Seeking Spiritual Direction…???

Last night I heard a presentation on spiritual direction. At the end of the evening, I felt more frustrated than ever. I had more questions than ever.

+What is spiritual direction, really?
+What can one expect from it?
+Is it foolish to look for one who will actually give direction?
+Is it too much to seek a director/directee relationship with someone who is both willing and able to admonish and correct as well as encourage and motivate?
+Is there anyone out there who is prepared ~and gifted with the ability~ to listen to the Holy Spirit in regard to my spiritual life and give concrete advice for growing in Christian Perfection and prayer?

Now I surely may have missed the point or misunderstood the talk I heard, but it seems to me that the definition of spiritual direction, according to the presenter, is nothing that I thought it was. Or rather it’s not as much as I thought it was. While the presenter was careful to impress upon us that it is not “counseling,” I did not hear anything more than what I would expect from counseling (pastoral or otherwise.) There was really no mention of a director DIRECTING. I didn’t hear him say anything that made me believe that I could expect real help, real advice and real direction from a spiritual director. If a spiritual director doesn’t believe it is their job to offer concrete advice to the directee, if they are unwilling to boldly recommend a particular course of action, with an expectation that I would at least attempt to follow their advice and recommendations, if they don’t feel that it becomes their place to truly guide me, then I don’t know if I understand the point of spiritual direction.

I do understand that there is not strict obedience in the director/directee relationship. Bishop Gregory Mansour says it like this:

A spiritual director is not a figure of authority that one is obliged to obey. Nor does he take the place of our superiors. The virtue to be exercised in spiritual direction is not obedience but rather docility. The person seeking direction ought to see his director as a spiritual father and as a special gift from Christ to guide and assist him.

I think the good Bishop hits the nail on the head by pointing out that the virtue we seek to live in such a relationship is docility to the guidance and advice a director gives. Otherwise, why bother? Why waste the time of the director if we are not going to commit to at least trying to execute the ideas, advice and plan they offer?

Bishop Mansour also notes in another place that the “stuff” of direction is prayer. Alleluia! Of course it’s not that “simple”. In order to grow in prayer and holiness, we need to examine and challenge our whole way of thinking and being and get to the root of what keeps us from growing. To pray well, to offer God the praise, worship and adoration He is due, to hear His voice, I must be as free as possible from the self-indulgence that gets in the way of relationship with Him.

In my mind, this is the goal of Spiritual Direction. And I’ll tell you, I would welcome someone who isn’t afraid to (kindly, gently, but firmly) grab me by the scruff of the neck and give a little shake to wake me out of my spiritual slumber or remove the blinders that I have become so used to that I do not see them.

Am I asking too much?

Is it wrong to desire to find someone who has the wisdom, prudence, experience and holiness to assist me in digging up the roots of my sin, to shine a light in the dark places of my soul, to actually *direct* me on a path that leads to holiness?

Is it crazy to look for someone who will challenge me in deep, even sometimes painful ways to root out sin and seek the Lord?

Am I out of my mind to hope, to pray, to believe that God could provide someone to help me to really grow in virtue and holiness?

Do I suffer from delusion and pride if I think that it is possible to become a truly holy person by means of submitting myself (docility, not obedience) to a wise, holy director who can guide me onto a path of holiness?

After the meeting, I shared some of these thoughts with a woman whom I’ve known for years. I shared the frustration I felt after the talk. I shared my impression that the picture the presenter painted was, in my view, nothing more than counseling. I shared my deep desire to grow in holiness and the need that I have for a reliable guide in order to do so. I told her of my disappointment that, according to the talk we just heard, spiritual direction could not offer me what I seek. I told her how sick I am of the self I am now and how I desire to become who I am.   I told her how much I needed someone who is more than a reflective listener and does not suffer from “nicer than Jesus” syndrome (you know the ones, the ones who are so “nice” that they make all of the excuses in the world for you and your sinfulness. They mean well, but they don’t help!)

She seemed to understand what I was looking for and she recommended that I call a particular priest that she knows. A priest who is wise, faithful, holy, and discerning. A priest who has the courage to call you out with kindness, gentleness and a bit of humor. A priest who really desires to help the faithful become the beloved of the Bridegroom.

My friend did not know if he would be able or willing to take another soul under his care and direction, but she was sure that he was the kind of director I am looking for. She recommends that I call him and let him know that she sent me to him. Even though he sounds like he has the makings for the right kind of director for me (and the added “bonus” of being able to have him hear my confession at the same meeting is very appealing!) I have a fear about calling him. I fear that he will tell me that he is sorry, but he is way too busy to take on another soul in this capacity. I fear that he will ask me to come up next week! You see, no matter how much I know I need it, the idea of seeking spiritual direction and committing to docility within it is daunting. Can I do it? What if I fail? What if I succeed and I learn that God is asking so much more of me than I imagined? What if I find out that I am a bigger mess than I think I am?

I suppose all that I can do is pray and then make the call, trusting that the Lord Jesus, who loves me like no other, will Himself work out the details. If this priest declines to accept me for direction, Praise be Jesus! It is His Holy Will! If he agrees to accept me (or I should say meet with the idea that he will if it is comfortable for us both) then Praise be Jesus! It is His Holy Will! He will afford me every grace for the relationship to be fruitful.

And what about you, dear readers? Do you have a director? Do you desire one? Do you find that they are not for the average Joe Sixpack? What are your thoughts on this?

God bless you and Mary keep you!

the title of this post, “Seeking Spiritual Direction” is also the title of an excellent book by Father Thomas Dubay.  I highly recommend Seeking Spiritual Direction: How to Grow the Divine Life Within

About becomewhatyouare

Catholic, Middle-Aged, Knitting-Addicted, Wife, Homeschooler, Mom of 6, Mom-in-Law to 1, Mother of 11 little saints, Grandma to 1, Godmother to 12, Foster Mom to 5, Army mom, Happily living in Texas!
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14 Responses to Seeking Spiritual Direction…???

  1. Therese says:

    I don’t have one, but have thought about it. My Mom and Dad both had them…I think it would be helpful for me…need to pray about this.

  2. Lesley says:

    I know exactly what you mean- I was on retreat about two years ago and when my Director said “that’s pride, and you need to take that to your next confession”, I felt such a sense of relief – I am tired of being told (even in confession) that its not a sin and its all OK because Jesus loves me – yes, i know he loves me but I also know I am not the person he wants me to be. Unfortunately that retreat centre is about a five hour drive away and I haven’t been able to go back

  3. Kin Robles says:

    It’s been my experience that God is very timely in what He brings into my life. I suspect that much of the time I miss a lot of what He sends, but every now and again my eyes are open just enough to catch it. To date, I have found informal spiritual direction in what I am called to witness and those who enter my life. It’s not the formal spiritual guide that is S.O.P. but for now, it’s where I’m at. The fact that I have come across your blog and the questions it raises may be yet another signal from The Great Communicator! Thanks for sharing.


  4. Lisa Sweet says:

    I had a spiritual director several years ago, and it was just what you described. You are not crazy for desiring this guidance. It is so beneficial. I dare say, if you have this desire in your heart, God is calling you closer to him through spiritual direction. Take this woman’s advice and call the priest. Yes, bringing our faults and imperfections “into the light” is painful, but it is better to be rid of them (or at least working on them) than to ignore them.
    I am only doing “long confessions” right now with my pastor–not true spiritual direction–and I miss it.
    God bless!

  5. mum6kids says:

    I was fortunate to have a very good priest as Spiritual Director while I tried to make some decisions about my life direction and how I wanted to be a mother.
    I didn’t go to him for Confession though.
    He was a solid Catholic guide as I tried to find the direction God wanted for me.

    One of the problems too many people find when looking for Spiritual Direction is that the SD thinks his/her role is Rogerian counsellor. That wont help- Rogerian approaches don’t help anyone much imho.
    If you want to find a good’un then ask around and make sure you find someone orthodox, grounded and well thought of.
    God bless

  6. Antonina says:

    I have longed for a spiritual director like you describe for years! This may be a generalization, but in my experience, the priests I have consulted for spiritual direction seem much more like what you are looking for compared to the lay women with whom I have met. There is some authority that comes with the priesthood, in addition to the depth of formation. Again in my experience, the lay spiritual directors go through spiritual direction training clearly apart from priestly formation, which lends itself to more of a counseling role than a true director. I have never been in long term spiritual direction, simply because those priests I would select are too busy (and have politely told me so) to take on such direction. However, many of them have offered to meet with me once to help me set a course and/or get through something. You are certainly not crazy to seek what your heart desires. We need to pray continuously for more vocations, so our priests are not overworked and overwhelmed and can accept more of us for ongoing spiritual direction! Blessings!

  7. KC says:

    I want one but fear having one.

  8. JLT says:

    Hi, I don’t have a spiritual director as such, but am seeking one. I am not Catholic, so my paradigm is a little different. I started seeking SD after reading a book called “Seeking God together. An introduction to Group Spiritual Direction.” (by Alice Fryling)

    I have inadvertantly acted in the role of SD myself on occasion, just listening to my friend /the “directee” and the Spirit and being careful to keep my own thoughts and ideas out of it. God has taught me to listen more and ask more questions, but the toughest lesson for me was to let go of the situation. I wanted my friend / “directee” to respect what I had heard from the LORD as direction for their life. One prescious friend didn’t and I was really cut up as I watched the consequences of her not listening – to God. God has been showing me that HE respects us enought not to interfere or get upset when I don’t listen. He is sad, but He walks through our weaknesses and pain with us anyway. This is my role too with my friends.

    In Jeremiah 31:33-34, we are told that under the new covenant, we will not be taught by man, but we all shall know GOD. God has already written the law on our hearts and minds. I think an SD’s role is to help us hear what God is already telling us.

    I like what Alice Fryling says in the aforementioned book: “In the Spiritual Direction relationship, the director is really listening in to an ongoing conversation between the directee and God.”

  9. Wayward Pilgrim says:

    Very well written post. I pray you find what you are seeking. Hope you do not mind comments from an Orthodox Christian. In our tradition, we have a “starets” or Spiritual FatherMother. Mine just happens to be a Priest. This is not an easy journey, but it has been intrumental in my spiritual development. My problem is, my Parish Priest has called me out to be a Spiritual Director. You thinbk finding one might be scary? Who am I to lead others? How do I keep egotism and self righteousness out of the picture? An excellent book (written by an Episcopal Clergyman and Psychologist) is “Companions on the Inner Way” by Morton Kelsey (bought mine used on Amazon for a few dollars). Hope you benefit from this post. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

    • Oh, Pilgrim! I do not mind at all. (Two lungs and all of that 🙂 ) I’ll take a look at that book. Thanks.

      Thank you for taking the time. I’ll offer a prayer to the Theotokos, asking her to guide you as you undertake your mission.

  10. simona says:

    Hello everyone,

    Nice to read all of U coments about SD
    may somebody could recomend some resources of information,where to look in trying to find SD ?


    • The following reply to your comment contains links to Patricia Ann’s site/business and to SDI. I have no personal knowledge about Patricia Ann or SDI.


      I briefly went to the sites and one has an overwhelming amount of information and the other not enough for me. I am approving the comment so that you can research them yourself.

      In publishing the links below, I neither endorse nor reject either site.

      “Caveat Emptor”

    • Simona,

      There are spiritual directors who work with you online. I offer spiritual direction for moms. See for more information.

      If you need more information or have other spiritual questions Spiritual Direction International has a very helpful site. On it you will find a directory of Directions around the US and Beyond.

      I hope you find what you need for your spiritual journey!


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