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“Ask a Priest: Can Spiritual Direction Be a Q&A Session?”
Q: What do we actually discuss in spiritual direction? If I am seeing a priest, asking him any questions ranging from the Bible, Church teachings, sacraments, current issues related to religion and spiritual life, doubts — no certain pattern though, just asking any questions I have — is that spiritual direction? Do I have to tell him all (serious) sins I’ve done, since sometimes I go to confession with other priests? I do not really tell him about my private life because I am not extrovert; plus, even though he is our pastor, I really don’t know much about him and don’t like to ask unless someone voluntarily tells me. So, it is hard to be like an open book to someone you don’t really know. How frequent should spiritual direction be? Is once a week too often? – T.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: Spiritual direction isn’t meant to be a question-and-answer session about Church teaching.
It’s OK if occasionally you raise a question about Church teaching or another topic, but direction is meant to help you discern where the Holy Spirit is leading you as he guides your growth in holiness.
This requires that you open up to your director about your inner life. This can include the general categories of sin that you are especially struggling with.
You don’t have to reveal everything you might say in the confessional, but ideally you need to let him know where you are in terms of virtue, etc.
If you aren’t comfortable opening up to your director, and if you are hiding things, then direction probably will be a waste of time. It’s like going to the doctor and not telling him about the significant aches and pains you have.
Moreover, it’s not crucial that you know a lot of details about a spiritual director. What is important is that he is orthodox and competent, with a firm understanding of the spiritual life and human nature.
So, unless your relationship with your pastor can change, it might be better to find a spiritual director with whom you can open up.
And if that isn’t an option – good directors are hard to find — then it would be better to just ask for advice within the sacrament of confession.
I hope this helps. Count on my prayers.
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