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I Can’t Find a Spiritual Director Loyal to the Magisterium

I Can't Find a Spiritual Director Loyal to the Magiesterium

Dear Fr. John, I have read Dan’s book, Navigating the Interior Life, and have diligently followed all of his suggestions for how to find a spiritual director. Frankly, I am frustrated to tears writing this to you. I have not found a director who actually believes the teachings of the Church. In fact, I have met with several priests and laypeople. Every one of them, to a person, disagrees with Humane Vitae, and they all are very soft on Church teachings like abortion etc. I AM FRUSTRATED! So, assuming that I can’t find a director, can I pursue spiritual friendships or what? I really don’t know what to do.

You are not alone! Many of our readers, and many others whom I know personally, have faced or are facing the same dilemma. Little by little, the Avila Institute and some other institutions are trying to put together programs that will be able to train more spiritual directors in order to help fill in this gap in today’s Church. In the meantime, what should you do? I would recommend three things:

First, don’t panic. It seems you have done your homework, making a reasonable search for an acceptable spiritual director. How could God expect you do do any more? Now you should continue the search, but without straining yourself. Simply keep your antennae up, keep asking around, and keep bringing this petition to God in prayer. He knows what you need, and he will sustain you even without a spiritual director, as long as you keep doing your part. And when the time is right, if you don’t give up, he may indeed connect you with a good director. Even some saints had to endure long periods of time without a quality confessor or spiritual director. It was painful for them too, but God can handle that.

Second, keep doing your part. Spiritual direction is an important means for spiritual growth, but it is not the only means. Continue your life of prayer – vocal, mental, and liturgical. Continue frequenting the sacraments. Continue seeking to love God and neighbor in Christ through the loving fulfillment of the Lord’s will, especially in obedience to the Commandments and in pouring yourself into the duties of your state in life. Continue seeking ways to support the Church and its work of evangelization. Continue sharing your faith with those who don’t know Christ or are estranged from him. Continue studying your faith and digging deeper through spiritual reading and other faith-formation activities. Pursue faith-based friendships insofar as they are possible for you… All of this can be done without the aid of spiritual direction. If you are making a decent effort to find a director, God will certainly not punish you if your search continues unsuccessfully! He will supply everything that is lacking, and more.

Third, ask questions. Even if you haven’t been able to find a trustworthy spiritual director, you have probably been able to identify some individuals who are wise and knowledgeable in the things of God. Bring to them the persistent questions that you face, the questions that just won’t go away. You may not get a fully satisfactory answer right away, but if you keep asking and keep searching, eventually light will come: “The one who searches, always finds” (Matthew 7:8).

Your frustration is understandable, but it is up to you to avoid letting it become a stumbling block on your spiritual journey. Humbly accept the status quo as it is, and continue doing what you can do. Stay calm, continue to trust, and keep seeking the face of the Lord. When you feel the frustration building up, turn it into a prayer – even a prayer full of complaints! – and then turn back to doing whatever it is you know the Lord is asking of you right now. He will take care of the rest.

Count on my prayers for this important intention, and thank you for your question. God bless you!

Sincerely in Christ,

Fr John Bartunek, LC, SThD


Art: Ein ernstes Gespräch (A Serious Conversation), Ludwig Johann Passini, by 1902, PD-US author's life plus 100 years or less; A French Canadian Lady in her Winter Dress and a Roman Catholic Priest, John Lambert, 1810, Jonund, Flickr, CC; both Wikimedia Commons.

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". His most recent books are "Spring Meditations", "Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength", and "Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions". Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at

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  • Gloria La Bella

    I believe that honest prayer and inquiry will help us find a good spiritual director and confessor.

  • Very sound advice, Father. Thank you.

  • Peggy O’Flaherty

    Father, so delighted that God lead me to you. Lovely council above. My spiritual director training was through an ecumenical program, which I treasured the time learning from my Christian brothers and sisters. The program drew me closer to my own faith tradition, especially the sacraments and liturgy. How can spiritual direction with someone who isn’t the same faith tradition also be an invitation?

    • ElizD

      Spiritual direction needs to have a foundation in sound religious and moral principles, thus the importance of the spiritual director who accepts the Magisterium of the Catholic Church Jesus founded. It is important that Catholics interested in giving spiritual direction training first seek a thoroughly Catholic training program, even if in the past they went through an “ecumenical” one. An “ecumenical” spiritual director training cannot qualify anyone to give spiritual direction to Catholics. Members of other Christian ecclesial communities may engage in spiritual friendships founded on prayer, seeking truth and seeking what is good. When a member of a protestant sect is seeking guidance from a Catholic, that presupposes their openness to guidance from a Catholic perspective; there should be respect for the conscience of the directee and also some guidance and education that invitingly helps the protestant Christian discover the fullness of Christianity that opens up saving relationship with God for them in a way they could not get from protestantism. A Catholic should not seek spiritual direction from a non Catholic.

  • Joe Catholic

    I think we also need to be careful how we judge others (Matthew 7:3). For a long time I looked for a good spiritual director; one who was a Traditional Catholic believer; holding on to all Church teachings and adhering to the GIRM when offering the sacrifice of the Mass; one who believes in the the Sacrament of Confession (for me I can’t do it sitting down, I have to kneel before my God in humility as the prodigal son).

    God blessed me with the gift of one such director but at the same time the fire that once burned like a blaze in my heart for my faith is all but dying ash now. In this state I realise more than in my moments of great intimacy with God that I’m just as good as any person walking on earth. I learnt that without God I’m a potential murder, fornicator, pagan and all that I despised in others. I learnt that it isn’t the Spiritual Director or the priests or the pope but rather what I hold in my heart and how much I’m willing to carry my cross, take the pain to Jesus in prayer and let Him practice what He said “I myself will tend my sheep” (Ezekiel 34:15). Too bad I learnt this when the fire died down in my own heart.

    I’m not a priest or a holy man by a long shot but rather than mourn over the lack of spiritual directors, marvel at the closeness to you of the one they were to imitate for you. Accept the suffering of hunting all over for confession because in that you put a great smile on Our Lord’s face because finally you will be understanding that what is on the crucifix is not a nice figure for jewellery but rather God who died for me so I can have confession and the same God asks me to seek Him.

  • Sandra Traw

    Reading the above post gives me the answers I have been looking for. Thank you for the questions and the answers. “Pouring yourself into your duties of life”. What does this statement mean? I am wondering if my time has become so consumed in trying to find “spiritual answers” to so very, very many questions that I am struggling with…that I am not fulfilling my duties of life? I seem to be almost paralyzed be this consuming “search”. I am becoming a “household name” on this site…continually seeking and searching….

  • Michael Brooks

    Is it possible to get sufficient Spiritual Directions from good solid Catholic Books and Authors in this day and age, as many Priests and Religious are going soft on the Church’s teachings, and those who say they have not the time?

    • Dear Michael: Good question. The clear answer is no. Books cannot see our blind spots. Books cannot help us realize patterns of sins. Books cannot be led by the Holy Spirit to reveal things to us that only other people can. There is no way around the need for one another to grow spiritually. It is a challenge in our day but one we must strive to mitigate with all that we have if we wish to grow in grace.

      • patricia

        So true a good spiritual director and confessor or confessor can point our blind spots and pattern of sin especially if the relationship is of trust in God and God working in the director confessor. We need to be honest. I pray for all those searching for a spiritual director and confessor and not to loose hope. I prayed to Padre Pio and I was blessed for a priest to ask to be my spiritual director after confession. Thank You Lord.

  • Terese10

    It seems to me that since spiritual directors are in short supply, one can look to good spiritual friends for help. That is where community comes in. It can be found in prayer groups, Bible study groups, or small groups that some parishes have… or even just several good spiritual friends. Then you will get feedback from real people who know you even though they are not a trained director.

    • LizEst

      Terese- This is a pleasant and nice thought in theory.

      One issue is that not just anyone or everyone makes a good spiritual director/guide. There are many who don’t know the teachings of the Church (though they are nominally Catholic), aren’t faithful to the magisterium (though it may seem like it on the surface), don’t know Scripture well enough to know what is the true voice of the Lord and what is not.

      Spiritual directors/guides have to be in spiritual direction themselves.

      The other issue is that spiritual directors/guides have to keep some sort of professional boundaries. Otherwise, it’s very likely that objectivity will wane.

      I believe good spiritual friends can support us in our spiritual walk with the Lord, but they are not always the best spiritual guides. That said, a friend, who is incidentally a spiritual director/guide, would be an excellent spiritual friend to assist one in the spiritual journey. Nevertheless, even in this case, they wouldn’t be entirely objective because they were already a friend beforehand.

      • Sandra Traw

        I have found someone online who, 1. Is in community…so is under direction herself, 2. Has written several books with regard to depression related to spirituality. Written from walk through own ec pertinence 3. Is willing to do first 2 interview free of charge to “see if fit ” by phone or teleconferencing. Does this seem a SAFE avenue for start when nothing available within at least a 300 mile radius maybe further ( that is as far as checked),

        • Couldn’t hurt to move forward prayerfully

          Sent from my iPad

        • Sandra Traw

          I too have have found a Sr Kaythriyn from Hearworks who I have been working with on an individual basis by phone for several weeks, should this not work out for either of is I shall get back to you. Thank you got remembering me

  • Deacon Joseph Pasaquella

    I have offered spiritual direction for several people over the years,having been trained for this ministry. Also I suggest, look for a Ukrainian Catholic, Byzantine Catholic etc..Priest for Spiritual direction if you cannot find a priest, deacon or religious that is an orthodox Latin Rite Catholic. I have some people that write to me via email for spiritual direction, some call me once a month or in a Case of a Prisoner, via email.

    • Candida Eittreim

      Deacon Pasquella, you have offered me immense spiritual direction and support. i rely on your clarity and honesty. God bless you. Thank you for your constant and abiding care of souls.

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