SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

Skype and Remote Spiritual Direction… is this Ok?

November 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Finding a Director, Fr. Bartunek, Spiritual Direction

w_letterDear Father John, I have loved reading your blog and have gained many insights from it that I will put into practice! I have been wondering about a spiritual direction question: I live quite a distance from the priest I would prefer to seek direction from and it is difficult for us to connect. I was wondering if it was possible to do spiritual direction remotely using a phone, email or video messaging (eg: Skype). I understand sacramental confession cannot be done via such methods but I was wondering if using these technologies for remote spiritual direction might be permitted if both parties agreed.

Thank you for the encouragement and for the excellent question. Remote spiritual direction is certainly permitted, if both parties agree. In fact, throughout the history of the Church, spiritual direction through letters has been a fairly common, though not normal, practice. Usually, however, it is a practice used by directors and directees who have already established a person-to-person relationship, or who are already fairly advanced in the spiritual life. The practice has also usually occurred in situations where there really was no other choice. St Francis Xavier, for example, received his spiritual and apostolate guidance from St Ignatius Loyola solely through letters, once he began his missionary work.

That said, in general, remote direction is not encouraged, especially if you are just starting to receive spiritual direction. I think you can figure out why. Much of spiritual direction involves the two people getting to know and trust each other. And that takes so much longer when it has to happen remotely. We communicate more than we realize through our postures, expressions, and other intangible signals at work in same-space, face-to-face situations. When we substitute remote connections, even video connections, all of that is truncated. In such a situation, it is hard to make steady progress.

If you really see no alternative (have you read the post about looking for a spiritual director?), and your director agrees, the challenge will be to keep your interaction clear and objective. Your biggest ally in that effort will be drawing up a program of life, and structuring your directions around that. I would also recommend making a special effort to meet same-space, face-to-face, at least once in a while (every fourth month, for example) if at all possible.

I hope these thoughts are helpful. I will say a prayer that you find a good spiritual director.

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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 RCSpirituality.org, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at SpiritualDirection.com.

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