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Pope Benedict and Spiritual Direction

December 16, 2010 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Spiritual Direction

Dear Friends,

If you are not a regular pope-watcher you may have missed Pope Benedict's frequent encouragement regarding the importance of the ancient and powerful practice of spiritual direction. Here's excerpts from a recent article from CNA that contains some interesting insights:

Pope Benedict XVI highlighted a saint from Turin as a model for priests in light of the recently concluded Year for Priests. The Holy Father said during his catechesis at Wednesday's general audience that St. Joseph Cafasso offers a reminder of the importance of having a “spiritual guide” in life.

In his catechesis, he recalled the 150th anniversary of the death of St. Joseph Cafasso, a 19th century priest from the northern Italian city of Turin, who was a moral theology professor and a respected spiritual director.

Pope Benedict said of the saint, “His secret was simple: being a man of God, doing, in the small daily activities, ‘that which could give the greatest glory to God and in favor of souls.”

Among those who looked to him for direction was the young St. John Bosco, also a resident of Turin, of whom the Holy Father noted that the Fr. Cafasso never sought to create in him “a disciple in his image and likeness.”

Don Bosco, the Pope recalled, imitated his teacher “in the human and priestly virtues … but maintained his own attitudes and his own specific vocation, a sign of the wisdom of the spiritual director and of the intelligence of the disciple …”

“Dear friends,” said Pope Benedict, “this is a precious teaching for all those who are committed to the formation and education of the young generations and also a strong call back to how much it is important to have a spiritual guide in our lives, who can help us to understand what it is that God wants from us.”

St. Cafasso also made a lasting mark in his ministry to those in jail, said the Pope, explaining that he was known to spend numerous hours hearing inmates' confessions, thus developing a “fruitful” apostolate with prisoners who, through him, re-encountered God's infinite mercy.

For the saint's dedication to prison ministry, he was named the patron of Italian prisons and, years after his death, Pope Pius XII pointed to him as a model for all priests who hear confessions and give spiritual direction.

Pope Benedict urged clergy today to look to him for direction, saying, “May his example encourage all priests in faithful witness to the Gospel.”

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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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  • Syd_Qu

    Are there any particular religious orders who have an apostolate specifically to offer spiritual direction to lay people of all walks of life? i.e. as their main work..

  • LizEst

    Thank you for posting this. Yes, I missed it, too! It’s great to learn the Holy Father is emphasizing this. Terrific!

  • Art V. Quezon

    How timely! I am preparing a letter to our Papal Nuncio in the Philippines to point out the fact that the Philippines does not have a tradition of Spiritual Direction! Consequently, priests/sacerdotal order are not too keen and the laity are not users of this much needed path to spiritual maturity! I am voicing a problem for immediate solution from the Holy See! CHRIST/Mama Mary ever love us All! Sincerely: Arturo V. Quezon at

  • Guest

    Thank you, Dan, for this Post. Yes, I,too, misssed the Pope’s Post but thank to your advice, I now have a wonderful Spiritual Director and I can’t express my grtitude to God who led me to your Website. God bless you all and have a Blessed Christmas

  • Gordon

    Thanks for this post; As a lay Catholic spiritual guide I can appreciate the immense value of spiritual guidance, the process of discernment in our pilgrimage towards the Heavenly Realm;

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