wrote Spiritual Theology, a masterful explanation of the ways and means of the spiritual life, including what to look for in a spiritual director. While he doesn’t come right out and declare that spiritual direction is not a suitable domain for lay people (except, as I’ve said, under certain, rare circumstances), I think you’ll see that the cumulative force of his explanation militates inexorably toward that conclusion.

PERHAPS NO WRITER HAS OUTLINED with such clarity and precision the technical qualities of a good spiritual director as have St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. She states that a good spiritual director should be learned, prudent, and experienced. St. John of the Cross also maintains that a director should be learned, prudent, and experienced, and he places great emphasis on experience.

Learning. The learning of a spiritual director should be extensive. In addition to having a profound knowledge of dogmatic theology, without which he would be exposed to error in regard to matters of faith, and of moral theology, without which he could not even fulfill the office of confessor, the spiritual director should have a thorough knowledge of ascetical and mystical theology. He should know, for example, the theological doctrine concerning Christian perfection, especially regarding such questions as the essence of perfection, the obligation to strive for perfection, the obstacles to perfection, the types of purgation, and the means of positive growth in virtue. He should have a detailed knowledge of the grades of prayer, the trials God usually sends to souls as they advance from the lower to the higher degrees of prayer, and the illusions and assaults of the devil that souls may encounter.

He also needs to be well versed in psychology so that he will have an understanding of various temperaments and characters, the influences to which the human personality is subjected, and the function of the emotions in the life of the individual. He should also know at least the basic principles of abnormal psychology and psychiatry so that he will be able to recognize mental unbalance and nervous or emotional disorders.

A priest should realize that, if he is not competent to direct a particular soul, he should advise the individual to go to someone who possesses the necessary knowledge. A priest incurs a grave responsibility before God if he attempts to direct a soul when he lacks sufficient knowledge. In recent times, with the wider dissemination of knowledge of mental illness, the priest must especially be warned that, as regards the field of psychiatry and the therapeutic methods proper to that branch of medicine, he is a mere “layman” and is incompetent to treat mental sickness. If he suspects that a penitent is suffering from a mental illness, he should direct that individual to a professional psychiatrist, just as readily as he would expect a psychiatrist to refer spiritual problems to a clergyman.

Prudence. This is one of the most important qualities for a spiritual director. It comprises three basic factors: prudence in judgment, clarity in counseling, and firmness in exacting obedience.

If a spiritual director lacks prudence, he is usually lacking several other virtues as well. Prudence enables an individual to do the right thing under given circumstances. Spiritual direction is not concerned with the general doctrine of spiritual theology, nor with theoretical situations that one may imagine, but with the individual soul placed in concrete circumstances at a given moment or in a given phase of spiritual growth.

The director is not called upon to make decisions regarding general doctrine; most people could find such answers in any standard manual of spiritual theology. The director’s role is precisely to recognize the particular circumstances of a given situation and to give the advice needed at that moment. In order that the advice be prudent, a spiritual director must have the empathy by which he is able to place himself in the given circumstances and must have the patience to listen attentively. Of the various factors that militate against prudence, the following are especially common: lack of knowledge of the various states of the ascetical and mystical life, lack of understanding of human psychology, prejudice in regard to particular states of life or particular exercises of piety, lack of humility, excessive eagerness to make a judgment.

The second characteristic of prudence in the spiritual director is clarity in the advice given to the one directed and in the norms of conduct prescribed. In order that he may be clear in his direction, he must. possess clarity in his own mind. In speaking to the soul he is directing, he should avoid any vague or indecisive language, but should always express himself in concrete and definite terms. He should resolve problems with a yes or a no and, if necessary, he should take the time for further deliberation before making his decision. If a soul perceives that the director is not sure of himself, it will lose confidence in him, and his direction will lose all its efficacy.

Moreover, the director should always be sincere and frank, without any partiality or selfish motives. It would be a serious fault if a director were to avoid offending the person directed lest that person should go to some other priest for direction. Those priests who place great importance in attracting and retaining a large number of followers are, by that very fact, disposing themselves to failure as spiritual directors. The director should never forget that he acts in the name of the Holy Spirit in directing souls, and that he must endeavor to treat those souls with kindness and- understanding, but with firmness and utter frankness.

The director must also take care that he does not become the one who is directed. Some persons are extremely competent in’ getting their own way in everything, and even the director is in danger of falling under their power. For that reason, once the director is certain of his decision and the course that should be followed; he should state his mind with unyielding firmness. The individual must be convinced that there are only two alternatives: to obey or to find another director.

But the director should not forget that he should never demand of a soul anything that is incompatible with its state of life or vocation, its strength, or present condition. He should realize that there are some things that can be demanded of advanced souls but could never be required of beginners; that some things would be perfectly fitting in dealing with a priest or religious but not with a lay person. Excessive rigor does nothing but frighten souls and may cause them to abandon the road to perfection. There is, therefore, a world of difference between firmness in demanding obedience and an excessive rigidity that discourages the soul of the penitent.

Experience. This is one of the most precious qualities of a good spiritual director. Even if he is less perfect in knowledge and somewhat deficient in prudence, experience can make up for these deficiencies. This does not mean that the experience of the director must necessarily flow from his own spiritual life, for he may obtain the benefits of experience from his observation and direction of others.

As regards the personal experience of the director, if it is a question of the guidance of the average Christian, he needs little more than the experience any priest can obtain from the faithful fulfillment of his duties in the sacred ministry. If it is a question of advanced souls who have already entered the mystical stages of the spiritual life, it is desirable that the priest himself have some experience of those higher stages. If he lacks this, a delicate sense of prudence, coupled with competent knowledge of the mystical states, will suffice in the majority of cases.

But personal experience alone is not sufficient to make a spiritual director as competent as he ought to be. There are many different paths by which the Holy Spirit can lead souls to the summit of sanctity. It would be a serious mistake for a director to attempt to lead all souls along the same path and to impose on them his own personal experiences, however beneficial they may have been for himself. The spiritual director should never forget that he is merely an instrument in the hands of the Holy Spirit and that his work must be entirely subjected to the Holy Spirit. If, through a lack of understanding of the variety of divine gifts and the multiplicity of roads to perfection, he were to force all souls to travel by the same road, he would become a veritable obstacle to the workings of grace in the soul.

Moral Qualities of a Spiritual Director . . . (continue reading)

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29 Responses to “Important qualities to look for in a spiritual director”
  1. Yve says:


  2. Francis says:

    Yes, you are right Patrick. I agree with you. In the parish I go to here in Springdale, AR. I did requested an appointment to see a priest so I can get spiritual healing. They emailed me to see a counseling instead without see me first and talk with me.
    And, I already see a counseling few years ago. But, I could not take any medications because I had reaction to all the medications. After, I go to Mass and pray always, I am better but, I think I should see a priest for spiritual healing. Sadly, there is no one in this area wants to help me. Luckily, if I would not love the Catholic Church and have to faith, I would leave the Church already.

  3. Peter Querciagrossa says:

    Hello Pat!

    Thank you for calling attention to this subject. Much discussion is needed regarding who is qualified (layperson or priest) to influence souls and the trustworthiness of the person and any group they may represent. The Legionaries of Christ is on our radar but perhaps you could use your extensive experience, reputation and platform to write a book on the pitfalls and benefits of receiving spiritual guidance from others. Not to be overlooked and certain to create controversy would be a much needed and candid treatment of other groups within the Church who use spiritual direction/guidance in formation or even manipulation (the methods within Opus Dei Centers should be on the top of the list, if you dare). The best is yet to come!

  4. Jim Anderson says:

    Hi, Patrick.

    Just to mention a good resource is Daniel Burke’s book Navigating the Interior Life. A good book for those seeking spiritual direction. I myself plan on going to a retreat at Benedictine in January. I know one of the monks and he has been trained in spiritual direction and is a great confessor as well.

    God bless you!

  5. Nanette says:

    Sounds like you’ve had a bad experience. I’ll offer my prayers and sacrifices for you tonight.
    My experience is quite different. I’m so grateful to the spiritual guides by lay and consecrated as well as priests in the Regnum Christi movement for the last 20 years. They helped me “build the kingdom at home with my husband and children.” This was always the primary goal as well as personal sanctity. My lay spiritual guide always sent me to a Legionary priest for spiritual direction at intervals. We did not have enough priests to give all the women monthly direction.
    In the era that I was raising my older children, the diocesan priest were not always ones to go to for direction if you wanted to remain a faithful Catholic. Now there is emerging a new kind of priest in our diocese that does give good direction. I do not believe you can always decide by someone’s training, what movement they are in or what order a priest comes from if they are safe to go to for spiritual direction. Saints beget saints. Padre Pio was in a order started by a priest who left the church. Why did people seek him out for spiritual direction? Was it his training or the order he was in? Was it because he was trained as a counselor? I don’t think so. People were drawn to receive spiritual direction from him because he lived as a saint. The lay guide(with 14 children) I had did also. The lay guide and consecrated showed me how to live as Mary not only with their words but also with their lives.(the way I fall short is my fault not theirs.)Father Solanus was made a simplex priest, a door keeper because his superiors did not believe he had the knowledge to guide souls in confession. He now is on his way to sainthood with many miracles still happening from his intercession.
    As a psychiatric nurse, I understand the need for training. As a person of faith, I think God bestows on whomever he will the gift of counsel.
    I have a wonderful spirit filled priest at my parish who does not have time for everyone to go to him for spiritual direction. The priests in our area have at least 2 major jobs that would have been covered by at least 2-3 priests in the past.
    By the way, because of the benefits my family has received spiritually from the the Legion, it does not appear to me that they are “embattled”. They are empowered by the Holy Spirit and the Vatican! God Bless!

  6. doughboy says:

    i have a great spiritual director and a great confessor (although i go to confession with my spiritual director, too). both are rock solid priests. i just would not trust a lay person for direction, no matter the amount of formal education. in fact, the more formal education a lay person has, i’ve found the more arrogant and entitled they feel to help. look at the catholyc womynpreests movement. they’ll help you, alright – off a cliff. every heresy has some truth interwoven and i need a priest to help guard and guide me.

  7. Carl says:

    Mr. Madrid,
    I am very familiar with your work and I have great respect for you, but I disagree with your basic premise. I am a lay spiritual director. I did not “arrogate” the title for myself however. After long and careful discernment, under the direction of a priest, I began the formation program offered by the Oblates of the Virgin Mary ( at the Lanteri center for Ignatian Spirituality in Denver, Colorado ( I continued to discern my call to spiritual direction the entire time I was in formation and training. The program is five years long and I believe it thoroughly prepared me for my role as a spiritual director. I am still under the supervision of the Lanteri Center and I continue to receive ongoing training from them.

    I agree that spiritual directors should be properly trained and formed, but not every priest, just by virtue of their ordination, is trained or qualified to be a director. Anyone who is seeking spiritual direction should carefully interview any prospective directors whether they are lay or ordained.

    With the relatively recent resurgence of the desire for spiritual direction, and the Holy Father’s recent statement, “As she has never failed to do, again today the Church continues to recommend the practice of spiritual direction, not only to all those who wish to follow the Lord up close, but to every Christian who wishes to live responsibly his baptism, that is, the new life in Christ,” there is a great need for qualified, properly trained directors. It is irresponsible to discourage the faithful from seeking direction from lay directors just because they are lay. After all, St. Ignatius wasn’t a priest when God Himself gave him what would eventually become the Spiritual Exercises in that cave in Manresa.

  8. Tom says:

    Those are excellent points.
    “Spiritual direction” by lay for lay in movements like RC, seems more designed to build the movement, rather than help the spiritual well being of the individual. There are also concerns about confidentiality. Do these lay “spiritual directors” report to superiors what they discussed in apparent confidence?
    The section about spiritual direction to lay in the new Vatican “aid to confessors and spiritual directors”, is not clear to me. What qualities and qualifications are required for a “spiritual counselor” for lay? Should it be a priest, as implied in the section on spiritual direction for priests? Spiritual counsel and spiritual direction are used interchangeably, also side by side. The section on SD for lay includes Escriva’s call to equate work with prayer (sounds like OD operatives had their “way” in drafting this document, no pun intended). As if we lay do not need formal prayer. For millennia, it was “Ora et Labora” (Prayer and Work). Now it seems to be, under some ill defined spiritual counsel “Labora est Ora” (Work is Prayer) for us lay. To me, this is a cause of concern, because “new movements” like OD or LC/RC have a tendency to promote work=prayer, as long as work=$$$ for the movement or work=recruits to the movement. And presto, no need for real prayer.
    Mr. Madrid, what you think about this? How do you interpret this document? Do you find the section for laity clear? A lot of what is in that document is good (from some one that formal spiritual direction based on St Ignatius Spiritual Exercises, that saved my wretched life), but to me the lay section needs to be clarified, in light of real problems you mentioned.

    • Helen London says:

      Tom, I agree with you that Patrick makes some excellent points. I’d like to put you right about prayer in Opus Dei. Everyone in Opus Dei spends time every single day on mental prayer or meditation – up to an hour if we can – and we all know that unless we do that, there’s no way we can turn work (or anything else) into prayer as well. Spiritual direction or guidance given by people in Opus Dei – whether lay people or priests – always puts mental prayer first. As St Josemaria also said, ‘Action is worth nothing without prayer, and prayer grows in value with sacrifice.’
      Thank you very much for the link to the Aid for confessors document.

      • Tom says:

        Hi Helen. Thanks for the kind and measured reply. That is all very good, but work is not prayer. Work is important. But prayer supersedes and informs our work. Christ made that distinction very clearly to Martha. Why this modernistic double speak where at times work=prayer, and at times prayer is something more formal. There is no way that in my line of work, I can think of anything else than my work. But I need prayer to prepare myself. Both are important but different concepts. Lets use words appropriately and not give new meaning to old words. Opus Dei was defined by St Benedict more than 1000 years ago in his rules, as the prayer life of monks, in direct opposition to work of monks. Why change this?

        Also, are your lay “spiritual directors” lay? Are they trained? Do they respect confidentiality? What if a lay person wants to look at other spiritualities, is this allowed, or are only Escriva’s writings allowed? Finally, Escriva, “in the way”, gives a very narrow and strict definition of formal prayer, so I guess, for example Ignatian form of prayer is out, for any lay in OD. Correct? Is SD in this modernistic context good for lay? Or, in light of the LC/RC scandal, there is a need to revise things? I know several lay that were deeply hurt by both movements, and nobody seems to care.

        • Helen London says:

          Tom, when St Josemaria and people in Opus Dei talk about work = prayer, I think they mean what you mean when you say “prayer supersedes and informs our work”. Escriva constantly reminded people about the fact that “Mary chose the better part, which shall not be taken away from her”, and the dangers of “activism”. When people like you are working with your minds, of course you cannot be thinking about anything else. Turning work into prayer, in that case, would consist of offering up the work with an act of love before starting, occasionally in the course of it, and on finishing. Keeping in contact with God, in other words, just as you do with someone you love when you’re both working.
          Spiritual direction in Opus Dei is given by priests and by some of the lay people. The priests have, of course, undergone rigorous training in their preparation for the priesthood. The lay people who undertake spiritual direction have previously undergone specific training and are mature, experienced people. We all receive ongoing formation for the whole of our lives. Confidentiality is strictly observed – in fact, when I read the Jordan Aumann chapter, I was able to appreciate how closely his specifications are put into practice in Opus Dei.
          For your other points – there is no one “method” of prayer taught or recommended in Opus Dei. On the contrary, each person follows their own path of prayer, which obviously develops and changes over the course of life. (I’ve sometimes wished there was a set method of prayer, it would make things simpler!) Spiritual direction is there to guide us on our own path of prayer, and nothing is “ruled out” unless it is incompatible with the teaching of the Church. Escriva ensured that there is always a wide range of spiritual literature available for people to choose their spiritual reading from, and that, especially over the first few years, people who are able to should normally cover the major spiritual classics.
          Sorry this is so long, but I hope it helps,

          • Tom says:

            Thanks, but you have not answered all the questions, in particular how do you reconcile St Benedict with Escriva. Also, you have not commented on the last point. This is an issue now, as a numerary assistant is taking OD to court in France. There are many other that have been shunned or hurt.

            Lets see what Escriva says about prayer, in “the way”:

            “86 Your prayer should be liturgical. How I would like to see you using the psalms and prayers from the missal, rather than private prayers of your own choice.”

            That is about it.

            It is still unclear to me, what basis in Christianity do Escriva’s three “Holies” have (“intransigence, coercion and shamelessness”). How is that used in “spiritual direction”?

            As an example, below is an extract from the first exercise of St Ignatius, written 500 years earlier. In my very humble opinion, St Ignatius forces one to look deep into once self, though prayer, using scripture as basis, as well as the whole being, mind, heart and senses. He does not redefine vises as new to virtues, using double speak.

            From the exercises of St Ignatius:

            First exercise.
            It is a meditation with the three powers on the first, the second and the third.
            It contains in it, after one Preparatory Prayer and two Preludes, three chief
            Points and one Colloquy.

            Prayer. The Preparatory Prayer is to ask grace of God our Lord that all my intentions, actions and operations may be directed purely to the service and praise of His Divine Majesty.
            First Prelude. The First Prelude is a composition, seeing the place. Here it is to be noted that, in a visible contemplation or meditation — as, for instance, when one contemplates Christ our Lord, Who is visible — the composition will be to see with the sight of the imagination the corporeal place where the thing is found which I want to contemplate. I say the corporeal place, as for instance, a Temple or Mountain where Jesus Christ or Our Lady is found, according to what I want to contemplate. In an invisible contemplation or meditation — as here on the Sins — the composition will be to see with the sight of the imagination and consider that my soul is imprisoned in this corruptible body, and all the compound in this valley, as exiled among brute beasts: I say all the compound of soul and body.
            Second Prelude. The second is to ask God our Lord for what I want and desire. The petition has to be according to the subject matter; that is, if the contemplation is on the Resurrection, one is to ask for joy with Christ in joy; if it is on the Passion, he is to ask for pain, tears and torment with Christ in torment. Here it will be to ask shame and confusion at myself, seeing how many have been damned for only one mortal sin, and how many times I deserved to be condemned forever for my so many sins. Note. Before all Contemplations or Meditations, there ought always to be made the Preparatory Prayer, which is not changed, and the two Preludes already mentioned, which are sometimes changed, according to the subject matter.
            First Point. The first Point will be to bring the memory on the First Sin, which was that of the Angels, and then to bring the intellect on the same, discussing it; then the will, wanting to recall and understand all this in order to make me more ashamed and confound me more, bringing into comparison with the one sin of the Angels my so many sins, and reflecting, while they for one sin were cast into Hell, how often I have deserved it for so many. I say to bring to memory the sin of the Angels, how they, being created in grace, not wanting to help themselves with their liberty to reverence and obey their Creator and Lord, coming to pride, were changed from grace to malice, and hurled from Heaven to Hell; and so then to discuss more in detail with the intellect: and then to move the feelings more with the will.
            Second Point. The second is to do the same — that is, to bring the Three Powers — on the sin of Adam and Eve, bringing to memory how on account of that sin they did penance for so long a time, and how much corruption came on the human race, so many people going the way to Hell. I say to bring to memory the Second Sin, that of our First Parents; how after Adam was created in the field of Damascus and placed in the Terrestrial Paradise, and Eve was created from his rib, being forbidden to eat of the Tree of Knowledge, they ate and so sinned, and afterwards clothed in tunics of skins and cast from Paradise, they lived, all their life, without the original justice which they had lost, and in many labors and much penance. And then to discuss with the understanding more in detail; and to use the will as has been said.
            Third Point. The third is likewise to do the same on the Third particular Sin of any one who for one mortal sin is gone to Hell — and many others without number, for fewer sins than I have committed. I say to do the same on the Third particular Sin, bringing to memory the gravity and malice of the sin against one’s Creator and Lord; to discuss with the understanding how in sinning and acting against the Infinite Goodness, he has been justly condemned forever; and to finish with the will as has been said.
            Colloquy. Imagining Christ our Lord present and placed on the Cross, let me make a Colloquy, how from Creator He is come to making Himself man, and from life eternal is come to temporal death, and so to die for my sins. Likewise, looking at myself, what I have done for Christ, what I am doing for Christ, what I ought to do for Christ. And so, seeing Him such, and so nailed on the Cross, to go over that which will present itself. The Colloquy is made, properly speaking, as one friend speaks to another, or as a servant to his master; now asking some grace, now blaming oneself for some misdeed, now communicating one’s affairs, and asking advice in them. And let me say an OUR FATHER.


          • Tom says:


            After reading your reply, I am not convinced by what you say. To me saying that work=prayer, and prayer=prayer is rather ambiguous, thus can be used to manipulate people in so called lay “spiritual direction”.

            Lets compare the passage from Escriva in the aid for confessors and spiritual directors with the Gospel passage with Matha and Mary.

            …The spiritual director should assist the lay faithful in their relationship with God (by making concrete their participation in the Holy Eucharist and prayer, in the examination of conscience in a manner that is in union with their lives), in forming conscience, in assisting with the sanctification of the family, work, social relationships, and taking part in public life. “To work in this way is to pray. To study thus is likewise prayer. Research done with this spirit is prayer too. We are always doing the same thing, for everything can be prayer, all activity can and should lead us to God, nourish our intimate dealings with him, from morning to night. Any honorable work can be prayer and all prayerful work is apostolate. In this way the soul develops a unity of life, which is both simple simple and strong”.
            ST. JOSEMARÍA ESCRIVÁ, Christ is passing by, 10.

            Luke 10 38-42

            …As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary (who) sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” ..

            Escriva says “..for everything can be prayer” …I don’t think so..

  9. Theresa says:

    You should read a document this year released by the Congregation for the Clergy titled THE PRIEST MINISTER OF DIVINE MERCY an AID FOR CONFESSORS and SPIRITUAL DIRECTORS. You contradict them in your opinion of lay men and women as spiritual directors. I hope you look into it and offer your response, this could lead many astray.

  10. Jane says:

    I have never had trouble finding a priest for Spiritual Direction (SD), maybe because I know so many priests, from serving in different ways with them in my parish and diocese. If you find a confessor particularly suited to you, that may be a good start in having a discussion about SD. Don’t expect SD at you regular confession, but instead ask the priest for a monthly appointment at a scheduled time, at his convenience. I find many priests are pleasantly surprised when they meet Catholics with a sincere desire for regular SD.

  11. Martha says:

    What a timely post! Really, I’ve been hearing SO much about this renewal of the old practice lately, and always assumed they meant a priest. So, I asked a friend who ‘has had one for years’ where on earth she found a priest that wasn’t crazy overbooked to take the time for her. Ends up it was some lay woman. Needless to say, I was horrified for her at the prospect.

    My question is, were spiritual directors always priests in the past (as for St. Catherine et al), or were they just very qualified lay people?

    • Sr. Dorothy says:

      If you mean St. Catherine of Siena, she was a Third Order Dominican who spent many hours in prayer, thus a person open to the Holy Spirit.

  12. Brad says:

    “Spiritual guides”: a blind man leading another, both going into the ditch.

    How about just go to confession, the real Sacrament, to a priest in persona Christi?

    Too scary? Too real? Too effective?

    • Geneivieve says:

      Brad – I just LOVE how condescending you are. I mean, it really screams empathy and love of your neighbor.

      You’re right. All problems are fixable in the 5 minute absolution that you receive in the sacrament of Reconciliation.

      If the saints (e.g. St. Catherine of Siena et al) needed a spiritual director, what makes you think you don’t need one?

    • TheInformer says:

      Everybody knows that no priest has time for spiritual guidance. They are too busy crisis-counseling the young contracepting couples who don’t understand how their family is falling apart or the enabler parents who never bothered trying to teach the Faith to the kids and now they’re all screwed up.

      The idea of Spiritual Guide is nice, but just doesn’t happen.

      Go ahead, ask a couple of local priests………..

      • Oh it happens. Trust me. If lay people simply ask, it will happen. They may have to scout around a bit to find a priest who’s amenable to undertaking spiritual direction but, in my experience, most of them are.

        • Trina says:

          Mr. Madrid, you are quite right, good and holy priests understand that getting souls to heaven is the ultimate charity and will make the time to assist you. If you desire spiritual direction, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you where He wants you.

    • Were you just trying to give us some spiritual direction there, Brad? Hmm? If so, how does the first line of your comment reconcile with that?

      • David says:

        Yes, Patrick, Brad was trying to give spiritual direction.

        Unfortunately, few laity have such knowledge. There are even spiritual direction programs set up for the laity, predominantly in pastoral counseling programs (which includes theological training).

        I have both theological training and counseling training. However, I do not think it is sufficient to be a spiritual director. Perhaps, after I get my master’s degree.

        “Angels fear to tread, where men rush in.”

        I think this applies to spiritual direction as well. It should be:

        “Priests fear to tread, where the laity rush in.”

  13. Mary says:

    I had a Spiritual Director. The first one was a retired priest. I had asked him if he knew of anyone and he said that he was available. Unfortunately, I did not continue with him since in my heart; I really didn’t want to make the effort (procrastination). Now, about 5 years later, I am trying again to find a spiritual director. I called our dioceses center and I was directed to the person in charge of adult formation and education. After we prayed, he suggested three local priests, one of whom is my parish priest. Now I need to contact them and see if any are willing to be my director. Prayer is so important!

  14. Sugar Magnolia says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Obviously you read my mind.

  15. Irene says:

    One often reads of the need to have a spiritual director, but where are the right ones to be found? I tried 3 Jesuits. The first left within a week to get married, the second left to join the gay lifestyle, and the third was good and generous with his time but had odd theological ideas. All three had long backgrounds as novice masters and one as a provincial superior. I chose carefully (I thought). I’m advised by local 3rd order Carmelites that they have the greatest trouble locating one.

    You are entirely correct about the laity. I was briefly in a graduate program in Spirituality hereabouts where most of the other students intended to become spiritual directors. Oh, my word!! One had no idea what the word “crucifix” meant. In general, there was much enthusiasm and almost no solid knowledge.

    Personally, I’ve seen several friends go astray on account of untrained spiritual directors. I simply don’t think this is the right time in history to be encouraging folks to get one. It’s more likely they’ll lead their directees astray than to the heights of perfection.

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