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Monday, 3 June 2013

On Finding and Choosing Spiritual Directors-No Nuns with Mazes, Please

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 director was exacerbated by so many disobedient nuns and priests, and lay people who insisted on charging. I did find one excellent fssp priest for awhile.

Then, I moved to Europe again, after some absence, and could not find one at all. Confessors argued with me as to what was a sin and what was not a sin. I finally found two priests, one in Westminster and one in Surrey, who understand the road to perfection.

One of the reasons why I wanted to live in the monastery  and be a nun was for formation, found in the Benedictine Rule. It is superb. The Rule forms. The day forms. Obedience forms.

Outside the monastery, where the Rule of Benedict and the Novice Mistress direct, secular priests have been the best for me, and one great nun who was a Carmelite trained in Ignatian spirituality, and now unavailable.

There are hardly any priests or nuns trained in spiritual direction here. Why, I do not know.

I had clergy and nuns trained in Ignatian spirituality, Carmelite spirituality, Benedictine spirituality. I was fortunate to be formed by praying religious and praying clergy. I was spoiled for choice.

These men and women, of course, did not charge for spiritual direction. If someone charges for spiritual direction, this person is not doing God's Will. What is freely given should be freely given again and again and again.

Bad spiritual direction is worse than none, as a person who pursues a life of perfection will not be ignored by God.

Do not be afraid to ask. I went up to a world-famous priest when I was a student at Notre Dame and asked him to be my spiritual director. I had read many of his books. How astounded I was when he told me that no one had ever asked him to do this before! He was my director for three years.

However, here, in this fair country, there are too many lay people without training, outside of orthodoxy, and without years of theology and counseling classes who are giving direction. It is scary how many are led astray  by such self-appointed gurus. It is dangerous from a psychological point of view.

The priest shortage has brought about the need for lay people to look elsewhere for advice.

However, I have a few helpful hints in choosing a good spiritual director; this list is similar to one I posted in the past:

1) make sure the director you are choosing has a spiritual director as well.;

2) spiritual direction since the late 20th century has always been free and it should be still;

3) make sure the person has qualifications from conservative and orthodox universities, colleges, seminaries, as so many are now falsely formed themselves, lack discernment, and give bad direction; your director must be an orthodox Catholic; stay away from centers caught up in New Age stuff and nuns with mazes;

4) ask questions if you do not know the person already; go for those who have excellent reputations;

5) pray and seek, seek and pray;

6) for the lay person, Ignatian spirituality is the most practical; try and find an orthodox person trained in Ignatian spirituality; I think there is someone at the Harrington Street Latin Mass Church in Dublin who would fit the bill; maybe readers can share information on solid directors;

7) make sure the spiritual director's life is in order; if a lay person's family is in crisis, or if a priest is disobedient in one thing (as there are probably more hidden disobedience), do not choose that person;

8) steer clear of so-called Gnostic seers who claim to give direction; some of these have stepped over into the occult;

9) if you cannot find one, be humble, talk to a good Confessor, and pray for purified discernment;

10) if you are a married woman and your husband is an excellent, praying, practicing Catholic, he is your spiritual director; in fact, I do not think a married woman should seek out other directors if she is in a good marriage;

11) remember that spiritual direction is NOT psychological counseling; those who confuse this are dangerous providers.

God  bless your journey to perfection.

And a prayer request. As some of you know, I lost my glasses in Walsingham. I have ordered new ones, but am borrowing someone's in order to blog. I see very blurred, so excuse errors. Prayers, please, that these glasses come in sooner than expected.

I cannot see anything far and hardly anything near.  Here is a painting from St. Agnes in Cawston, Norfolk, showing St. Matthew in glasses.

This was most likely done by the Norwich Masters in the 15th century. I shall write more on this church and others with magnificent rood screens soon. More here..