“Ask a Priest: What If There’s Not Much to Say in Spiritual Direction?”

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Q: I have been meeting monthly with a spiritual director for the last 18 months. While it has been very helpful and enlightening, I find myself struggling with what to discuss each month. She wants to hear more about how my prayer life is going. If it’s going well, and it generally is, what do we, or should we, talk about for an hour? I’m at a loss as to how best to use the time to continue deepening my faith and prayer life. – M.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Spiritual direction can be a great means for growth in the spiritual life — if it’s done well.

Without knowing more about the situation, I’ll limit myself to a few general observations.

First, an hour a month seems like a lot of time. You might see with your director whether a 30-minute session would suffice.

Also, you might discuss whether monthly direction is needed. Every other month might suffice, depending on the situation.

You mention that your director asks about your prayer like. That’s good. You say that your prayer life is going well. The director is probably trying to verify that very point.

The point of direction, in part, is that we need a third-party evaluation of our spiritual life. You might think your prayer life is going well, but the director is looking for evidence of that.

The key figure in spiritual direction is the Holy Spirit. Pope Francis says that direction could be better understood as spiritual accompaniment. The director, or accompanier (Francis’ preferred term), is there to assist the person in discerning and interpreting what is going on in his (the directee’s) spiritual life.

It is helpful in spiritual direction to have a program of life. This is our personal blueprint for action in the spiritual life. It helps us focus on specific points (such as working on a particular virtue) and use the means that help us to reach that goal.

This program of life (find a template here) could be the topic of discussion in spiritual direction, too. You might ask your director about it.


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