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How Much should I Reveal to my Spiritual Director on my First Visit?

June 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Perspective, Spiritual Direction, The Process

Dear Catholic Spiritual Direction, how much are you supposed to reveal to your spiritual director on your first visit? Are you supposed to go back to your first sin, like a general confession? I have found a priest who is willing to be my spiritual director, and I just want to know how much and how far back should I discuss with him on my first meeting.

Great questions! I will address the easy one first.

What does your spiritual director want you to reveal in your first visit?

The answer to this will likely be very simple. Good directors know that the first and most important task is to make a personal connection with you. They know that trust and openness only develops in an atmosphere of personal relationship. So, the simple answer is to ask them what they would like you to come prepared to discuss.

With respect to the specifics of your question, I very much doubt that they will have any interest in sins of your distant past. Their task is to identify where you are today in your spiritual journey and to work with you to discern the path that God is calling you to today.

On to the more difficult question.

What do you want to reveal, or what should you reveal, in your first visit?

In my upcoming handbook on spiritual direction (Navigating the Interior Life – Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God), I discuss this in detail. Before you continue on to the exercises I suggest below, it would be good if you could print this out and take it with you, along with a notebook and pen, into adoration. Spend some time in quiet before the Lord and ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the things that are most important on your journey to him.

Basically, so that you are well prepared, you should review the spiritual history of your life in stages or periods (preteen, teen, young adult, etc.). Note the highlights and lowlights of your relationship with God. Take care to be clear about your current drive to seek spiritual direction. What triggered this impulse? Is there a significant life event that has you thinking more about eternal matters? For instance, often the death or severe illness of a loved one can draw us to the well of suffering and exploration of our spiritual lives.

Next, outline your present spiritual status. How is your prayer life? Are you struggling with any particular aspect of prayer? How often do you participate in the sacraments of the Church? How often do you go to confession, adoration, Mass, etc.? What is your perception of God? What motivates you in your spiritual life? Is your motivation based on fear? Is it based on duty? Is it based on love?

Finally, outline your goals for spiritual direction. What is it that you hope to gain from your work in spiritual direction?

Well, I could say a lot more (and do so in the book), but this should be a good start.

I would be grateful to hear how it goes (both the preparation and the meeting).

Be assured you are in my prayers.

Seek Him – Find Him – Follow Him,


PS: Don't forget to review our collection of posts on the topic of spiritual direction. There is a great deal more that you would likely find helpful there.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, 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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  • larrybets

    Congratulations on finding a spiritual director. I myself had my first meeting with a new director a wonderful priest. Like was stated above he was more interested in finding out more about me on a personal level, who I am as a person, my state of life, my desire for spiritual direction and what brought me here, etc. It was very comfortable, much more comfortable then my last director, who did not see interested at all in getting to know me as a person. He also told me a good deal about himself so I could get to know him. He outlined some things for us to discuss at our next meeting and for me to think about. He also asked if it was ok with me to say confession before or after our meetings together, which is an added grace thank God.

    Please let us know how you make out and pray, pray, pray, to the Holy Spirit for guidance, recollection, tenderness, and light so that you have a calm intelligent discussion about your soul.

    Peace be with you.

  • Yoy91913

    Thank you so very much for your help and recommendations. I relate to all of it and am looking forward to going before the Blessed Sacrament with my homework. What book are you referring to? I would like the title so I can purchase it please.

    My meeting with my Spiritual Director is scheduled for July 24th – I will be honored to share with you how it went.

    God bless you and thank you so much for including me in your prayers.

    • Dear Friend – you are welcome! The book I am referring to has a working title of “A Guide to Spiritual Direction.” I am under contract to finish it by January (God willing). If you subscribe to the posts of this site, we will keep you updated. I am looking forward to hearing back bout how your first visit goes.

      • Yoy91913

        I think I did subscribe to the post of your website – I receive your
        articles daily or however often you send them. I will keep my eye on that
        book and looking forward to purchasing it.

        I will stay in touch – thank you for your response and invaluable help

        God Bless
        Irma Y. Davenport

      • Yoy91913

        Dear Dan Burke,

        I had my first appointment with my spiritual director today. He allowed me
        to talk and then asked me to tell him how God has revealed Himself to me in
        my life. I had a few examples and he mostly listened, made a few positive
        comments and gave me a book to read. At first I didn’t know what to think of
        the appointment since I felt that I was the one talking most of the time but
        something kept bothering me and I felt prompted to journal. While journaling
        I realized that one of the questions he asked me was “did I realize how
        fortunate I had been to have had Jesus showed me how much He loved me?”
        (this had to do with one of my experiences I talked about) I thought I had
        felt fortunate but realized how unworthy I have really felt all my life of
        His love and the need I have to forgive myself. That was quite a revelation
        for me; I didn’t realize how much guilt I had been carrying. . .

        I know that having him as my spiritual director is going to be invaluable
        and I thank you and this site because it was the reason I looked for one.

        God bless you,


  • D.

    Hello Dan
    I find it interesting that you suggest a review of one’e spiritual history. Since before I started spriritual direction I have felt a need to chronicle my spiritual history. I write out this history in my spiritual journal and share it with my spritual director. I think that this excerise has helped me to see my strengths and weaknesses.

  • Nardav

    The more I read about Spirtual Direction, the more courage I am gaining to “Dive In.”

    I haven’t due to fear and lack of a Person to go to.
    Our Pastor is Very Busy, and I did read the post about a person who is Mature in the Spiritual Life, and though I am Surrounded by them, I am not Comfortable enough to go to them.

    I am a Sinner. I have much to be ashamed of. I don’t want to go to just anyone…

    Perhaps with time…

    Thank you for continuing your Writing though.

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