Finding a Spiritual Director (and what to expect)

I remember one day in seminary hearing the very direct words of one of the faculty– “a priest without a spiritual director is a menace.” It was a bold statement, but the emphasis on spiritual direction was important.

The history of the Church has always held the position of spiritual director as vital to the life of any clergy or religious. Today that still holds true, but many lay men and women, especially those in a life of ministry, also find a spiritual director to be a huge benefit.

Going about discerning and finding a spiritual director can be intimidating and can sometimes be downright difficult. Here are a few ideas for praying through the process and finding someone to help you in your walk with Christ as a YM, Core team member, and as a Child of God:

  1. Pray. Don’t enter into spiritual direction simply because it seems like the right thing to do. Pray and discern if you are ready, and ask the Lord to lead you to a good director who can help you.
  2. Go outside your circle. Your spiritual director should not be someone who directly supervises you. You may also find it awkward to choose someone you work with on a daily basis. You want to be able to speak openly about work and your own struggles and with some distance, it will help keep a clear line between your spiritual growth and your ministry.
  3. It does not have to be a priest. Permanent deacons, religious, and many lay ministers are trained in direction. Look for a Catholic who has experience and is willing to commit to guiding and guarding your soul. Many priests are happy to offer spiritual direction, but some simply do not have the time or cannot take on any additional directees. If you choose someone other than a priest, you will want to be sure to find a regular confessor.
  4. Ask someone who is experienced. You may really look up to some people in your parish or diocese who are spiritually right on track. But that alone does not mean that they will have the gifts needed to direct your soul. Be sure you’re asking someone who has some experience in Catholic spiritual direction.
  5. Spend some time “interviewing” more than one potential director. Meet with a possible director to find out their approach. A friend of mine once produced a list of 32 questions for a possible director. I don’t recommend that unless you want to really freak them out. Instead, simply get to know them and ask their style of direction and approach to prayer. Ask them what general format they keep for spiritual direction and pray with them about the possible relationship.

    Don’t be confused. A spiritual director is not a 1-on-1 with Dr. Phil.
  6. Spiritual direction is *NOT* time with Dr. Phil. It is not therapy and it won’t be a “quick fix”. Trust in the Lord to work through the relationship and be willing to do the work. Your spiritual director’s job is to guide you in your relationship with Christ. Also, the spiritual director should be humble and willing to serve you as a spiritual director, not someone who wants to turn you into a mini-me of himself!

Spiritual direction is a great opportunity to place your trust in another person and to allow a good sense of discipleship. Pray through it, ask God to be with you, select a strong and faithful Catholic, and be open to the Holy Spirit. Communicate honestly and you’ll be off to a great start.

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