Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Need for Spiritual Direction

Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI recently spoke on the importance of everyone having a spiritual director. See: Zenit's Pope Recommends Spiritual Direction for Everyone

I am very happy to see that Pope Benedict stressed the importance of spiritual direction. This idea is not a new one for me. I have been trying for years to find the right spiritual director. A few priests that I approached simply told me that they were too busy. I respected that. One dear priest accepted my request to become my regular confessor.  Back then I thought a spiritual director and regular confessor would be the same person.   This is not so.  Unfortunately, he did not work out.  I was looking for someone to guide me to a more holy life in my vocation as a wife and mother. What I received was reassurance from a very kind and non-judgmental priest that I was doing fine . Before you know it, I stopped making appointments. Maybe  if I had known the difference between a regular confessor and a spiritual director, it would have worked out.  I may have been looking for another Padre Pio and this was not at all fair to Father as either a confessor or spiritual director.

I realize that a spiritual director does not have to be a priest. For me at least, I think a priest's spiritual direction would benefit me very much.  Informally, I receive spiritual direction from my mother.  I really value her guidance and wisdom.  She also seems to know me very well, including my faults and weaknesses, as well as strengths and virtues.  But I still wanted a priest to guide me.

A few years back, I decided that I was going to ask St. Padre Pio to be my spiritual director. Even though he was no longer on earth, I had already asked him to accept me as his spiritual daughter, so I thought this was divine inspiration guiding me.  He is actually a very good spiritual director.  Along with St. Padre Pio I rely heavily on Blessed Mother, the Holy Spirit and Jesus to help me and to guide me. 

I found an article by a priest on the topic of spiritual direction.  He also included what to do if you cannot find a spiritual director.  New Theological Movement's When You Cannot Find a Spiritual Director The writer shares valuable advice. Please be sure to read it if you are looking for spiritual direction.

What if I cannot find a suitable spiritual director?

We must first state that it would seem to be better to have no director at all than to have an unsuitable one – so long as the terms of “unsuitability” are primarily those which have been enumerated in my previous article and are not merely our whimsical fancies. It would be better to have no director at all than to have one who is unfaithful to the Church’s spiritual tradition – Far better to struggle alone up the mountain, than to be dragged down into hell with a companion! On the other hand, we must be realistic and recognize that our director does not need to be another St. John of the Cross, we simply need someone who is learned, faithful, and prayerful (and who is willing to take us on as a directee).

That being said, it is often the case that no suitable director is available. Often, the director we might desire is exceedingly busy – in this case, we must add, it never hurts to ask if he can take us on anyways. Moreover, I would add that any good director will be busy, but he will also have a generous heart. Also, there may be a place for direction through written letters or even over the phone – remember that St. Gemma often had her guardian angel deliver letters back and forth between her and her director!

If we cannot find a director, and we are convinced that we need one, we must first turn to prayer and mortification. Through prayer, fasting, mortification, and works of charity, we will merit a good director! Perseverance is the key, we must not stop asking God to give us a good director; he will surely answer our prayers. But what ought we to do in the meantime?

St. Alphonsus (one of the greatest doctors of the spiritual life) recommends the following daily practices:
1) Short prayers immediately upon rising
2) ½ hour’s meditation each day (or at least 15 minutes)
3) 15 minutes of spiritual reading each day
4) A daily examination of conscience (particularly considering the quality of our prayer)
5) To make a confession and take Holy Communion at least once per week
6) Avoid the near occasions of sin and bad company
7) Entrust yourself to the Blessed Virgin Mary
8) Pray to Our Savior to obtain his Holy Love
9) Daily ask for the grace of final perseverance (i.e. the gift of salvation)


Nancy said...

Esther, I have been looking for a Spiritual Director for quite some time. I've had the same experience you have....priests are just too busy.
I know of one woman, whom I like very much, that went through training and is now "certified". I'm considering giving her a call.
Thanks for posting this....wonderful information here!

EC Gefroh said...

Nancy, I have recently heard about these certified spiritual directors.