“Ask a Priest: Can Spiritual Direction Be a Q&A Session?”

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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.

Also helpful would be a steady diet of solid spiritual reading, including Navigating the Interior Life. And you might want to take a look at https://spiritualdirection.com/.

I hope this helps. Count on my prayers.

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One Comment
  1. Good reply. Spiritual Direction is, primarily, our being open to hear THE director of our spirit which is THE HOLY SPIRIT. That direction, is as simple as attending Catholic Mass with purity of love for God (state of grace) and asking our Lord and Savior to strengthen us for another week of coming to know, love, and serve God as we go about the good work we get to do WITH Jesus Christ who dwells within.

    The serving starts with morning prayer and ending with evening prayer (and examination of conscience)
    Morning prayer need not be anything lengthy, just a simple: Lord ‘Guide my words and actions.’ AND
    THEN be aware of how He does. When we know what to say, or to say nothing with regards the nonsense talk of ‘the world,’ and in a workplace job we understand how to do the work at hand… give credit where it is due: HE who is within.

    Most people of virtue (aka fruit of the spirit of God) have had spiritual direction, though they may not have been so aware of it. That of ‘being raised up in the way we are to go.’ ie: a Godly parent who states the NO NO’s and YES YES . . . from age 2 through child and adult growing years … was in the hands of a spiritual
    director. Besides good parents, if blessed to have ONE good friend of mutual spirit to just listen, the Holy
    Spirit is at work in that provided friendship. If, besides this, life ‘in the world but not of it’ throws us a bit
    (and it can) yes, SPIRITUAL DIRECTION from a competent priest or lay person competent in the Catholic
    faith practice can be helpful. Who, when on a journey doesn’t stop sometimes and ask directions? Spiritual Direction is NOT psychological counseling. If a spiritual director begins analyzing our actions, best to find a
    new spiritual director.

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