Spiritual Direction Is Much More Than Good Advice

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Everyone has a spiritual director these days. In America, at least, I notice they talk about them as if they’re like a smart phone, every Catholic has to have one. There is a danger of looking at spiritual direction as mere good advice for the recipient.

I’ve lots to write on the kind of spiritual direction one should look for. I’ve written on this in the past but there is the type of spiritual direction that may feed the intellect but does not advance the soul. I also don’t like to say “Spiritual director” and find it an awful use of terminology to refer to what he really is, a spiritual father or master. Yes, it may sound corny to you or that terminology doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but it does. . . it means a lot because terminology that severs ties with worldly thinking is always better than that which doesn’t.

A real spiritual father or mother is someone who, by merely sitting in his/her presence nothing is spoken, yet one advances spiritually. Very little is said and yet so much is gained by virtue of the fact that you are sitting in the presence of holiness. Little is said when adoring Christ in the Eucharist only your gaze paired with love for him. Yet by virtue of sitting there his rays of grace purify the soul, so too the same happens when sitting in the presence of true holiness.

Many lay people are tempted to visit such spiritual fathers and think, “He doesn’t say much, and what he says seems very simple and not as complicated as what I learn from the Early fathers and saints on this subject.” Then they spend all their time looking for someone according to their intellectual tastes rather than their needs. For their love of intellectual conversation is more important than their love of Jesus and this is evident because of their behaviour in seeking out spiritual fathers that appeal to them.

A true spiritual father says little and yet much more as a result of the enormity of grace that encompasses him. By going to a spiritual father who thinks he is one because of the many books he’s read on the subject, one may find themselves surrounded by even more demons than before because grace and humility may be lacking and so like two blind men both fall into a pit and become the taunt of demons. But when a person goes to a father who has himself mastered the passions, is well read on the subject, though reveals little and yet surrounded by grace, the person advances spiritually though he knows not how.

A soul may think he suffers with the passion of lust, and although the conversation on helping him with this passion is ignored and a discussion is had on something else, for some reason the passion diminishes through the week. Why? Because he’s followed the very simple direction of his father but most importantly because of the graces derived from being in his presence. And you’ll notice that the healing doesn’t happen right away for medicine takes its time on a wound. Over time a wound gently heals and the soul is the same. The medicine is God Himself and His graces and He takes His time.

When looking for a spiritual father or mother, it’s important to test them. But if you already lack in the area of grace of discernment like most of us, then you pray to God for it. Pray to the Lord that he will find you the right person because not all spiritual “directors” are as they seem whether they be laity or otherwise. Also don’t be fooled by the many books they write on the subject either. Don’t let that lure you into the comfort that you are in the presence of someone who is filled with grace and conquered the passions you seek to quieten within yourself.

Some people even fool themselves into thinking Exorcists give good spiritual direction. However, most forget that while exorcists have been given great authority on driving out demons, most are intellectually fed on the subject of discernment, that doesn’t preclude they are in a disposition to give spiritual direction. The reason for this is as I said before, some have intellectual knowledge on the subject while still others have it paired with a grace and gift of God to be a director.

Look, get it from whoever you can, but it’s important to do all in your might to find the right one and that can take a lifetime. Sometimes you’re never going to find him and will be left with the great writings of saints on the subject. But if you can take the time to find one, I highly recommend it.

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