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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 ...

The Obvious God

I do not usually watch television, but staying with a friend who does has been interesting. What astounds me, as I chose where I get my news and it is never the main stream media, are the number of shows dealing with money.

How many commentators are necessary to keep up the daily lies concerning the real state of the economies of Europe and America? Are people really duped by the myriad conversations, panels, debates?

I am no longer following these commentators on twitter, either. The preoccupation with false wealth deadens the spirit and warps the imagination. The preoccupation with wealth is idolatry.

The obvious gods of the vast majority of people are the accumulation of wealth and the consuming of goods. One of the most startling things about living in a land which relies on holiday makers for the vast majority of its income is the conspicuous waste of wealth. I want to crawl into a hole and stay there with bread and water at this point of my visit. Where are the hermits doing penance for all this waste?

A recent Gospel in daily Mass was this:

Luke 12:13-21

13 And one of the multitude said to him: Master, speak to my brother that he divide the inheritance with me.
14 But he said to him: Man, who hath appointed me judge, or divider, over you?
15 And he said to them: Take heed and beware of all covetousness; for a man's life doth not consist in the abundance of things which he possesseth.
16 And he spoke a similitude to them, saying: The land of a certain rich man brought forth plenty of fruits.
17 And he thought within himself, saying: What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
18 And he said: This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and will build greater; and into them will I gather all things that are grown to me, and my goods.
19 And I will say to my soul: Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years take thy rest; eat, drink, make good cheer.
20 But God said to him: Thou fool, this night do they require thy soul of thee: and whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?
21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God.

Take the Real God seriously when He speaks like not be a fool.  Our God will not be mocked by false gods.

A Blind World Is A Blind Guide

The world does not understand humility or selflessness. One can hardly live in a world where one is completely misunderstood in preferring the spiritual journey to that of the pursuit of success, money, status.

How strange it is that those of us who are trying to conform our wills to that of God's find ourselves at the edges of society.

This is part of the pain of the pursuit of love.

Few understand this.

Even those of Christ's day did not understand His message of service and humility.

But, Christ is very clear that those seeking the sophisticated, clever life will not make it to heaven.

He says this, not me.

And said: Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3

More and more people write to me saying they are isolated in their parishes, communities, families.

This is the pain of following Christ seriously.

There is no easy way around this. One cannot make a goal on the outside of the soccer net. The ball must go into the net. So, too, with the life of holiness.

One cannot skip the rules or the stages of purgation.

The Dark Night cannot be avoided accept at the peril of one's own salvation.

Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33

My own struggle is that I have never had the luxury to depend on another person. I have had to make it the hard way as a single mum, as a single person. Those of us having to be independent and rely on ourselves must die to that self-reliance, which is a good thing, but stands in the way of perfection.

The old habits must die in order for something new to begin. I share this insight as I know I am not the only person who has had the experience of having to be self-reliant for years and years. But, God has a better idea. He calls us to be completely reliant on Him Alone.

However, God is the Person Who has looked after us. He has been in charge of every detail.

It is only in the Dark Night, when one sees the false self-reliance and fear of love, that God meets one.

The world will never help one in this journey and, in fact, discourages one with false wisdom.

To become a child is to trust completely in God. To seek the kingdom of God first is to forget about self entirely.

God bless those of you who are in the Dark Night. Persevere. Do not be afraid.