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What about your experience with spiritual direction?

May 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Reader Feedback

What about your experience with spiritual direction?

Dear Catholic Spiritual Direction Friends,

More than 500 of you have told us that you are in an active spiritual direction relationship right now. Would you mind answering a few questions about your experience with spiritual direction? I am about half way through a book project on the topic and want to be sure that it is a valuable service to the Church. Regardless of whether you are in an active relationship now, if you have had experience with spiritual direction, feel free to answer any or all of the questions by replying to this post via the comment feature below. Any feedback is welcome – even if it answers a question I did not ask. Thank you in advance for your help!

  1. What exercises or specific aspects of spiritual direction have been most helpful to you?
  2. What do you wish you had known before entering into the process?
  3. What are your questions about spiritual direction?
  4. What do you struggle with in spiritual direction? What has been frustrating to you?
  5. Are you in spiritual direction but still stuck in your spiritual growth? If yes, where are you stuck?
  6. If you could ask your spiritual director to change one thing about your relationship, what would it be?

He is real, present, and good, may He always be so to you.

Dan

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of SpiritualDirection.com, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • doanli

    I’d love to find a Spiritual Director. I’ll put it on my prayer list.

  • Donald

    I have just started with my spiritual director. We are communcating by telephone. In reply to the firstr question, I am pleased and excited by this session because he gave me specific physical and spiritual exercises to do for the next month.
    #2: I didn’t have any preconcieved ideas about spiritual direction.
    #3. same as above.
    #4. I don’t know yet because I’ve just started, but I suspect it may be the disciplne of staying focused on my prayers and listening for God rather than talking.
    #5. I am not stuck, yet.
    #6. I have just started so I don’t have any comments to make on this question.
    FYI: I have been praying for a spiritual director for over a year, and found one through the EWTN program Journey Home.

  • Obi

    Dear Dan, I have been in spiritual direction for over 7 years now. I know I could not be where I am today in my relationship with God without this great resource. I meet once a month and I will never schedule anything over my time that is set aside to be with my spiritual director. I have an attitude that I know I am going to speak with Christ and make sure that I am on the desired path he has for me. I see my spiritual director as this intercessor without a doubt! I noticed that the more I trusted that God set this person aside for me to grow closer to him the more I could open up and be completely honest about myself and my weaknesses. I had to change spirtual directors 2 years ago and I had to again renew my faith in God knew what was best for me. The new spiritual director has been another great blessing and now I feel spoiled by God. We have nothing to fear when we put our trust in God’s instruments.

  • Deb

    The most helpful: having one other than myself to talk to, and support in my choice of vocation. His patient acceptance of my foibles towards direction.
    I wish I had known: how proud I was. I wish I had known less about spiritual stuff, since my “knowledge” gave me an inflated view of my abilities. My name for my director was “clueless”, but the Holy Spirit kept me coming back. Three years to get rid of the inflated self-view (ongoing).
    Questioning S.D.: why are some people ‘friends’ with their spiritual director or: is a less formal direction good or harmful? Why is it so hard to grasp contemplative prayer? How do I tell when I am compromising?
    Struggle: How slowly if at all change happens.
    Stuck: Generosity towards God; Seeing what I need to do but still rebellious.
    Change: I wish he understood better about Marian devotion and did not view it so negatively; I wish he left out the Charismatic stuff.

  • ralyge

    In response to your questions regarding spiritual direction:

    1. My experience with several spiritual directors has been, not that it is a certain director or style or technique that is helpful but, the simple accountability and encouragement of monthly spiritual direction that God has allowed to bear fruit in my life. I feel I have had great (though not perfect) spiritual directors. I thank them for walking with me because they have made the difference. I thank them for the extra time they have given me at our appointments and for being available during crisis. I prefer lay women spiritual directors because they often already have a personal understanding of sex, marriage, children and how to tie the spiritual life into this state in life; I find them more empathetic and easier to open up to. The new plethora of Catholic educational resources also makes a huge difference.

    2. Most of my spiritual “breakthroughs” came only after I was truly honest and open in spiritual direction with myself, God, and my director. I wish I had understood more the importance of God’s grace and love; the role of identity; the importance of daily prayer, discipline, and acceptance; the spiritual journey; and relationship vs. routine.

    3. As “incarnate spirits” living in a world in which practically no one is without health problems and psychological wounds, what is the overlap between the spiritual, psychological, and the medical? How does this interplay in spiritual direction? What are the different “schools of thought” regarding Catholic spiritual direction?

    4. Struggles have been “correct diagnosis” so as to offer the right solution. This would refer to spiritual diagnosis, but also to the reality that people going to spiritual direction need to be made aware upfront that other professional services may be recommended and even required. Then there are general spiritual struggles such as the battle of prayer, the confusion of discernment, and not understanding the journey.

    5. I am in spiritual direction and do not feel spiritually stuck though I have been at times. God has different times and ways for souls and often asks for perseverance in spite of appearance or hides the appearance of progress for the souls humility. Sometimes the “stuck” stems from a directors lack of knowledge or inexperience although God works it all out in the end.

    6.When the director does not really understand, takes up the time by taking too much, or does not follow through on things her/she said they would do regarding the direction.

  • gabrielmgonzalez

    What happens is that you don’t see the results the way you would like them to be which speaks tons of your impatience but don’t seem to get anywhere. When I read your motives for pride I could see myself very much in them. I guess I haven’t apply myself the way I should but let me tell you that I will keep on trying not matter what.

  • POA900328

    1.What exercises or specific aspects of spiritual direction have been most helpful to you?
    I think the most helpful aspects for me are the periodicity of the spiritual direction, the relationship with the spiritual director, that gives you a lot of confidence and makes you realize God is really wise with each SD He puts on your way. Another thing was the testimony of my spiritual directors, their charity and spirit of service, and of course the fact that they are trying to help you achieve your plenitude, but they also need our help and need us to be open and trust them. The more saint the intstrument, the more graces and clarity you receive. Having ”homework” , or specific aspects in which you might work for the next SD, and I think a very helpful thing is seeking for confession before SD, so your spiritual director can see with more clarity.

    2.What do you wish you had known before entering into the process?
    That everything a spiritual director wants is to help you find your plenitude, because some times we think they have ”other intentions”, or an interest of getting something out of you, but all they want is your own plenitude.

    3.What are your questions about spiritual direction?
    I have a great spiritual director, and very periodical meetings, so at this moment I cannot think about a question, but I always ask everything.

    4.What do you struggle with in spiritual direction? What has been frustrating to you?
    I struggle with the fact of opening your whole ”intimity”’, like everything that is inside your soul, my prayer lights, but I think that every time I go to spiritual direction it helps me think it is not the person, but the Holy Spirit who is talking and to whom I am talking, so He knows everything, but needs some instruments to clarify and see with ovbjectivity what I am experiencing in my spiritual life.
    Something that was frustrating to me long time ago was the inconstancy of spiritual direction, consacrated women or legionaries came like every 4 or 5 months, and it was terrible, and then they weree coming like every month or 2, but they changed them a lot! and it was frustrating that I had like 2 or 3 spiritual directors in a year, so there was more difficult to advance in spiritual growth because every time a new one came, we had to start from the begining, knowing each other, and it was difficult that something I had once opened and talked, and that for me was difficult, every time they changed spiritual directors i had to start from the beginning

    5.Are you in spiritual direction but still stuck in your spiritual growth? If yes, where are you stuck?
    No, finally I’m not stuck, but I was stuck long time ago and during many years because of fear of finding God’s willl, and because I had the thought that they wanted to make me a ”brain wash” and force me to do something I did not wanted, but now, I know I was in a terrible and huge mistake.

    6.If you could ask your spiritual director to change one thing about your relationship, what would it be?
    Anything!

  • Marie

    Dan:
    I have been in spiritual direction for 15 months after wanting and searching for a director for over 10 years. My primary confessor has been very helpful but the spiritual director has taken me to places I would have never experienced had it not been for his help with spiritual direction.
    1.)What has been most helpful?Having a priest who is compassionate and patient that works to keep me accountable to the will of the Father.
    Making sure I have pencil and paper to write down not only what I need to bring to our spiritual direction meetings but to also write down what the Holy Spirit is asking me to do. My spiritual director always sends me back to pray and ask the Holy Spirit before the Blessed Sacrament about whatever the situation may be. It was helpful at the beginning of our meetings to work on building a solid prayer life…not just the meditation on the Rosary but contemplative prayer…our earliest sessions were on him praying over me several times to become more enlightened by the Holy Spirit.
    2). I wish I had known more about the actual process in order to better prepare for the sessions. That question has been answered and addressed at this site. I also think too the spiritual director will inform you of what he/she would like to know so that with prayer they will know how or what to direct you on. So many times my director reminds me that spiritual direction is not what my director thinks I need to do about a situation but it is what the Holy Spirit is trying to lead me to. My director says, he is just an instrument and lots of times he tells me what he hears from the Holy Spirit as he prays for me before the Blessed Sacrament. That was scary when he told me this. How to hear the Holy Spirit?? That is difficult to do especially in our culture now but once you experience it, you then crave it…problem then becomes how to always put God first and not to cheap the relationship.
    3). I don’t have any specific questions about direction currently…but I would describe the process of the last 15months as an exhilarating “roller coaster” ride…after some sessions I was left in spiritual knots and could not pray, and after working and praying through the struggles, there has been marvelous and healing peace that has come to light all by spiritual direction.
    4). What have I been frustrated/struggled with in SD?Initally, trusting myself and my secrets to my director and then getting over my fears. I know that I cannot hide anything from my SD because he can see right through me…I know this because he is operating under the power of the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Mother…so many times there have been things he said that shocked me because I don’t know how he knew what I was thinking.
    5). Am I still in spiritual direction and still stuck? Yes I am still in spiritual direction not stuck like I was before but needing help to still impliment all I have learned so as not to backslide. SD has helped me to heal a wounded heart, to know that I am loved by the Most Generous Lover who created me for love, joy, peace and happiness.SD has given me peace and interior freedom. I still need to know how to handle all His Love and to love better in return. This is why I have especially enjoyed the most recent posts regarding the identity of one’s root sin and the virtues to correct these vices.
    6.)If I could ask my SD to change one thing about our relationship??I would appreciate him giving me more verbal feedback on what he thought of the answers I usually submit to him. He has told me that this is simply rehashing the past and can be a waste of time rather than moving on to what the Holy Spirit is doing now. It has been our practice to have me leave with several questions or an assignment that he wants me to ask or pray before the Blessed Sacrament with each month. I then will usually write down my responses from these prayer sessions with the Holy Spirit and give them to him since I see him at least once weekly after Daily Mass. It would be helpful to know what my SD thinks of these answers. For me these past few months, most of these answers have been profound and unbelievable to comprehend. I am left feeling stunned that the Holy Spirit really has all this to say to me and how all of this can be so surprising!! I am very blessed and grateful to my spiritual director…too many times when he gives me a response which I know comes from his connection to the Holy Spirit he wants to know how that struck me/or if I can respond to his statement…most of the time I can’t because the question is so deep that I then need to take it to prayer to give him an answer. The answers are good for the most part and we have been able to work through this I believe. I am glad that he did not give up on me and pray to the Blessed Mother each day for his protection from the evil one.
    Thanks again for this forum and I am also grateful for the work of “The Better Part”. This book as well as the numerous postings have been a great help!! May God bless you for all your efforts.

  • Joan

    1. Having and “expert” keep me on the right path. Help with discernment. Suggestions for prayer, study, other disciplines…providing clarity on my errors and how to fix or avoid them. Having thoughtful answers to specific questions from someone who knows your journey is very helpful. Also mutual prayer.
    2. The surprisingly intimate nature of some spiritual direction – the “known to each other through God” aspect. It would benefit many to explain this so people handle it properly and are not too afraid. That can be confusing at first. It is a relief to read that others have similar experiences of unexplained knowledge about each other which happened with us often. Until he died, even when we were not in touch, I knew my director was traveling, sick, suffering, visiting family etc., and he demonstrated similar understandings about me – but more about my emotional or spiritual condition.
    Also, the vexing aspects of humanity that can get in the way, and to pay little attention to those things as they generally pass quickly and are only distractions. We gave that more attention than it deserved.
    3.A non-Catholic person approached me about being my director – but I am also so uncomfortable with her “charismatic” tendencies (no doubt she is gifted, but that adds another layer of distraction for me) and the fact that she is not Catholic. At the same time I know her to be a very devout Christian woman whose life centers around God. How closely aligned in obedience to the Catholic church should a good director be? Going down my own “desired” path and incorrectly calling it God’s will is a great concern for me. I don’t want to pervert Catholic teaching without realizing it.
    4.I was frustrated by my director’s humanity, as he was by mine! In the midst of direction, personal human tendencies emerge – shifting the focus off of God.
    5.I lost my spiritual director to illness several months ago. For the short time I had my director, I grew very much and was comforted by his assistance.
    6.I would have asked him to push me more to remove all things from my life that were not pleasing to God. He was too lenient, in my opinion. His response was always that I was still a spiritual child and couldn’t have handled it. Probably true. He made himself very available to me, so that I could put my “issues” in writing before we met so lots of time was not spent explaining past but moving forward. I know that took time from other obligations for him and I really appreciated it.

  • Tessie

    Even though it was difficult to go through and continue working at the same time the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola were of great benefit to me in discerning the still small voice. I was already approaching 40 and and grown tremendously in my faith. The exercises helped me see that I wanted to work for God. I eventually discerned a contempletive vocation but after two years of being a novice an unexpected emotional problem surfaced, or had been surfacing. Those two years were so wonderful to me despite the way they ended. If I did not have spiritual direction I don’t think I would have had the nurturing I needed to make the choice. My first spiritual director was assigned to me. The second was by providence and he remains a friend and advisor. I am 51 and a teacher. I do not have a formal spiritual director, but through the books I read and the friendship and advice I receive, frequenting the Sacraments, I feel this keeps me ever growing closer to Jesus. I have also been learning about JPII Theology of the Body. This is wonderful spiritual food. God has truly blessed me with his grace and guidance. He provides. I wish you the best with your book.

    Tessie

  • Anonymous

    3.What are your questions about spiritual direction?
    If you have grown to the point in which you are ready for spiritual direction but your spouse does not support your choice or does not agree with your religious views, will spiritual direction still be beneficial?

    • Dear Anonymous in Christ,

      Yours is a very difficult situation. The simple answer is no different than the question, “Should I pursue Christ even if my spouse does not agree with my religious views?” However, I suspect there might be more to this question than is possible to discern.

      Be assured that you are in my prayers.

  • 1. What exercises or specific aspects of spiritual direction have been most helpful to you?

    Being able to discern the voice of the Spirit from the competing voice of pride.

    2. What do you wish you had known before entering into the process?

    After 3 directors, I came to find out that it’s very important that there’s some shared spirituality. Otherwise spiritual growth may be stunned because of miscommunications or mishandling of gifts.

    3. What are your questions about spiritual direction?

    Why many practices of the past have been ditched because Psychologists cannot understand it from their Hedonistic point of view?

    4. What do you struggle with in spiritual direction? What has been frustrating to you?

    See answer to question #2 above.

    5. Are you in spiritual direction but still stuck in your spiritual growth? If yes, where are you stuck?

    Yes, but because it takes quite a while for me to be able to open myself completely to a director, even a priest one. See also answer to question #1.

    6. If you could ask your spiritual director to change one thing about your relationship, what would it be?

    I really like my current director. He’s knowledgeable about my spirituality and pretty well grounded in the Church teachings and their application in concrete matters. But I look forward to our growing closer so that I may open my soul completely, not only to him but to me as well. See answer to question #5.

    May Jesus bless your endeavor.

  • David

    1. What exercises or specific aspects of spiritual direction have been most helpful to you?

    The practice of Ignatian/imaginative prayer using Bible passages; getting into the habit of consistent daily prayer; my inconsistent attempts at the daily Examen; feedback from my spiritual director; accountability to my spiritual director; ability to receive sacrament of Reconciliation with him (since he’s a priest); asking my spiritual director the ways he has seen me grow in the past X months.

    2. What do you wish you had known before entering into the process?

    I should only enter into spiritual direction when I am totally open to God’s call for my life; spiritual discernment is not a black & white, “one obvious answer” endeavor, as there is more grey area than I care to admit; I have a lot more resistance to God inside of me than I ever thought, and am ashamed to admit!

    3. What are your questions about spiritual direction?

    What is a typical spiritual direction session like for other people? What model would St. Ignatius himself say is best for how a meeting with a spiritual director should progress?

    4. What do you struggle with in spiritual direction? What has been frustrating to you?

    I would like to understand the proper amount of spiritual ‘pushing’ by the spiritual director vs. him just listening to me and offering comments/suggestions. Put another way, it’s important for me to make decisions in my life and have my director sit on the same side of the ‘table’ with me and help me hear God. On the other hand, there should be a healthy amount of spiritual challenging to me that would be done by my director sitting on the other side of the ‘table’. I feel I sometimes need more of that challenge from my director, which could be done in a manner that would still allow me complete freedom in the ultimate choices I make.

    5. Are you in spiritual direction but still stuck in your spiritual growth? If yes, where are you stuck?

    I am stuck in learning to make a response to the promptings I hear from the Lord. Or I think that doing the prayer is an end in itself, whereas the active response is ultimately the goal. I have been in the 19th annotation of Ignatian Exercises for a while now, but am dry with it. I am confused as to what to do when I feel I want to use the daily Mass readings as my prayer passages, or at least the Sunday readings. So I get caught up in thinking that if I just use the right scripture verses to meditate on, I will grow the most in my spiritual direction. Likewise, with the Ignatian Exercises if I think that I didn’t spend enough time on the 2nd week or 3rd week (for example), I should go back and do that week again to get the full value out of it. My spiritual director says it doesn’t work that way, as I’m essentially thinking too black and white again — like there is a simple formula to understanding God’s will.

    6. If you could ask your spiritual director to change one thing about your relationship, what would it be?

    Lead the session a bit more by probing deeper into me, asking questions, pulling stuff out of me. I can at times not get as spiritually deep as I know I can, and I have trouble getting there myself.

  • Sarah

    1.What exercises or specific aspects of spiritual direction have been most helpful to you?

    Just having an objective person (my spiritual director) listen to my struggles and be able to give me advice based on promptings of the Holy Spirit. I love that she can help me figure out my root sin when I was having trouble identifying it. And she doesn’t really directly tell me what I should be doing, but helps me to come up with ideas that will help me. And she is more experienced in the Faith than I am so she has a lot of good resources!

    What do you wish you had known before entering into the process?

    I just wish i would have known about it sooner and been able to take advantage of Spiritual Guidance when I was younger.

    What do you struggle with in spiritual direction? What has been frustrating to you?

    I guess the only frustrating thing is the fact that I always fall back into my same sins. I’m just disappointed in myself.

    Are you in spiritual direction but still stuck in your spiritual growth? If yes, where are you stuck?

    I am still stuck, and I’m actually very nervous to go to SG because I’m afraid she will be disappointed in me, although she has always been very gracious. I feel like I keep falling back into the same laziness in my spiritual life. I went on a Triduum about a month ago and came back so energized and felt like I was connected to Christ. It took about 3 days and I was back to not praying, not reading my bible, not being patient with my family. It was so disappointing. I feel like a complete failure and I feel like I am never going to get this right!!

    If you could ask your spiritual director to change one thing about your relationship, what would it be?

    Nothing that I can think of.

    • Marie

      Sarah:
      I want to thank you for your posting! I could definitely relate to your frustrations and your struggle because I struggle at times with being disappointed in myself too. Several months ago I had a deacon who will be ordained in 2 weeks, tell me the following: always remember that your spiritual director can never be disappointed in you. They are simply there to listen, to guide and to help you on your journey. Be assured of my prayers for you and prayer to really connect and rekindle your love for the Holy Spirit. This would be a great grace especially with the Feast of Pentecost coming. Someone emailed to me that the Novena to the Holy Spirit begins today. You may want to look into this novena yet today.
      May God Bless you as you work to seek Him…Him who you long for.

  • Ralph

    I have been a spiritual directee for nearly one year. I meet with my director once or twice a month. She is a wonderful, caring woman of about 70, and a self-described “old hippie.” She is also quite a bit more liberal than I am on many faith issues. In fact, she nearly declined to accept me as a directee when I described myself as faithful to the Magisterium. We carefully avoid our liberal-conservative chasm, but I do wish I was able to see a conservative (or at least moderate) priest from time to time. Herein lies the problem: I have tried hard to find a priest willing to provide me spiritual direction (especially now, as I am going through some severe moral crises and sufferings), however I have been turned down repeatedly. With varying degrees of politeness, priests have conveyed that they are too busy to meet with any individuals, especially if it would be for more than one brief meeting. This appears to be a serious problem: if a priest is too busy to give spiritual and moral guidance to a faithful follower who is facing grave hardship, then that priest is TOO busy. Why do my Protestant friends seem to have no difficulty finding spiritual direction from their pastors, many of whom have spouses and children? Why do priests seem to regard spiritual direction as an unreasonable burden? I truly would like an answer. Thank you.

  • Cathy

    1. What exercises of specific aspects of spiritual direction have been most helpful to you?
    The most helpful to me is when the priest (director), relates what he is telling me to personal experiences of his own. It reminds me that they are human, and I find that helpful, as some do not have the experience of the “real world”. Also, describing certain practices that are done, one in particular is to lay face down on the floor at the altar. How humbling an experience. That has been a blessing for me, as I always feel greatly humbled afterwards. It helps me remember that there is most definitely a God, who I am loved by. This is an amazing thing….

    2. What do you wish you had known before entering into the process?
    I wish that i had known that I should prepare for those. When I started, I wasn’t even sure what guidance was. I had the thought that it was the director who led. Now I spend a week or more preparing and praying about the next session. I also get way more out of it, and the session seems to go in one direction, and not wander all over. I feel that this is a gift from God, a way in which He shows His love.

    3. What are your questions about spiritual direction?
    The one thing that comes to mind is this… are there any stupid or waste of time questions? I do feel embarrased about some of the things that I have inquires about during the session.

    4. What do you struggle with in spiritual direction? What has been frustrating to you?
    My struggles have been when my director spoke so far above my understanding, and when I say I do not understand, he talks down to me. I have been away from the church for a long time, and I ask about things that is more “common knowledge”. It is hard to come to an understanding of what God wants of me, when I do not understand. I switched directors and have solved this issue. Another issue that I have had was finding time when the two of us are available. Both of us are incredibly busy, so we do not get together as often as I would like.

    5. Are you in spiritual direction but still stuck in your spiritual growth? If yes, where are you stuck?
    I have been blessed to find an incredible director. Not only have I worked through a lot of issues that have arose, but I “learned” how to pray, and am now further along than I was this time last year!

    6. If you could ask your spiritual director to change one thing about your relationship, what would it be?
    In order for me to answer this question, I would feel more like a judge, and I am not worthy to judge anyone. I have been led by Christ to my spiritual director. He is very human and shares personal experiences. The idea behind spiritual direction, to my knowledge, is to get closer to Christ. I have grown by leaps and bounds in my spirituality. My faith is blossoming, although I still have a long way to go.

    I hope that this helps, may Christ bless you all abundantly, all the days of your life.

  • Cathy

    1. What exercises of specific aspects of spiritual direction have been most helpful to you?
    The most helpful to me is when the priest (director), relates what he is telling me to personal experiences of his own. It reminds me that they are human, and I find that helpful, as some do not have the experience of the “real world”. Also, describing certain practices that are done, one in particular is to lay face down on the floor at the altar. How humbling an experience. That has been a blessing for me, as I always feel greatly humbled afterwards. It helps me remember that there is most definitely a God, who I am loved by. This is an amazing thing….

    2. What do you wish you had known before entering into the process?
    I wish that i had known that I should prepare for those. When I started, I wasn’t even sure what guidance was. I had the thought that it was the director who led. Now I spend a week or more preparing and praying about the next session. I also get way more out of it, and the session seems to go in one direction, and not wander all over. I feel that this is a gift from God, a way in which He shows His love.

    3. What are your questions about spiritual direction?
    The one thing that comes to mind is this… are there any stupid or waste of time questions? I do feel embarrased about some of the things that I have inquires about during the session.

    4. What do you struggle with in spiritual direction? What has been frustrating to you?
    My struggles have been when my director spoke so far above my understanding, and when I say I do not understand, he talks down to me. I have been away from the church for a long time, and I ask about things that is more “common knowledge”. It is hard to come to an understanding of what God wants of me, when I do not understand. I switched directors and have solved this issue. Another issue that I have had was finding time when the two of us are available. Both of us are incredibly busy, so we do not get together as often as I would like.

    5. Are you in spiritual direction but still stuck in your spiritual growth? If yes, where are you stuck?
    I have been blessed to find an incredible director. Not only have I worked through a lot of issues that have arose, but I “learned” how to pray, and am now further along than I was this time last year!

    6. If you could ask your spiritual director to change one thing about your relationship, what would it be?
    In order for me to answer this question, I would feel more like a judge, and I am not worthy to judge anyone. I have been led by Christ to my spiritual director. He is very human and shares personal experiences. The idea behind spiritual direction, to my knowledge, is to get closer to Christ. I have grown by leaps and bounds in my spirituality. My faith is blossoming, although I still have a long way to go.

    I hope that this helps, may Christ bless you all abundantly, all the days of your life.

  • Jasmine

    Before I start, I would just like to guess that I may be one of the younger people to share on this topic (I recently turned 25), though I have been in an active SD relationship for 7 years (5 with my current SD). Since I’m sure many of the followers of this blog understand or are learning of the beauty and necessity of spiritual direction, I’d like to ask for prayers for the community of the Apostles of the Interior Life. They are a beautiful order of Italian sisters whose primary apostolates are evangelization and spiritual direction, and currently have three houses in the US: at the University of Kansas; at Texas A&M; and their provincial house in Kansas City, Kansas. It was while I was at KU that I was introduced to them, and began my spiritual direction journey. They are a small, young community, and provide a much needed service to the Church! Please keep them and the growth of their community in your prayers if you would!

    1. What exercises or specific aspects of spiritual direction have been most helpful to you?
    Definitely having an objective perspective to help me re-focus when emotions and gut reactions cloud my judgment. Also, one thing my SD always reminded me of early on was that she could only help me with as much as I gave her to help me with: it was a good and constant challenge to pray for both her and my docility to the Holy Spirit, to venture more deeply into vulnerability and trust, and led to healing of wounds I never would have realized existed had I not been gently pushed to open up.

    2. What do you wish you had known before entering into the process?
    Not a whole lot honestly; my spiritual director used our first meeting to discuss what I was expecting, what she would be working toward, and what spiritual direction was meant to accomplish. It answered a lot of questions I had before we really developed the relationship.

    4. What do you struggle with in spiritual direction? What has been frustrating to you?
    One of the biggest challenges after a while was remembering that despite the wisdom and wonderful advice I’d been given my spiritual director is still human. However, after discussing it with her, it also ended up being one of the most beautiful realizations, because our shared humanity helped me to be more open as well as further strengthened my trust in her because I realized she does really understand my faults and shortcomings; after that, I rarely was hesitant to share things with her for fear of her being disappointed, because she has to struggle with recurring tendencies and concupiscence, too!

    5. Are you in spiritual direction but still stuck in your spiritual growth? If yes, where are you stuck?
    I generally only get stuck when I have not been completely open or clear to my SD.

    6. If you could ask your spiritual director to change one thing about your relationship, what would it be?
    We’ve worked through many of the things that have been difficult in the relationship, so at this point there isn’t anything I would change.

    • Dear Jasmine in Christ,

      Your feedback, as with so many others, is very insightful and helpful. I also had the opportunity, based on your prompting, to speak with Sister Susan. It sounds like the Apostles of the Interior Life is a fantastic organization.

      Many blessings to you and yours as you continue to seek Him.

  • Saturday

    While I am delighted to see so many people benefiting from spiritual direction, I remain baffled as to why I cannot seem to find a professed religious willing to provide such direction for me. I have been turned down by monks, nuns, and diocesan priests; young ones and old ones; active ones and retired ones. The rejection is usually “if I do it for you, I have to do it for everyone” or “I’m too busy.” I am an educated, middle-aged professional man who is faithful to the Magisterium. I have offered stipends, I have promised to be articulate and prepared, and frankly my circumstances are pressing. Some wish me well and thereby bring to mind James 2:16; others are surprisingly rude. What am I missing? I came to this site looking for help. Will I be turned down here too?

    • Dear Friend – it sounds like this has been a painful journey for you. Have you considered direction from a lay person?

  • Teresa

    I’ve been in direction for three years and due to a new position that my SD is taking, it looks like I will need to be getting a new one.

    1) What exercises or specific aspects of spiritual direction have been most helpful to you?

    The consistency and accountability are two main aspects, I think, that have been very beneficial to my spiritual life. Especially when there are specific problems/goals/topics/etc that come up that require more than simply one “talk-through.” As I reflect back on my three-year relationship with my SD (which I’ve been thinking about a bit since that has now ended and I am looking for a new one), I’ve noticed that some of the things that stick out the most and remain with me are sayings or pieces of advice that at the time almost seemed like off-handed comments or things to which I didn’t pay too much attention.

    2) What do you wish you had known before entering into the process?

    Haha, well, I think my case might be a little different than everyone else’s. When I first began direction, I didn’t even know what it was! I was a newly baptized Catholic and I had set up an appointment with the chaplain to ask some question or another… and we ended up talking for almost an hour with our conversation concluding by him telling me to set up another time for about three weeks later! I think it was only after a few months that he actually mentioned the phrase “spiritual direction” and explained what it was to me.

    3) What are your questions about spiritual direction?

    As I prepare for a new director, I suppose I do find that I have a few questions. Is spiritual direction the same for everyone? What if my new SD contradicts something that my old SD said/instructed/helped me discern?

    4) What do you struggle with in spiritual direction? What has been frustrating to you?

    For about the first year or so of SD, I found that I became more obsessed with direction itself than I was focused on Jesus and having direction as a *tool* in that relationship. My intention, of course, was to grow in holiness… but I become more focused on the ‘process’ than I was on Jesus. I also fell often into spiritual pride– somehow trying to impress my SD or what have you. I didn’t really notice that that was going on at the time, although every once in a while I would recognize it… but then I would be too afraid to bring it up to my SD.

    But God is good and drew me out of that cycle. Other things that could be difficult in direction… The shifting moods of my SD. Often times his own mood (or mine!) could change how direction went. And the inconsistency of *how* direction would go… sometimes he would ask a lot of questions and that would get conversation started, or other times he would just wait for me to talk (and being somewhat of an introvert, that was always the most difficult for me).

    Are you in spiritual direction but still stuck in your spiritual growth? If yes, where are you stuck?

    At times it can be tempting to say that I am “stuck” in my spiritual growth, especially because I am so eager to move along the way of perfection; I can often get disappointed with myself and my progress. But, at the same time, I have also had the experience of looking back on times when I thought I was “stuck,” but realized later that that was a time where I was making the most growth, even though I didn’t know it at the time. Sometimes our frustration with ourselves, the fact that we aren’t growing as fast as we think we ought, can make us think that we are stuck even when we’re not– even at times when God is doing the most work in us.

    That’s not to say that we can’t really get stuck or even back-slide. And sometimes that may involve the SD, one way or the other. I think sometimes God gives a SD that can take us only so far and then has someone else in mind for the remainder of the journey (or the next leg of it). I don’t know much about that, as I’m obviously very young in direction. But just in my own experience, I think that the timing of my SD getting a new position (and thus our relationship coming to a close) and my own spiritual growth/journey are tied together quite nicely. In some ways, I think that my SD has played his role in my spiritual life and it really is time for someone else to pick up where he left off.

    5) If you could ask your spiritual director to change one thing about your relationship, what would it be?

    I’m not sure I can really think of anything…

  • Judy

    Mine is a trust issue, not involving the spiritual director, per se, but it could. I have had a SD laugh at me when I brought up something that was hard to say to begin with…. I have also had great experiences, one especially, by someone who really knew my temperament and gave very helpful suggestions. When I have been, “stuck”, it was my own doing, not going forward and b eing too comfortable where I was. Going forward is hard work, but so worth it. The biggest gains always seem to come about when there is a struggle involved, either personally or with a situation around me. I have been getting spiritual direction for about 15 years, maybe more.

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