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Saturday, 26 October 2013

The Lack of Spiritual Directors-Two Points of View

Many adult Catholics have complained of the lack of spiritual directors in their dioceses. This is not a new problem. For most of my adult life, from the age of 22 until recently, I have been blessed with mature, orthodox spiritual directors.

Since I have been in Europe, I have found several excellent priests in Ireland and in England in the Confessional, who have given me excellent advice. These priests, obviously, know the language of the the road to perfection and have experienced the Dark Night themselves, so that they can give superb advice.

But, I have two opinions on spiritual direction. Let me explain.

First, if one is in an area where there are mature, orthodox priests who have time for spiritual direction, ask for one to help you. However, this situation is not normal. Most priests are now too busy for personal direction time.  If one is in an orthodox parish, with a sound priest, it does not hurt to ask.

I think that it is more important for married men to have a spiritual director, and then these men can share advice with their spouses. I think that married women can rely on good husbands for direction.

Single women need to be careful in not causing scandal or asking too much from a spiritual director who is a priest. One must always act and proceed in a professional manner.

Spiritual director is NOT psychological counselling or any other type of counselling. If one needs counselling, one should find a Thomistic based counselor and pay for that.

My second point is this. For centuries, the laity did without spiritual directors, and they became good, holy people. One can become a saint without a spiritual director.

Again, confession is not the usual place for spiritual direction, but I know for a fact that many Opus Dei priests are willing to enter into spiritual direction in the Confessional.  Of course, if there is a queue of thirty people lined up for Saturday afternoon Confession, one cannot expect direction.

Back to this second point--one can rely on occasional direction in the lay life. This situation, is, of course, much more difficult, but for those who are not beginners, who are proficients, as St. John of the Cross explains, a disciplined prayer life and a reading of the classical books on spirituality can take the place of a spiritual director.

We must not give up the journey merely because we cannot find someone to help us on the way.

May I make a suggestion that if one does not have a spiritual director, one should be going to Confession once a week. This habit stops one from falling into self-deceit regarding one's real state of the soul.

A regular Confessor, who knows you and is the same one you go to for a long time, will be able to lead you into new levels of spiritual counselling.

May I add some more comments on who not to go to for spiritual direction. These points must be taken seriously.

1) Do not go to anyone involved in New Age religion or New Age counselling techniques. Many so-called spiritual directors in England fall into this category. Avoid such deceit. Do not go to one without sound training.

2) Do not go to a charismatic director, as too often these good people have limited themselves to such things as personal revelations, the chasing after the gifts, and false apparitions. Many lack an orthodox view on prayer.

3) Do not go to a non-Catholic. I think this is obvious, but some people get confused on this point. Protestants are heretics and lack the fullness of Truth. Many hate the sacrament of Confession and see Adoration as Idolatry. Do not get involved in spiritual direction with people who are part of ecumenical groups. Again, the possibilities for errors and a lack of formation on the part of those involved can be a reality.

4) Do not go to a young priest or young nun, or priests and nuns not formed in the old, tried and true ways of spirituality. The old ways of the Benedictines, Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites and Salesians are the ways the saints have showed us take us to God.

5) If a priest recommends a book which is off, as happened to me recently, do not seek that priest out again. I have had this happened twice, where the priest counselling me recommended non-orthodox books. Basically, be aware that so much of what is written post-Vatican II may not be sound.

6) Do not go to spiritual direction with any of the Nuns on the Bus....or those types--'nuff said about that.

7) Never, never, never go to a spiritual director who charges. What God gives freely is to be given freely. If someone is charging, this person has stepped out of the long tradition of the Catholic Church in sharing with the brothers and sisters of Christ what God has given to them.

8) Do not except spiritual direction to solve all your problems. A director is not a magician but a wise guide. Your relationship with Christ is still your own responsibility, not his or hers.

9) Do not be upset if you cannot find anyone. God will give you what you need for your road to Him. He will not abandon you. If you feel abandoned, learn to trust more.

10) If you cannot find any wise Confessor or spiritual director, realize that you are experiencing what many people in the Church are experiencing across the world-a lack of holy priests, nuns, even bishops. We are in the midst of a Catholic leadership crisis and we may be just one more person who experiences this world-wide phenomenon. We are living in precarious times and we must endure what is happening without complaint. Millions of lay people have become holy without directors.

Some of these points are repetitions from earlier posts. Here are more posts connected with this topic.

03 Jun 2013
I was blessed with many long years of excellent spiritual direction. That was from 1971-2001, in my twenties, thirties and forties, or so, and 2006-2010, with a hiatus in Canada, and Alaska, where the problem of finding a ...
01 May 2012
I could write a book on trying to find a good spiritual director. I have had good ones and excellent ones. But, in England there is a twofold problem. The first is that priests are surprised when one asked them to consider this.
22 Jan 2013
Sadly, I have never had a person to give me spiritual direction. As you say, there are just not enough priests, religious or others with the time, desire and ability for it to be available to most lay persons who are committed to ...
24 Jun 2013
I wish I had seen your list years ago when looking for some serious spiritual direction. I had two 'directors' when I was much younger and they both charged me for it. They did not talk of sin as a reality or expect my own ...

03 Oct 2013
He started to devote more time to preaching retreats in Belgium and in the United Kingdom, and gave spiritual direction to many communities, particularly those of Carmelite nuns. He become the confessor of Mons. Joseph ...
29 Nov 2012
Each student had a spiritual director and for many years, a very liberal nun was allowed to choose priests for some of the sems. Spiritual direction did not necessarily include steps to self-denial, but could be merely times when ...
20 Nov 2012
Nuns in the Benedictine monastery where I was do not receive spiritual direction at all. Now, this may seem strange, and it was hard for me in discernment, but the Rule of Benedict provides the format for discernment: that is, ...
01 Jun 2013
10) Are the leaders taking money for spiritual direction or so-called healing? If so, get out. 11) If the leaders are living openly in sin, either in irregular marriages or in some other obvious area, get out. Satan does not care how ...