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Pope’s Encouragement to Mercy and Spiritual Direction

atest encouragement to mercy

The Pope's Latest Encouragement to Mercy and Spiritual Direction

The Pope's Latest Encouragement to Mercy and Spiritual Direction

A recurring theme is emerging in Pope Benedict's pontificate: the importance of mercy and spiritual direction. His latest encouragement of this practice is his most significant. In Sussidio per Confessori (The Priest, Minister of Divine Mercy: An Aid for Confessors and Spiritual Directors) is a beautiful call for priests to reflect on how to more effectively minister grace and mercy through confession and spiritual direction. This important document comes at a critical time of preparation for World Youth Day and the anticipated work of the Holy Spirit in this significant gathering of the faithful. I heartily recommend this insightful and encouraging document to priests, religious, lay spiritual directors, and all who desire to more fully engage Christ and his grace in confession and spiritual direction. The document is offered through the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy and can be found in full here.


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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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  • Kathy

    I was discouraged when I heard what the Pope said about the great importance of spiritual direction as it hasn’t been possible for me to find a spiritual director. According to your Spiritual Direction Poll, most people don’t have a spiritual director but wish they did. I wonder if the Church knows the reality of life that most people aren’t able to find a spiritual director?

    • I am sorry to hear you are discouraged. The Church is aware of the problem and this is precisely why the Pope is encouraging priests to turn their attention to this important need.

    • C J Sebastian333

      Kathy: try not to be discouraged. If I’m not mistaken Deacon’s can also be Spiritual Directors. What I wouldn’t give to have had St. Frances of Assisi as my spiritual director (who I also believe was a Deacon). Maybe there are some orders of nuns who could fill this need. I would think anyone assigned or associated with vocations would be an appropriate place to start (if just based upon their background and interests)… that may lead to something. You will find what you seek.

      • Dear Friend – You are correct, Deacons can be spiritual directors. Lay people can be directors also…

    • Becky Ward


      I was advised to pray for the Lord to put me in touch with, or to send me, a spiritual director. I wasn’t convinced of the power of prayer at the time and since I had a director, just not one who was doing me much good….I didn’t put much effort into it. But a few months down the road I started praying in earnest for a new director and am happy to report I have been seeing a good priest for 2 1/2 years now.

      Trust in God’s love for you, and as Jo says in her beautiful reflection,

      “You said you would not lose what the Father has placed in Your hands….

      let all my confidence rest in Your willingness to save me!”


  • Kalappuracthomas

    I believe that a spiritual director is good in that one can go the right way  consulting him and getting counsel from him  But how to find one.  It is not easy these days to find a real dedicated loyal to Church  humble and helpful clergy. I pray.

  • ThirstforTruth

    I understand Kathy’s discouragement…and can relate to it. It IS nearly impossible, with the shortage of priests and the “busyness” of current
    pastors, for most people to find such spiritual aide in the form of the
    classic spiritual director, one on one. I see what the Pope is driving towards as restoring more “meat” to the sacrament of penance (most Catholics today do not participate for a variety of reasons never spoken about) and the weekly homily…but beyond that, given the problems above, there is little reason to hope for finding a personal spiritual director. That is why this blog has come to be so important for many people.

    • Dear Friend – I am glad this blog is helpful but don’t give up! The battle is part of the plan.

    • Becky Ward

      Also a good reason for us to PRAY FOR OUR PRIESTS. Those we currently have and all those who will be filling this void in the future.

      We have no idea of the attacks the devil launches against priests!! May God bless and protect them all the days of their lives!!

      I can’t believe in a God who couldn’t give us plenty of priests if it is His will……..are we asking Him to do so? Are we encouraging young men to consider the priesthood? Do we support and appreciate our priests? Until a few years ago, I didn’t………I kind of thought they had it easy. (Ignorant, embarrassed shrug)  But I sure do pray for them now!

      Satan knows the power of the Eucharist ~ Picking off our priests is a good strategy toward eliminating the Mass……(Even though we know he loses in the end)……and sadly, we often don’t know the value of, or appreciate what we have until it’s gone.

      I believe the times we live in also provide a call to the laity to learn their faith………really learn our faith…… the the Catechism and the lives of the saints too – which ever ones you’re drawn to or remember hearing about – so that we can help and support each other and our priests more effectively.

  • Stephen

    I live in a small Texas town far from the city.Our priest drives a long way to come here for Sunday Mass,then goes to another town,so not a lot of time is available to him for spiritual direction,only a few confessions,if any.
    The desperate need I have for spiritual direction is fulfilled in the careful and prayerful reading of the saints and spiritual masters of the Church.
    Here’s a few titles that I’ve found to be very helpful along these lines:
    The Manual for Interior Souls,by Fr.Jean Grou S.J. (all his books are great for spiritual direction).
    The Directorium Asceticum,or Guide to the Spiritual Life,by Fr.Scaramelli,S.J. in four volumes (most excellent).
    The Way of Salvation and Perfection,by St.Alphonsus Liguori (all his books are great).
    The Introduction to the Devout Life,by St.Francis de Sales(all are great).
    All these books can be found through,some are available in reprint and in paperback.
    Hope this helps–God bless this wonderful site and our generous host,Stephen

    • Dear Friend – Thank you for your kind words and encouragement to others.

    • C J Sebastian333

      Isn’t it amazing, the variety of ways God touches the soul? Among priests, you will seldom find any circumstance or situation that was similar when they were called, other than desire – that is the common bond in my view, desire. God calls us in so many ways, for so many different reasons and purposes, from so many different places and states in life. My thoughts go Elijah, Moses and Jesus Himeself fasting 40 days and 40 nights… John the Baptist and all his prayer and fasting, and all those deserts, wastelands that all the Saints have experienced in one way or another… where the body is deprived of all it’s needs that only the spirit grows. I’m begining to think that almost everything is a blessing, I won’t be at all suprised to find that ALL is a blessing.

      • Yenwiyghaven Mahven

        Dear Sebastian, everything is actually a blessing, only that it takes patience and humility for you and me to understand this. I am happy to know that you are discovering this truth and sharing it with the world. Your understanding is in line with the teachings of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, who said that “Everything is grace”. If grace or a blessing can be found in everything, then God becomes a tangible and not an abstract reality in every aspect of life.

  • Yenwiyghaven Mahven

    I am very happy about this message from the Holy Father. It arrives just at the right time for me when I am writing on the challenges faced in the ministry of spiritual direction in Africa with an objective to show its importance and make it more effective within the African continent. Our post-modern world needs spiritual direction today, more than ever, I believe.

    • C J Sebastian333

      The Good Lord is alive and well in Africa, even greater than many would expect, I’m sure. I think St. Theresa of the Child Jesus would have loved being a missionary in Africa, let me rephrase, I’m certain SHE IS loving being a missionary in Africa. I will remember you and your work at Mass tomorrow morning, and when I think of St. Theresa. Shalom

  • Itschiquita

    How do you get a Spiritual Director? It’s not like you put an ad in the paper?

    • Dear Friend – if you type “finding a spiritual director” in the search area, you will get a good number of posts that will provide insight for you.

  • Kenzie Le

    I’m down under, Melbourne Australia.  About 8 weeks ago, I started to see a spiritual director once a week (1hr) at a Campion Ignatian centre.  It is a life changing thing to do. In such a short time  I already  see myself improving & healing dramatically, others around me noticed that too.  I think this Campion organisation is operating in many places around the world.
    I’m highly recommend everyone to see or have a spiritual director.  Literally, it’s like you can not see yourself unless you use a mirror.  And when you can see yourself, you can see the GOD in you (& others)

    • That is encouraging! Thanks for telling us about it.

  • Mbtvalli

    Thank you so much for posting this. It is SUCH an encouragement! Especially to pray and offer sacrifice that these graces will be poured out on the church! My spiritual director reminded me that the church is not a business and that he is responsible for his spiritual children. What a GIFT. Pray for our priests!

  • Kenzie Le

    harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord
    of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.” 
    Luke 10:2

    Let us all pray to God for more labourers.

  • ThirstforTruth

    In our parish, and I believe throughout the diocese, before every Mass said
    during the week as well as on Sunday, the congregation prays a decade of the Rosary fo the increase of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. We
    have been saying this for at least the past three years. Our beloved priests are under attack from both with-in and with-out…praying is the very least we can do to help them with all they are dealing with…as well as what suffering our Church is going through. The Body of Christ has been wounded and it is up to us to pray for healing.

  • Kathy

    If a spiritual director is not that hard to find, then why does your poll reflect that 69 percent of the people don’t have a spiritual director and wished they did? I am essentially a shut-in, a senior citizen, and am very poor (my internet is paid for by my sister). I have tried and prayed for a spiritual director but with no success. I find it difficult to read the Fathers of the Church without some sort of help understanding what they say. I have really serious spiritual issues but no way to solve them except for this forum.

    • Dear Friend – I am grateful that this forum has been helpful to you. To be clear, no one from this apostolate has ever claimed that it is easy to find a good spiritual director. It is not. May the Lord continue to bless you as you seek him.

    • Guest

      Kathy, just continue to pray and as surely as the sun rises in the East, God will give you a Spiritual Director. When Fr. John advised me on this Website to get myself a Spiritual Director, I did not know how to begin looking for one. But I took him seriously, prayed every day and sure enough, I now have a very gifted Spiritual Director who is also my Confessor. And even in his busy schedule as a Senior Lecturer at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa and the Superior of his Religious Order, he finds time for us to have a 2-hour Session once a month or when my world has suddenly crashed and I need urgent help to stand up and wobble gallantly on my Spiritual journey!!!!!. Being a shut-in senior citizen, Kathy, is a great blessing, believe me – I am in the same stage of life myself. When God sends you a Director, you will come to realize the importance having one at this stage of our lives.

  • StrongerinHim

    It definitely is a call to reflection that our blessed Pope Benedict understands the need of spiritual direction of Catholics, young and old alike. In addition to our priests reflecting on how to better bring forth grace and mercy via the Sacrament of Confession and/or Spiritual Direction; we the lay people must reflect on how we can better approach the reconciliation Sacrament. This
    approaching of Sacramental grace, of course, can only come to be thru the guidance of the Holy Spirit;so perhaps parishes need to have more Eucharistic Adoration, Novenas, and Rosary prayer nights to prepare both priest and penitent and./or directee.

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