June 08, 2009

The Beginning and the Goal of Spiritual Direction

[A re-run from April 3, 2006]

When a Catholic asks me for spiritual direction, my first response is to give the following list of essential basics..


Keep: The Ten Commandments of God.

Keep: The Five Commandments (or Precepts) of the Church.

Know: Your Faith as an Adult Member of the Church.

Practice: The Spiritual and Corporal (Bodily) Works of Mercy.

Pray daily.

Worship God at Mass every Sunday.

Catholics who are already living these basics need a much better spiritual director than me. In fact, such Catholics already have God the Holy Spirit as their personal director.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i just recently asked an abbot to be my spiritual director, is it safe to say then that he may tell me the same things as you have in your list?and my other question is, what if one follows most of the list but not quite all of them (probably because of the struggle of the will)then does that mean that that ones soul is still dying? then, who qualifies to have a spiritual director? sorry for the barrage of questions, but i do hope you can give an insight on some of them, thank you. UIOGD.

12:45 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

What I wrote is a description of my personal approach to the beginning of spiritual direction.

The abbot you are seeing will surely have his own approach.

Don't worry about seeing the list I wrote as some sort of "score card." See it instead as a foundation to stand on.

12:53 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...


I have modified the first sentence of the post to make it easier to understand the point I wanted to make.

12:57 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

". . . who qualifies to have a spiritual director?"

Dear Anonymous, my list is intended to be an introduction. A spiritual director can still be useful in helping you to understand and apply the basics in your own life. An individual may experience "glitches", may have certain habitual sinful behaviors, may have certain emotional blocks, or may have difficulty understanding; those are things that a spiritual director might be able to help one look at.

The "basics" are always "basic"--in the sense that they are the solid "base" that we need to stand on. They are the "first rung of the ladder." Without a first rung, a ladder is useless to us ... "climbing" then becomes simply inaccessible, an illusion.

9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spiritual Direction ... humble suggestion:

Reading ....
Lifes of the Saints, especially — Fire Within, by Dubay
Spiritual Passages, by Benedict J. Groeschel
Authenticity, A Biblical theology of discernment, Dubay
Seeking Spiritual Direction, How to Grow the Divine Life...
by Dubay

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

God Bless

12:34 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

Dear Anonymous,

Yes, in addition to:

(1) the Holy Gospel according to Mark (as a beginning, since it's the shortest);

(2) the Holy Gospel according to Matthew (longer than Mark, and offering spiritual and moral instructions or lessons);

(3) the Holy Gospel according to John (amplifying the Divine Personality who has become a man);

(4) finally the Holy Gospel according to Luke, together with it's "sequel", the Book of the Acts of the Apostles.

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Father,

I find it interesting that is your starting point but what if that person - struggles with these basics for genuine spiritual reasons. I seek not to test you but as a genuinely interested in my own case. I would say I am one who "knows" the insides and outs of all that you mentioned above and I carry out to the best of my ability. I am born and bred Catholic, have two parents with great faith and I was heavily involved in Catholic youth programs etc. I am one who admires reverence at the Altar etc. etc. I think you get my drift. Yet I struggle to believe in God, I want Faith and work for it but no matter what I do I just cannot fathom, reason the concept of God! I feel like I am fraud as when I pray, attend church (and even people call me a "saint" for the way I treat others) and all this leaves me down because I cannot honestly say, in my I heart of hearts believe "Credo in unum deum!". Is it possible that God does not give the gift of faith even to some of his own willing flock?

I know this went a little of track but I hope you understand.

7:44 AM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

Dear Anonymous,

Are you aware that Blessed Teresa of Calcutta suffered things similar to what you describe in your own experience?

She felt nothing in her life of prayer. She felt God had abandoned her.

Still, she persevered, giving him the "courtesy" of regular and frequent prayer and worship simply because he deserved it.

We can also look to our Savior. Even his "agony in the garden" is a real experience of sheer prayer-- agonized.

12:24 AM  
Anonymous Angelika said...

Dear Father,

Two years ago, when I was listening to "Introduction to the Devout Life" on tape and, hearing that I should find a spiritual guide, I was complaining to God that I did not know where to find one (Fr. N. in our parish had told my husband earlier that he did not feel qualified to give "spiritual direction"). The response came immediately: "You have not taken enough advantage of Father N., who faithfully waits in the confessional every Saturday."

I took the advice and went to confession more frequently (now weekly). God always uses His holy priest to give me the guidance I need.

Do you think that qualifies as "spirital direction"?

2:03 PM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

Many individuals receive all the "spiritual direction" they really need simply by examining their own consciences and confessing their sins sacramentally on a regular and frequent basis as you are doing. Such persons are already cooperating with the Holy Spirit. This is true even if the priest gives no advice and says nothing but what is required of him in hearing confessions and giving the sacramental absolution.

Other persons may find it more useful to have more conversation with the priest about thier own particular spiritual lives. However, the Sacrament of Penance is not meant to be the regular context for that (especially if there is a line of people waiting to confess).

2:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you think it is best that one's spiritual director also be one's regular confessor (if the spiritual director is a priest obviously)? I understand that spiritual direction is normally separate from the Sacrament of Penance but I can imagine that there would be benefits to having one's spiritual director as their confessor. I'm not suggesting that detailed Spiritual Direction be given in the confessional (but rather that there be a time set aside and scheduled for this outside the Sacrament).

11:47 AM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

I believe it is workable to have one's priestly spiritual director also serve as one's confessor.

I wouldn't call it the literal "best", but only for one reason. It may turn out that one has confessed something that the priest must then never himself bring up in speaking with you outside of that confession. It may be something that is crucial for him to be free to discuss with you in spiritual direction if he is also your spiritual director. However, you must bring it up in spiritual direction yourself. He is not free to do so.

For that reason, it may be more fruitful to have one's confessor be someone distinct from one's spiritual director.

11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a hard corps, depraved sinner who wishes he were a good catholic--I have a spiritual director who is a great help to me, yet your little list of basics strikes like a bolt! Thank you, and if we meet in heaven, I hope to shake your hand.

9:30 PM  

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