September 22, 2009

Spiritual Direction

What Should I Look For?

The history of spiritual direction can be traced back to the desert fathers in the first few centuries of the Church. It was natural that new Christians (or established ones in search of a deeper experience of God) would seek wisdom from Christians with more experience, knowledge and sanctity. There are a few points to consider when seeking a spiritual director:

Who Wants to Do It?

A priest we know quoted one of his teachers in the seminary:

      “If anyone tells you they would like to be your spiritual director, RUN!”

This is excellent advice. There are a lot of people out there want to help you so they can feed their own ego or brag about all the disciples they have. Some of these types even write books and have PhD’s. Don’t be fooled by credentials.

A spiritual director is not a peer. Groupings and fellowships are important and maybe essential, but most of us also could use the guidance (at times) of someone already standing where we want to be. If a person you are considering as a spiritual director does not impress you as the kind of person you wish you could be, they are not the one. It is entirely possible no one you know fits this description. Remember that you don’t have to have one, and that if the Lord does not put the right person in your path, it must not be his will. Of course, if your dominant fault is pride you have little chance of obtaining successful spiritual direction anyway, because it will affect both your choice and your acceptance of direction. See our page on the “Seven Deadly Sins.”

For Spiritual Directors

What Are the Kinds of Spiritual Direction?

There are two principal models worth considering:

  • Spiritual master – Someone that has attained the kind of life described in 1 Timothy or Titus (in the descriptions of priests or bishops). This requires complete trust in the director. Many people that accept direction under this model end up abused by phonies. The gift of discernment is essential.
  • Spiritual coach – In this model, it is only required that the director be capable of drawing out the spiritual talents of the one being directed. This is often done by asking insightful questions and restating ideas expressed by the one receiving direction. In baseball, the best coaches are not the best players. Similarly, the spiritual coach may guide you to a place that he or she cannot go (in a sense). The spiritual coach knows what can work for others and does not limit their guidance to what has worked for them.

Spiritual directors are not psychics or fortune tellers. If you are referred to a spiritual director that claims to have special information about the “end times” or has set a date for the Second Coming, avoid that person and the one that referred you as well. Spiritual directors that receive special/miraculous graces from God do not advertise. They are loath to speak of any of the wonderful private graces they receive. They are suspect if they talk about themselves at all.

Who Should Seek Spiritual Direction?

First of all, if you are having visions, hearing voices or experiencing spiritual phenomena, see your priest or minister right away and be very frank about what is happening. They may refer you to a doctor.

If you have had some success with prayer, and pray often, perhaps it is time. If you are doing better at resisting sin, and in fact feel less tempted than before, maybe it is time. If you realize that your worst sins are pride, envy, gluttony, laziness, etc� it is a great time.

Is it Required?

No. Lots of good Christians never have spiritual directors. If you find someone worth trying, do. If it doesn’t work out, let it go. Always pray for the grace of the Holy Spirit no matter what. The Holy Spirit will guide you with or without a spiritual director if you desire it: this is a promise from Jesus.

I Have More Questions

You can mail us, and we will put some new material here based on the reply. Check “Higher Ground” for updates on this subject. You can also look at our Web Site: There are many links and essays to help you in your growth.

May you grow in the love of God!

Below are notes from a handout on spiritual direction. I’ve lost track of where it came from. If it helps, great. If not, let it go. It’s a little too “New Age” in some ways�but has some good points.

Spiritual Direction – What is it?


  • Companion . . . On the Way
  • Involves gift with skills to make the gifts operative
  • Goal = the enjoyment of God and oneself
  • Call for reverence. . and Hope for more “to come”
  • Aids person to be open to calls of Holy Spirit
  • Conversion
  • Summons toward deepening Union with the Lord.
  • Cultural Shift. Creates demand for spiritual direction

Role of the enabler/companion/director/directress

  • Helping relationship in the context of Church
  • Helper as Sacrament
  • Enables person to bring alive potentialities, possibilities
  • Centrality of Religious Experience
  • Helps him/her grow and develop a lived dialog with God.
  • Philip and The Eunuch Acts 8:26 ff

Person as enabler/companion

  • Makes present the story
  • Lives the vision
  • Choose Life
  • \/a1ues Gospel priorities …. Person, Presence and Power of Jesus
  • Believes that God speaks through the events of life
  • Believes that person is capable of growth
  • Believes that freedom is a precious possession
  • Believes that decisions must be person’s own choice
  • Works in faith context
  • All is Gift… Must trust in the power of the Spirit
  • Romans 8:26-27
  • l Corinthians 3:5-15

What happens in spiritual direction?

  • Listening
  • Affirmation
  • Confrontation
  • Clarification
  • Teaching
  • Integration
  • Counseling
  • Help through the Desert
  • Discernment
  • Prayer

The process of spiritual direction

  • Faith context
  • First meeting – lay groundwork
    Discuss and discover expectations

  • Getting to know person�s sacred history
  • Spiritual Direction as Interpersonal Relationship, involving trust, empathy, timing, patience, noticing, self-knowledge, non-verbal elements, silence and feelings, etc…

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