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Are you worth the time? Why would a priest take time for me?

October 18, 2011 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Forgiveness, Spiritual Direction

Why would a priest spend time with a nobody like me?

In the past year I have talked with a number of good Catholics interested in spiritual direction. Almost all of them expressed a feeling of being unworthy of a priest taking time out just for them. One woman said, “Why would a priest spend time with a nobody like me?” Now, mind you, this woman recently fought through some very difficult challenges and converted to Catholicism in spite of them. She is an exemplary woman who is actively seeking and submitting to God. However, she still feels unworthy.

Her struggle reflects things within her that are good, and some that are obstacles to her spiritual growth. The good is the honest recognition that before God and holy men and women, we rightly feel a bit unworthy. We are fallen creatures after all. On the other hand, the worst sinner among us still bears the image of God. Each person on this planet was specifically brought into existence by God (For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb – Psalm 139:13). He desires a relationship with each and every person – this includes you.

If we struggle in a similar way, it would be well worth our time to meditate on the parable of prodigal son (St. Luke 15:11-32). We should see ourselves as the prodigal and God as the loving father. He longs for us and regardless of the level of depravity to which we have lowered ourselves, He eagerly awaits our return. The second He sees our hearts turning His way, He opens His arms to receive us. He not only offers us forgiveness, but heaven and earth begin to rejoice with Him.

Turn to Him and those whom He has consecrated to serve you to Him. He has provided priests and consecrated in order to help you come to Him. Don't deny Him when He has given so much for you. He is eagerly waiting for a deeper relationship with you and any good priest will see that and delight in your desire to grow deeper in Christ.


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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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  • Mary

    One must realize that you, yes you, are the most important person to Jesus. He gave you your heart and a basic personality which He loves. It is only just to receive guidance from a professional representative of Christ to grow in faith and love of God. My advice, work on realizing that your love is needed by Jesus as bread is to the body and Jesus is to your soul.

  • Teresa

    I have had similar thoughts about my spiritual director. He is so busy and he can’t possibly meet with everyone who wants spiritual direction. He has four directees and I count myself very blessed to be one of them. I expressed a concern at one point about taking too much of his time and he told me not to worry about that. He seems to enjoy our meetings as much as I do and he has been so helpful to me during the past two years.

  • Carla

    This is easier said than done of course, but it is great to hear the gospel affirmed (the prodigal child) and this is great advise: “Don’t deny Him when He has given so much for you.”
    I am struggling with this very thing right now as I am 46 with two grown children, no longer married, and wanting to give my whole life in service to the Church somehow. I so far have had 2 not so positive experiences: one with a sister and one with a priest as I’ve sought for a spiritual director. It’s an absolute truth that I am indeed not worthy and the longer that I’m catholic, the closer I draw to Him, the more I realize this. I guess the thing is never to give up!

    • True – never give up…

      • Carla

        God is so good and faithful. Wanted to give you a quick update: have been accepted into the Norbertine Priory of St. Joseph in Tehachapi, CA.
        God Bless!

  • Harry Berger Jr


  • Marie Teresa

    A friend gave me some words of solace: when you prayerfully seek a director and don’t find one, then take comfort because God himself will guide you until you meet the director He has chosen for you.

    Complaining in my heart or aloud is a little more difficult when I consider that in the meantime Jesus himself is my director.

    The priests in my diocese are few and far between and don’t offer spiritual direction. Most care for 2-4 parishes. Daily Mass would be a dream come true. Even Confession seems to be a strain on father’s time. This site is an invaluable touchstone! Thank you.

    • Well said. St. Teresa of Avila tells us to put ourselves in St. Joseph’s hands when we are unable to find a suitable director.

  • C


    Interesting article and my initial thoughts were that this Lady should consider that satan will always try in our thoughts to block any spiritual growth in trying to build a stronger union with Jesus Christ.  

  • Susan

    Finding the right spiritual director makes all the difference. Just like ‘us,’ priests all have their own gifts and not every one has the gift of being an effective spiritual director. My spiritual director (or spiritual companion, as he prefers, since he says we’re all on this journey together) has many directees and I too hesitated (and still do) to ‘take up his time.’ But he takes his vocation seriously and is very compassionate, insightful and humorous and never makes me feel rushed or silly or unworthy. He is very comforting, but he also challenges me and doesn’t just rattle off platitudes. I have often cried while speaking with him, but I have also had many ‘aha!’ moments as well. I met this wonderful priest on my Cursillo weekend two years ago when I made a soul-bearing confession. We have been meeting regularly since then. He has helped me root out some sinful behaviors, and has helped me not get discouraged when new ones surface. I thank God every day for putting this wonderful priest in my life to bring him closer to Himself. I wish everyone who seeks a spiritual director to find one as holy and willing and helpful as mine.

    • Your thoughts here are very encouraging – thank you for telling us about your experience.

  • AnnieB

    I met my director last night, a very busy parish priest and thanked him for his time. He replied that his vocation would be worthless if he could not help me with his time. This was after a very difficult session for us both and I came home to find this post which was a huge relief.

  • Sfbierly

    Absolutely each soul is worth the time of a holy priest to direct him/her to grow closer to Jesus. When we feel unworthy, it is often that old sin of pride that is holding us captive. Pray for a Spiritual Director who will be able to understand your soul and help you to soar in growing in faith, hope, and love. I am grateful for my Benedictine Spiritual Director, and know that I am a better person because of his guidance.

    • Well said

    • Becky Ward

      Isn’t it interesting that pride does this to us………? I’ve always thought of pride being noticed in the “I don’t need Spiritual Direction” ….for 101 different reasons kind of attitude.  It took the longest time for me to ‘see’ how pride was behind my feelings of unworthiness. Just goes to show how the devil plays both ends against the middle!!

  • Camille

    This sounds too idealistic… You make it sound like they are just sitting around twiddling their thumbs waiting for us to ask. The reality is most priests are very busy and if you’re going to ask for Spiritual Direction you had better be ready to handle the “I can’t”. I’d rather read an article on how to maintain an existing relationship with a priest after you ask them for Spiritual Direction when they say “No” – or something on how to research/find a director.

    • Becky Ward

      This will probably sound too simplistic, but pray. Quite simply, if we are serious about finding a director……..and are willing to be directed, prayer will bring it about. It happens all the time…..but we must be willing to trust in God and not focus on our human “realities”………..God IS reality.

      Praying for you!!

  • Km

    In my experience where I live on the West Coast priests do not have time to do much spiritual direction as they are overworked… in fact when asking someone they told me it would be very difficult to find a spiritual director, so maybe it is different in different areas, not sure.

    • Well, the West Coast is a big area. I know that there are thousands out there in spiritual direction. As you note, it may be difficult to find in any particular area…

  • Cynthia

    My first spiritual director was my parish priest. It was he who suggested to me that a monthly get-together might be beneficial. When he left our parish, I asked God to lead me to a new spritual director. In time I found a lay woman who is educated in direction and certified in the Ignatian Exercises. She has been a real Godsend. It’s not done within the Seal of Confession like my time with my priest. But it’s confidential just the same. And I find that I prefer the focus of my prayer life with my current director, rather than of my sins and virtues with my priest. With the extreme priest shortage in our parish, I’m glad not to be further adding to the burden of any one priest, yet still able to receive the spirital direction I need to move forward in a deeper intimacy with the blessed Trinity and our Holy Mother.

    • Becky Ward

      There’s an added benefit to having both a confessor and a spiritual director………who are different people. If you ever have issues with one of them, say they tell you something you truly don’t think is right……you have an established relationship with another holy soul whom you can confide in.

  • LizEst

    Thank you for this post, Dan.

    I believe it’s important to add that, in some dioceses, only priests are allowed to be spiritual directors. Lay persons are considered spiritual companions…and, they get schooled and trained just as priests would be trained in order to do the same thing.

    • Cynthia

      That would be wonderful! Then hopefully more qualifed people would be available as spiritual companions.

  • Kathryn

    I have found a spiritual director who is a Priest. I am so thankful for his direction and his time.  However, I don’t know how to repay him for the time he freely gives me each month. It is awkward to offer him cash, so I haven’t. I don’t want to insult him but I don’t want to leave him feeling unappreciated either. I offer my prayers each day but I need to do more. Do Priests that are spiritual directors usually get paid by each person or is this part of their ministry that they are paid for by their diocese? It would be very uncomfortable but do I need to have this converstation with him? Would a monetary gift every few months or yearly be acceptable? What’s the norm or is there one?

    • Good question. I have an answer drafted for you. It will probably be up on Friday. Stay tuned…

  • bewildered

    No. Apparently not. My 87 year-old mother’s Eucharistic minister dropped her from the list of communicants she visited. Imagine — excommunicated by a lay minister.

    • Well, an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion is not the same as a priest and they don’t have the power to excommunicate anyone for any reason at any time. The first step is to contact her priest, and then if that doesn’t work, her bishop. This can be solved. Be assured of my prayers.

  • Guest

    The best advice I got from this Website from Fr. John, was that I get myself a Spiritual Director. I did not know how to go about it, so I just prayed. As an Eucharistic Apostle of the Divine Mercy the daily 3.00 O’ Çlock Holy Hour Adoration and Petition before the Blessed Sacrament, led me to a wonderful Spiritual Director. Though he is very busy as a Senior Lecturer at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, a Superior of His Religious Congregation – and now a Doctorate Student in the same University, he also has several Convents, a Hospice and three Parishes where he offers Weekday Holy Masses. One would have expected him to say he is too busy to take up anyone for Spiritual Direction. But when I approached him, he joyfully accepted. Apart from being my Spiritual Director, he is also my Confessor. I find these double-roles very beneficial. I shall forever thank this Website for that advice. With my constant falls, at times self-doubts, I certainly require re-assurance and guidance. We meet once a month of whenever a “crisis” crops up!!!!. I have no doubt a Spiritual Director is the greatest Gift from the Holy Spirit in one’s Spiritual journey.

  • Reneebjornard

    There are some of us truly hurting. It’s not pride. The kind of pride that says “I can’t believe I did that!” We are the walking wounded (beyond abuse), and I am working (with God’s help) to get beyond that point. We have a compassionate heart because of our brokenness. We see it in others, and reach out in love to minister love, care and compassion. Because, after all, Christ loved us first. Even in our brokenness. Who am I to judge others? We love others “more than our selves.” But, we don’t love ourselves. I’m praying that God will allow me, through the woundedness, to love myself more so I can love others MORE.

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