Sign Up for our Free Daily Email Updates / Catholic Spiritual Direction

Pope Benedict Recommends Spiritual Direction to Everyone

May 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Spiritual Direction

VATICAN CITY, MAY 19, 2011 ( Anyone who wants to live their baptism responsibly should have a spiritual director, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope affirmed this today when he addressed members of the Pontifical Theological Faculty Teresianum. The faculty was founded in 1935; the audience with the Holy Father was part of the institute's celebrations of its 75th anniversary.

Benedict XVI reflected on the Carmelite institute's emphasis on spiritual theology in the framework of anthropology. He said that in today's context, studying Christian spirituality from its anthropological foundations “is of great importance.”

The Pontiff recognized that an education at the Teresianum not only prepares students to teach this discipline, but has an “even greater grace” in that it gears students to “the delicate task of spiritual direction.”

“As she has never failed to do, again today the Church continues to recommend the practice of spiritual direction, not only to all those who wish to follow the Lord up close, but to every Christian who wishes to live responsibly his baptism, that is, the new life in Christ,” the Pope stated. “Everyone, in fact, and in a particular way all those who have received the divine call to a closer following, needs to be supported personally by a sure guide in doctrine and expert in the things of God.”

The Holy Father noted how a spiritual guide helps ward off subjectivist interpretations as well as providing the counseled with the guide's “own supply of knowledge and experiences in following Jesus.”

He likened spiritual direction to the “personal relationship that the Lord had with his disciples, that special bond with which he led them, following him, to embrace the will of the Father (cf. Luke 22:42), that is, to embrace the cross.”

The Bishop of Rome urged the Teresianum students to “make a treasure of all that you will have learned in these years of study, to support all those whom Divine Providence will entrust to you, helping them in the discernment of spirits and in the capacity to second the motions of the Holy Spirit, with the objective of leading them to the fullness of grace, ‘until we all attain,' as St. Paul says, ‘to the measure of the fullness of Christ.'”

Click Here for More On Spiritual Direction

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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.

please consider supporting our mission with a donation!

  • faithful123

    Spiritual Direction is good; but I don’t think it’s feasible for every person to have their own spiritual director just as it is not feasible for every citizen to have
    thier own personal trainer in the physical fitness realm.

    I think if it were a more God honoring nation; ordinary citizens would naturally live to ‘build up’ the kingdom of God. Encourage one another in the ways of

    I think, it would be helpful if in the Sunday School stage of life, Spiritual
    Direction was there. ie: every year K – 8 students get another ‘Sunday
    School’ teacher (CCD) supposedly so the child will learn of the one faith
    from a variety of persons. It would be an interesting experiment if one
    teacher went with the class through each stage of catechism instruction.
    ie: from Kindergarten right thru to Confirmation (wouldn’t this be Spiritual
    Direction? To do it, would mean that 1 teacher takes the class of 2011
    in Kindergarten straight thru. The first grade teacher would now take her
    class all the way thru, 2nd grade etc etc… Students and Teachers
    come to know one another and teacher Spiritually Directs her class
    in a way… as she not only teaches the faith; but answers their personal
    questions on living God in the world. Actually, those questions probably
    would come in 6, 7, 8th grades.

  • faithful123

    actually, another thought maybe 6,7, 8th grade should keep the one teacher straight thru til confirmation….so that any spirit of life living questions can be
    reflected on. OR at least introduce spiritual direction ‘at this point’ to the students…ie: have a priest come in to explain it, make himself available to
    any who wish to give it a try. Might mean an increase in the spiritual
    vocations area of priest, or nun.  But definitely help youth to ‘mature’ and
    ‘grow’ knowledgable of ‘how to live a good Catholic life’ BEFORE the high
    school crowd gets hold of them. 

  • Guest

    God bless you, our Holy Father, for this timely and sound Pastoral Advice. As I have commented elsewhere, anyone who is really, really serious in their Spiritual growth and in walking on the right path, should appreciate the Holy Father’s Pastoral Recommendation seriously. I especially love this quotation from his Post :” Spiritual Direction …… is like the personal relationship that the Lord had with his disciples, that special
    bond with which he led them, following him, to embrace the will of the
    Father (cf. Luke 22:42), that is, to embrace the cross.”

    Faithful123, with all due respect, to me, Spiritual Direction is not only valuable during the younger days while one is in School, but it becomes essential when one enters adult life with all its attendant responsibilities – and the distractions and snares of the world – which threaten one’s Faith. I shall forever remain grateful to Dan and Fr. John, who advised me to get myself a Spiritual Director. You will never understand just how much you need someone to walk with you, pointing out the potholes and protruding stones on the Spiritual path and ensuring you are not following your own self-delusions, justifications, rationalizing, confusions and presumptions. And the older you are in your Faith , the more you need a Spiritual Director. Your view that not all can get a personal Spiritual Director is well-meaning, but even your regular Confessor, for those who receive the Sacrament or Reconciliation frequently, can be of immense help to you in guiding and advising you as the needs arise in your life situation.

    • faithful123

      I agree that it becomes essential when one enters adult life; that’s why I thought it would be good – if a CCD confirmation ‘student’ wasn’t ‘lost’ after being confirmed. It is in the grades of 6, 7 and 8th grade that spiritual direction be introduced; young persons DO want help (but usually don’t know how to ask or ask ‘wrong’ or just go at it as they think) And that’s
      just what you say: Someone is needed to point out the potholes, stones,
      not following one’s own way. (rationals, self delusions, justifications)

      Wholeheartedly agree Mary! Frequent reception of all the Church offers
      Sacramentally IS essential. YES…regular reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation WITH the same confessor was as I was told, how it used to be. (so that the confessor got to know the penitent and if a difficulty is
      being had; some ‘direction’ can be advised) I too mentioned on several
      occasions the Sacramental Life is essential to carrying our cross; as
      written in my 5 step ‘plan of action.’ I didn’t think it necessary to repeat
      that again.

      So again – my points that you did corroborate:

      – Spiritual Direction is good.
      – It’s not feasible for every single person to have a spiritual director [unspoken: particularly in light of the shortage of priestly vocations]
      – I at first thought it would be good if a CCD student could have one
      instructor throughout the teaching process of the faith (book learning)
      but that’s not feasible either and then changed to say it is in 6,7
      and 8th grades that students should be introduced to the concept-
      so they know they have a place to turn to when LIFE comes at them
      in thier adolescent transition to adulthood.(you affirmed that, thank you)
      – Since we agree personal spiritual direction is not always possible,
      SERIOUS living of what our Lord provided (a church with His Sacramental
      Presence) is THE WAY… with Him and growing IN HIM; we will be led
      correctly throughout life. As was written here: Spiritual Direction should
      not be a one time E.R. visit ‘fixing oneself up’ to then go back out to ‘the world.’ (again I say; many lose thier way after Confirmation because
      they think I know it…and it’s over – now I do what I want. This is why
      the priest director should be the next face junior high students see
      before the Confirmation ceremony begins) * It’s essential because
      of our current dysfunctional family world where children do not have
      mother, father in home. Many Catholic students are in divorced
      homes, single parent homes, father re-married mother re-married
      and both parents working ‘for dollars’ (young folk get all out of whack
      as to what matters and ‘what was the reason for those lessons)

      — As you state: we need someone to walk with us pointing out the
      potholes. Agree. In the ‘good old days’ those persons were found in
      the stable family life. It was found in the culture of life that was simply
      commonplace in communities. GOD was lived by ‘most’ and those
      who were marginally connected to God ‘were simply brought around
      to know the right way to live’ through observation of mature spirits.
      Eventually the ‘got it!’
      (building up the kingdom philosophy without a lot of ‘talk’ – do the
      right thing sort of thing but don’t necessarily talk of it) Life was a
      lot simpler and NICER when objective truths were understood by
      most (GOD) before the ‘subjective relativistic’ way the 60’s wrought.

      The culture of ‘death’ that now is part of society in general is why
      Specific Spiritual Direction to stay from the slippery slope has
      beome important. But NOTHING can replace trust in the Sacraments
      and Confession as the Holy Spirit directs. (and examination of
      conscience to say I’m sorry direct to God for venial sins)

      I believe we are both saying the same.

    • Becky Ward


      Quoted from above: The Holy Father noted how a spiritual guide helps ward off subjectivist interpretations as well as providing the counseled with the guide’s “own supply of knowledge and experiences in following Jesus.”

      We can see what’s wrong with everybody else……but not ourselves!!!!

      Regarding CCD and Religious Ed programs, I believe that we need to return to the practice of confirming our children at ‘the age of reason’ (at the same time they make their first communion and confession,), as some good bishops allow, and then quit throwing ’empty’ RE programs at them ‘to keep them involved’ through high school. What a waste of time and $$$! (In many cases) The Theology of the Body for Teens, and The Dead Theologians Society, are two programs that effectively ‘guide’ our youth, providing faithful alternatives for many of the ‘worldly’ allurements that they encounter every day, and it’s done in a way that is attractive and appropriate to different age groups.

      Educate the adults so that we can once again become truly good role models……’firm in our faith’ and, having lived their faith every day, and seeing in their parents LIVING EXAMPLES, it will be deeply rooted within the lives of our children.  As parents learn about the saints and the teachings of the Church they will pass it along to their children………just like the Holy Family!! 🙂

      Confirmation provides the fullness of, and a special ‘protection’ of, the Holy Spirit. Withholding confirmation from our youth is comparable to not allowing them to be vaccinated, but worse because it concerns the soul.

      • faithful123

         I respectfully disagree Becky. Confirmation is not about the Holy Spirit’s
        protection of youth. Confirmation is youth saying YES to all that they learned of God (learned in book knowledge) and they are now ready to put that Faith knowledge and commitment into ‘adult’ actions – with the help of the Holy Spirit’s gifts.

        A 7 year old is not ready for such commitment. They still need the guidance of adult role models of the Faith.

        Confimation by official definition: The age of discretion, also known as the age of reason, is defined by the
        Church as: “The name given to that period of human life at which persons are
        deemed to begin to be morally responsible.” Children have always been admitted
        to the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion around age seven. But, when it
        comes to Confirmation, the law gives great latitude to bishops, who are free to
        determine that a later age is more suitable for the reception of the sacrament.
        Since the time of the Second Vatican Council, the trend has
        been for Catholics to receive Confirmation later. Up to the time of the council,
        children were normally confirmed in the seventh or eighth grade. Since then,
        reception of the sacrament has been postponed to ninth and tenth grade and sometimes eleventh grade.
        Morally responsible to understand ‘the value’ of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

        I think in conjunction with junior high religous education; these adolescents need to know what Spirit direction is. (besides knowing
        the facts of the faith…putting the facts to practical application) Just
        as anyone can get A’s in Algebra; but do they know how to put that
        to work for them in life? (logic and deducting from unknowns) 

        The adolescents of today have home lives that in many cases are
        not centered on God’s ways. Parents send to CCD out of a
        sense of ‘ritual’ but they lost faith themselves (in some cases)
        Again, this is because those parents were influenced by a culture
        of ‘self indulgence’ (just my opinion) We can’t lose another generation
        Actually we already lost some from the 60’s, then their kids now
        30 something are ‘losing the faith’, now we have kids 12 years olds
        who could lose is even more; the less faith oriented the generation
        before the next one’s go further down.

        It’s important for priests to get involved in the catechesis instruction
        in the junior high years. (CYO is still there of course, but that’s
        voluntary; I think the priest needs show their face and explain what
        spiritual direction is. When ‘as a nation’ we have GOD back in
        His job; everyone will begin to feel peaceful again.

        • Becky Ward


          From the catechism:

          Confirmation perfects Baptismal grace; it is the sacrament which gives the
          Holy Spirit in order to root us more deeply in the divine filiation, incorporate
          us more firmly into Christ, strengthen our bond with the Church, associate us
          more closely with her mission, and help us bear witness to the Christian faith
          in words accompanied by deeds.

          Confirmation, like Baptism, imprints a spiritual mark or indelible character
          on the Christian’s soul; for this reason one can receive this sacrament only
          once in one’s life.

          In the East this sacrament is administered immediately after Baptism and is
          followed by participation in the Eucharist; this tradition highlights the unity
          of the three sacraments of Christian initiation. In the Latin Church this
          sacrament is administered when the age of reason has been reached, and its
          celebration is ordinarily reserved to the bishop, thus signifying that this
          sacrament strengthens the ecclesial bond.

          And from the New Advent website the ‘age of reason’ is defined as:

          The name given to that period of human life at which persons are deemed to begin to be morally responsible. This, as a rule, happens at the age of seven, or thereabouts, though the use of reason requisite for moral discernment may come before, or may be delayed until notably after, that time.

          I’m curious here, where are you getting your information?


          • faithful123

             Confirmation; like our Jewish bretheran who get bar or bat mitvahed is the time for a ‘young person’ to ‘stand up for’ the faith (confirm they will live the faith with an adult commitment)

            When it comes to Confirmation, the law gives great latitude to bishops, who are free to determine that a later age is more suitable for the reception of the sacrament. Since the time of the Second Vatican Council, the trend has been for Catholics to receive Confirmation later. Up to the time of the council, children were normally confirmed in the seventh or eighth grade. Since then, reception of the sacrament has been postponed to ninth and tenth grade (and I have seen it done in 11th)

            information from:

            I am aware that in the Phillipines the child receives baptism and then
            is confirmed in the faith; and the R.C. church accepts such if that is
            how they received The catechism makes note of the difference.
            Two traditions: East and West

            1290 In
            the first centuries Confirmation generally comprised one single
            celebration with Baptism, forming with it a “double sacrament,”
            according to the expression of St. Cyprian. Among other reasons, the
            multiplication of infant baptisms all through the year, the increase of
            rural parishes, and the growth of dioceses often prevented the bishop
            from being present at all baptismal celebrations. In the West the desire
            to reserve the completion of Baptism to the bishop caused the temporal
            separation of the two sacraments. The East has kept them united, so that
            Confirmation is conferred by the priest who baptizes. But he can do so
            only with the “myron” consecrated by a bishop.101

            1291 A
            custom of the Roman Church facilitated the development of the Western
            practice: a double anointing with sacred chrism after Baptism. The first
            anointing of the neophyte on coming out of the baptismal bath was
            performed by the priest; it was completed by a second anointing on the
            forehead of the newly baptized by the bishop.102 The first
            anointing with sacred chrism, by the priest, has remained attached to
            the baptismal rite; it signifies the participation of the one baptized
            in the prophetic, priestly, and kingly offices of Christ. If Baptism is
            conferred on an adult, there is only one post-baptismal anointing, that
            of Confirmation.

            1292 The
            practice of the Eastern Churches gives greater emphasis to the unity of
            Christian initiation. That of the Latin Church more clearly expresses
            the communion of the new Christian with the bishop as guarantor and
            servant of the unity, catholicity and apostolicity of his Church, and
            hence the connection with the apostolic origins of Christ’s Church.

            The important point is the accepting the moral obligation to adhere to
            the faith in a mature fashion.

            The Holy Spirit will certainly provide the grace of being initiated fully
            into The Catholic Faith… protection I suppose – I stand corrected

            but the means to fully use those 7 gifts at the age of seven without the academic instruction would be hard. I suppose that’s why the Western Church baptizes first, teaches the faith at 7 the child
            receives our Lord in Holy Communion (without whom nothing can be
            done) and finally at adolescence there is a ‘confirming’ by the
            young adult of what has been taught so the gifts can come upon.

          • Becky Ward

            How many adults do you know who “fully use those seven gifts”? How many could even list those seven gifts?

            Children are more ready for the sacraments at age seven than they are at 14, (or whatever adolescent age is ‘deemed appropriate’) after another seven years of being exposed to the secular culture we live in.

            Do you notice how willing our children they are to receive first communion? And HOW they accept and believe what they are taught!!  Many of our CCD books for sacramental prep also contain the certificates and instruction necessary for confirmation,(why is that?) and these little souls are perfectly suited for it!  It’s being done, Thank God! and hopefully this practice will spread quickly.

            Would you please let me know if you find an “Official Church Teaching” that states anything about the sacrament of confirmation being a ‘rite of passage’, or in any way, a decision to accept and live the faith??

            I was standing in your shoes just over a year ago when a friend mentioned an eight-year old who was going to be confirmed. I was blown away……couldn’t believe it! Then God led me to check out the Catechism, cannon law, and do a lot of other research……it’s not only okay, it’s the right thing to do.

          • faithful123

             Becky; I don’t want to debate here. I’m just stating ‘why’ Confirmation in the western church is as it is. But your statement of how many adults use the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit corroborates my earlier thought that I think it’s important for priests to introduce our junior high students to Spiritual Direction before they are confirmed – so that ‘when LIFE begins to happen in their adolescent to adult years; they CAN begin to call upon those gifts that the Holy Spirit has given’. (a gift forgotten is not of much use)

            Perhaps our moderator of this site can respond further as to which age is ‘better’ for being confirmed.

            I do know that youth are confirmed in adolescent years where I come from. It is done so that, hopefully, they are ‘well informed’ through their
            catechism instruction from age 5 to 13 or14; to speak and act in faith
            when life’s circumstances occur to them. My opinion; children
            of 7 may be eager to receive Jesus in Holy Communion at seven years
            of age – but they can’t possibly have FULL knowledge and understanding
            of ‘the source and summit’ of our faith at such a young age. Reception
            of such sacrament becomes more and more understood as we
            continue to receive Him faithfully. (I believe it was you who mentioned
            God doesn’t reveal everything to us all at once; only by our consistent
            faith of giving of our life for His presence – do we ‘grow’ into His image)

            Some take that catechism instruction seriously; some ‘just barely’ learn.
            Of course, there’s no way of judging who grows into Christlike maturity
            as the years pass and life happens. (many a poorly catechized can become ‘converted’ with a sudden AHA! moment!)

            My point:

            Spirit Direction is GOOD; and the concept should be explained to our
            youth at an age when they can understand it’s value. (junior high
            school; before entering high school and all the ‘worldly values’ that
            abound in those teen years) As I originally said; there used to be a
            time when the spiritual direction of youth came from the good home
            life. The stable God centered home life as well as the ‘culture of the
            God life’ that was ‘generally out and about’ in society. God was the
            center in most communities; even amidst the hustle and bustle of
            living. People were kinder, more patient, more other centered,
            friendly, receptive to LIFE and understood God) Any ‘direction’
            necessary came when persons entered the confessional; if they
            so wished to ask any specifics to the priest. It used to be much
            easier to not get swayed from our spiritual direction. God’s Spirit
            was pretty much clearly understood. (subjective intepretations
            of God and living, as you said – has brought the need for faithful
            lay persons to take part in this gift of God)

          • faithful123

             to your question: let you know of “Official Church Teaching” that states anything about the sacrament of confirmation being a ‘rite of passage’ [into
            adult faith commitment]



            We are born spiritually in the sacrament of Baptism. We become sharers in the
            divine life of the most Blessed Trinity. We begin to live a supernatural life.
            As we practice the virtues of faith and hope and love and as we unite with
            Christ in His Church in offering worship to God, we also grow in grace and
            goodness.But at this stage our spiritual life, like the life of a child, is largely
            self-centered. We tend to be preoccupied with the needs of our own soul, with
            the effort to “be good.”

            With the onset of adolescence a child begins to assume, progressively more
            and more, the responsibilities of adulthood. He begins to see his place in the
            total family picture and in the community at large.
            Similarly, the confirmed Christian begins to see more clearly (or ought to)
            his responsibility to Christ for his neighbor. He becomes deeply concerned (or
            ought to) with the welfare of Christ-in-the-world–which is the Church–and the
            welfare of Christ-in-his-neighbor. It is in this sense that Confirmation is a spiritual “growing up.”

            Becky; I suppose this is why the western church confirms the gifts of
            the Holy Spirit in adolescent years. It is when the gifts will be most
            valued. I’ve heard the saying “grace builds on nature” The nature of
            a child is self absorbed but with Baptismal grace the human child
            becomes part of the divine nature. With growing; the child becomes
            more involved with helping and living for others; and thus the Sacrament
            of Confirmation is best given at the age when it is most appreciated.

            Just my thoughts. If I have anything ‘wrong’ – by all means please

          • faithful123

             I suppose: just as one wouldn’t give a seven year old the gift of an automobile because they have no comprehension or ability to properly
            drive it, is why in western church theology; confirmation is provided in
            adolescence. It is at this point in life one has a greater capability of
            discerning the gifts and to use the gifts in proper context. I thank you
            for allowing me to put my beliefs into words; for better understanding.

            I am not disagreeing that baptism and confirmation can happen at the
            same time. But the REASON for confirmation, to live the faith of God
            maturely – is why it comes in adolescent years.

          • faithful123

             How many could even list those seven gifts?I admit; at one time in my younger days-of 20 something; I wouldn’t be able to list the gifts off the top of my head. (lots of other stuff on the mind in youthful days) Since a lot of AHA! moments from 40 years onward, andspiritual reading and going back to remember those basics; I can nowlist them… (and without looking it up, you’ll have to trust me on this)Not in a particular order I list: Knowledge, Understanding, Fortitude, Counsel, ‘Fear’ [aka respect] of the Lord, Piety, and the ‘biggie’ Wisdom.These are the GIFTS the Holy Spirit that dwells in us; provides us to ‘make it’ through this earthly living. Knowledge and Understanding ofGod, Courage (boldness) to do the things God would have us do; evenwhen ‘the world’ says naaaaaaaah… ain’t possible, Counsel – the gift of being able to ‘see’ answers to help us in living, Fear aka Respect of God… that means basically ‘we know our place’ … we respect God’s word; with all understanding IT MEANS SOMETHING (don’t try to put one over on the Lord…it won’t work) Piety – a devoted natureto prayer and worship and WISDOM… a gift God grants to us, as He sees us acting in accord with His ways. (God isn’t going to givethose of self centeredness wisdom is He? to use for THEIR purposes?You won’t find many 7 year olds with great wisdom on the matters ofliving life with others. If I’m wrong on any point of the Spirit gifts, feel free to share. (I’m not perfect)And while at 20 I might not have been able to rattle off the list of gifts of the Spirit off top of head…bit by bit …inch by inch… thosegifts were being ‘exercised and used’ (many a time I had to learnsomething new; that took courage (courage comes from the spirit)learning to drive in order to gain a better employment, Knowledgeof what is and isn’t God spirited (many a youth get ‘taken in’ byfast talkers) Knowledge of what is God spirited helps us avoidtrouble-makers, Understanding ‘between the lines’ when others speak.As children we take things literally; guerilla warfare? wow, how do theyget them to learn to shoot guns? Counsel… that means we know how to conduct ourselves in certain situations – by the spirit of other centeredness. We don’t blurt out words to hear ourselves.We know when to act and when to step back. The ‘counsel’ ofthe Spirit gives us ‘the answer’ on how to get along with the most others…and the Spirit will teach best sometimes when weignore His prompting and ‘rush in’ where ANGELS would fear totread. Oh yea…I was going to do…but then I did… Piety? that’s adesire to pray and to attend worship and to sit quietly and reflect;not always having to have people around us. (correct if wrong) andWisdom…when to do when to step back when to speak and whento listen. When to work and when to study. When to harvest andwhen to plant.WISDOM! gift from The Spirit of God.The gifts are there, we just have to be aware of them. God gives usevery GOOD THING for OUR GOOD life.

          • LizEst

            Pure and simple, confirmation is one of the three sacraments of initiation. It is intended to initiate us into the faith (along with baptism and Eucharist)…and, it was originally that way. But, because of historical and pastoral reasons, such as that of the bishop not being able to get out to confirm everyone, the sacraments slowly got separated from each other. The Eastern Churches kept it the way it was originally intended, the Western Churches did not.

            Pope Benedict XVI in “Sacramentum Caritatis” Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation 22 Feb 2007 says, “It must never be forgotten that our reception of Baptism and Confirmation is ordered to the Eucharist. Accordingly, our pastoral practice should reflect a more unitary understanding of the process of Christian initiation…The Holy Eucharist, then, brings Christian initiation to completion and represents the center and goal of all sacramental life” [para 17]…”these variations [baptism and confirmation and Eucharist being given separately from each other] are not properly of the dogmatic order…Bishops’ Conferences should examine the effectiveness of current approaches to Christian initiation…” [18].

          • faithful123

             Thank you, but until the Bishops the authority of the Western church says otherwise. OBEY we must. (correct?) The bishops comfirm adolescents in junior high and in some places high school. Ours is not
            to question that authority. Obedience to the church ways always.

          • faithful123

            p.s. totus; with the state of family life and it’s orderliness to living the Catholic faith as it should be; being not quite the effective vehicle it should be (divorces, separations, re-marriages or sometimes ‘no marriage’ of the
            ‘parental role models) If our young folk were to receive all 3 Sacraments of
            “initiation” right away… we would lose these young folk ‘at the baptismal font’ – I fear. For their parents would not deem it ‘necessary’ to bring them to catechism instruction in the faith. A recent homily heard said that about
            50 percent of those bringing a child to be baptized are not living in the
            Sacrament of marriage. Those coming to be married; have been living
            together without marriage. So; if all sacraments for a young baptized
            infant were given ‘all together’ … do you think the church would ever
            see that child and family again? Let’s trust the Bishop’s authority on

          • faithful123

            I might add, that the western church provides confirmation as an adult member of the faith in adolescence; so as to AT LEAST get the youth
            to KNOW something. As stated, they would not get pushed to go from the home life of most homes today.

            and perhaps that is why the Authority of the Church; makes Sunday Mass
            obligatory… as a precept of the church. Left to their own minds… THE
            SHEEP would scatter and disperse. Even with those 3 Sacraments of
            Initiation inside of them. The church is the pastoral guide to the sheep
            attaining HEAVEN…despite their ‘free will’… So they state… Mass
            must be… at first adolescents grumble…but if the Sacrament is received in some receptivity THE GRACE goes to work and they continue to

            Sort of like a new marriage, the once free ‘boy’ … is becoming a man
            and the girl a ‘woman’… they have an obligation of vows to love,
            honor and obey IN WORDS…with them at that Sacrament they
            participated in… but taking the vows to real ACTION every single
            day is a GROWING experience OF LOVE… once the REAL LOVE
            takes hold in the heart… THE MARRIAGE is FOREVER… but they
            do have to WORK AT IT.

            and it’s the same reason CHURCH insists on Mass attendance;
            The person can’t experience the SAVING GRACE…if they don’t
            put it to ACTION at least once a week. Eventually; GOD TAKES
            ROOT…and any of maturity… accepts this precept WITH JOY.

            A ‘come if you want to’ way – is that love and concern for that one’s
            eternal soul? Don’t think so. True Protestant faithful could just as
            easily be TRUE Catholic faithful… they strive to live GOD with
            WHOLE HEART and NEIGHBOR… and God will judge them by
            what they knew… (he doesn’t ask questions about calculus if
            all we learned was basic math) Mostly…he looks for LOVE.
            I know many Protestants who LOVE GOD fully… and I’m sure
            they will be up there … (I hope I will be there too)

          • faithful123

             I gave thought to these words of yours Becky; and I can’t go along. A seven year old may be held ‘accountable’ to God for SINS committed;
            but generally speaking those sins are venial in nature. Yes, I suppose if
            seven year old were to fire a gun at someone, the child is morally responsible for the act of killing in God’s view. Particularly with taking
            the Eucharist within. But; to say that a seven year old is competent to
            live the faith in a adult commitment of responsible action? To be able
            to defend the faith against all detractors, to know how to speak for the
            faith? That is a ‘stretch’ … a child is a child (looking out for it’s own
            interests and to be loved more so than loving)

            For this reason; the western church has youth in adolescence stand
            of their own and CONFIRM the faith learned and that they will keep it
            with adult mature living. It is at this age ‘the gifts’ of the Holy Spirit
            are best understood and used properly. I understand.

            As stated, just giving a 7 year old an automobile because the know
            what a car is does not mean the 7 year old has to capacity to operate
            it at full level of maturity.

            Youth need QUALITY catechesis with the support of such in the home.
            and that home life is the start of SPIRIT direction. Since home lives
            are not where they should be these days; I believe the church needs
            to step in to provide not just the ‘academics’ of catechesis but the
            interpersonal SPIRIT direction. 6th 7th 8th graders should be made
            to feel comfortable going to the priest not ‘to confess’ sin but to
            talk over stuff BEFORE they ‘sin’ (do it wrong)

            Spiritual preventative medicine. With that AND THEN CONFIRMATION
            and the HOLY SPIRIT’S GIFTS… we’ve set the stage for a mature
            generation to SAY NO to the devil’s ploys.

      • EES

        I totally agree with you, and recommend a very good book by Thomas Sullivan on this question – Called to Knighthood: The Sacrament of Confirmation in the Kingdom Family of God.

        • Becky Ward

          Thank you!! I am grateful for the reccommendation; it’s often hard to tell good books from bad before you buy them … (How much time I have wasted in this regard!) ………….I’ll look for a copy of this.

        • Becky Ward

          THANK YOU…..again!

          This is an awesome book! It contains all the things I have learned and have been trying to share with others…..but I couldn’t quite put it all together.

          I’m passing it on to my priest and DRE.

  • faithful123

    Just a further aside, let’s face it “there’s lots of confused souls” out there.
    I think the answer is to ‘go back to the beginning’ not start in ‘the middle’
    Family life is not what is was in the 50’s and early 60’s by parents from the
    Forties. The 60’s moral relativism and the flight from the pews (even to some
    extent the Protestant pew and the drug thing and the live together thing (free
    love) and the confusion on love with lust (ie: the mode of dress of some in
    the 60’s and 70’s that ‘attracted’ someone to say I do…mini skirts, long
    flowing hair, nice figure … SEXUALLY attractive… was not always LOVE
    as LOVE was meant to be found. A false ‘god’ … ‘false love’ … just my
    opinion. When ‘the pill’ came along shortly after… and family life wasn’t
    there… the ‘atrractive spouse’ or ‘good looking guy’ sort of got boring.
    Then the double incomes, oh sure, some had two kids…but it is hard to
    serve two masters…work and home life. (especially with God life ie
    prayer, worship ‘somewhere’, biblical reading by the parents at least;
    who can get the words out to child in whatever special way they choose.

    If there were a solid family life … our churches would also be solid.
    ‘the world’ and it’s attractions would not get a foothold on youth.

    Time to go back to the beginning…correct the problem in the adolescent
    stage FIRST and everything else will fall back in place as it once was.
    After all…that’s where the problem originated.

    One’s Spirit director that helped one navigate the potholes of living in a
    Spirit way was FAMILY. The 60’s revolution ‘nearly’ destroyed the most
    essential element of GOD. (Father, Mother, ‘son’ – ie offspring)

    When the home authority is of God…the Church merely ‘backs up’ that
    home SPIRIT authority. For a time, KIDS need to know that after
    confirmed…we still care about you. NOW… for a time the SPIRIT
    DIRECTION needs to be in the hands of the ministerial priest. As for
    those out there in their 40s and 50’s… and 30’s…pray for their return
    ‘home’ /

    Family LIFE has to come back as it was. MOTHER, FATHER,
    CHILDREN (more than 2 and that’s by God’s blessing) with that in
    place priestly vocations will also return or other religious. And with
    stay at home moms; and more society… NEEDS will need be met
    (ie jobs)

    Life got WAY OFF PATH… no blame to our ‘hippie set’ … they were immature and self absorbed. Let’s just begin righting it again – PRAY FOR HIS
    GUIDANCE where HE wants to use YOU.

  • faithful123

    I hope our 60’s youth now approaching the age of 60 and older; come to realize that LIFE wasn’t as ‘bad’ as their then young eyes saw. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” should now replace their creed “all ya need is love la la la la la.

    Love is God. All truth be said…that generation ‘ran away from it’ (the pews,
    the prayer, and became ‘activists’ … which goes against Be Still and
    Know I am God. Trust in HIS WAY. (many didn’t know Him)

  • Colleen S

    Dan, Thank you and Fr. John for this site. It has had some very timely meditaitons for me. I also love daily meditating with Fr. John’s book. I do have a plug, hope you don’t mind, but this latest post of mine, while exceeding all normal lengths is an essential one I think. I hope you like it. 

  • Gordon

    Excellent advice. The spiritual director is not there to push his agenda to the directee. He or she is there to guide the directee to seek God’ will through the gift of spiritual discernment.

  • Melora

    While I agree with the Holy Father that we should all have spiritual direction, it is honestly not practical in the real world. Right now, many parishes suffer a priest shortage and finding a spiritual director is close to impossible.

    • Dear Friend – your comments are commonly expressed but I wouldn’t join you in accusing the Pope of being impractical. It is his job to hold up the ideal and then we all work together towards it. As well, I know pastors who have their priorities straight and frankly neglect administration in order to ensure that as many of their parishioners get to heaven as possible. This might not apply to you but I suspect that some who immediately point out the impractical nature of the situation are simply making excuses to avoid what God has called them to.

      • faithful123

         I agree with Melora; While Spiritual Direction is good; it is not for ALL.
        As the saying goes: “train a child in the way they are to go, and when they are old they will not depart from it.” It’s biblical so it is truth.

        This is not to say that IF; one needs assistance in discerning their next step in accord God’s will; they should not seek the assistance of a priest
        or religious person.

        As for me, I stated it before; I was using my spiritual director more to
        bounce every AHA moment that came; in figuring out how and why
        a human relationship went wrong. And the “director” was not “directing”
        me to “what and how Jesus saw” but it seemed it was more an
        antagonizing and ‘tenseness’ … it that was his method; it wasn’t
        explained and I had not a clue WHAT he was aiming to do.

        I think I finally got the Spirit message for me: Mature adults do not
        have to question every ‘action’ they want to do. If they interiorly feel
        it’s right; if good will come of it (objectively) do not burden any with
        what our conclusions are. Especially a busy priest. I was talking
        to much and not getting too much feedback. I felt uncomfortable.

        Spiritual Direction is not for everyone. Follow the Sacramental life
        and REALLY live GOD in the heart…AND ‘THE’ Holy Spirit will
        always direct our paty. That’s how it used to be… A firm
        conviction of OUR FAITH PRACTICE. But, that doesn’t mean
        I am against Spirit Direction; I just don’t believe God calls all
        to such introspection.

  • faithful123

    One thing to also note; while our Pope ‘recommends’ Spiritual Direction,
    he is not making it canon law (teaching) He’s not speaking ex cathedra (forgive if I spelled wrong) ‘from the chair of Peter’

    SPIRITUAL DIRECTION is a VERY GOOD thing.. it certainly does help one
    grow. We should use it if God is calling us to do such.

    But if our lives are generally in good spiritual health; we feel peace, we are
    not confused in anything, simply praying, spiritual reading, Mass attendance and reception of the Eucharist and if need be Sacrament of Reconciliation
    should suffice. I say this only ‘for the benefit’ of our MUCH NEEDED priest
    who has much on his plate. No priest will ever turn any away; but we must
    not burden them un-necessarily. Be compassionate to their human-ness.

    • Dear Friend – I would have to respectfully part ways with you on this one. I wouldn’t presume I know more than the Pope about the spiritual needs of the Church (particularly this Pope). You are correct to say that this exhortation is not ex cathedra. However, this is never a valid reason to disregard exhortations and encouragements from Rome. Beyond that, the Pope’s encouragement of spiritual direction comes with the consistent teaching and history of the Church behind him, which is why he says, “As she has never failed to do, again today the Church continues to recommend the practice of spiritual direction, not only to all those who wish to follow the Lord up close, but to every Christian who wishes to live responsibly his baptism…” Beyond that, if someone I knew told me they were just fine and didn’t need spiritual direction, I would be nervous for them. The Pope, in his complete quote said, “A guide can help defend oneself from facile subjectivist interpretations, making available his own supply of knowledge and experiences in following Jesus.” This is a critical statement. Our capacity for self-deception is almost limitless. If a spiritual director whom I trusted told me to take a break for a while, I would do so. However, anyone who thinks they are just fine by their own judgment is, in my opinion, in a precarious situation. Finally, the workload of priests has absolutely no bearing on whether or not one should seek spiritual direction. Pax

      • faithful123

         Ok then; dutifully noted. I was advised by one whom I thought was a
        spiritual director; that I did not need it. Exact words: “I find I no longer need Spiritual Direction” his response “that’s good” / and so that’s that.
        Another director (lay person) who moved from parish told me before we
        even began: “if at any time you don’t feel comfortable with our relationship, by all means it is fine to end such.” and I am not going against the Pope.
        I have said it as plain as I could: Spiritual Direction is a VERY GOOD thing.. it certainly does help one grow. We should use it if God is calling us to do such. It certainly did make me grow in spirit understanding. But frequent direction doesn’t need be done; ONCE A YEAR perhaps. (this is also what I read in one of the articles on your site) I am not disagreeing
        with the Pope…I simply tried to state…it would be even better to begin
        introducing it to our adolescent culture. (I agree with our Pope and
        merely elaborated a starting point) Also, I am not so sure a 95 year old
        Catholic is really in need of spirit direction; and since spirit direction
        comes from lay persons; good spiritual parental role models would be
        as much what our Pope is alluding to. (however we can listen to those
        who move us to ‘hear God’s call and movement in our life) I am not
        arguing against… just trying to say there’s many avenues…

  • Schinmd

    I think this generation needs as much spiritual power given to them as possible. The sooner the better for Holy Communion and Confirmation. The graces will be given to them and mature as they mature. All I remember of my Confirmation is that  we were now “soldiers of Christ”. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit came to me more and more as I got older and still to this day. Give our little ones God’s graces as soon as possible. We are in a very dangerous world.

    • faithful123

      The gifts are there at baptism Schinmd; you are correct GRACES to be aware of and ACT on those 7 gifts come with maturity to accept and you have corroborated…those gifts in action came more and more as you aged. THE GRACE of BAPTISM is ‘sufficient’ … MORE Sacraments doesn’t WORK MAGIC… it’s ALL ABOUT GOD… GOD bestows THE GRACE of HIS PRESENCE in the Sacraments… it’s NOT in HUMAN CONTROL to say HERE KIDS here’s THE WHOLE THING ALL AT ONCE now you are safe…??? God IS IN CONTROL of the GRACE thing…
      Baptism and Holy Eucharist is sufficent for a child to grow in the faith.

      In adolescence when cognitive of THE FAITH and Adult living of it…the bishop confirms one … with oil… AND THE HOLY SPIRIT awakens the soul to HIS GIFTS ‘so as to go out and live the faith’ to the world…

Skip to toolbar