Come Holy Spirit, fire of love, sanctifier of souls, and director of directors ...
A few months ago, my spiritual director moved away, leaving me with the daunting task of finding another one. Why daunting? Well, spiritual direction has been a part of my efforts to grow closer to God for 13 years now, but in that time, I’ve had both positive and negative experiences.
Despite the wrong turns, though, I still think that I need, and that you need, a spiritual director. Any journey is easier with the help of an experienced guide and the journey to heaven is no different.
On more than one occasion, a spiritual director has saved me from blowing up at my boss and losing my job. They have helped me realize that countless worries in the spiritual life were unfounded. Their mere presence in my life has made it easier to stick to a spiritual plan.
But don’t just take it from me. Here’s what Pope Benedict XVI has said: “Everyone, in fact, especially those who have heeded the divine call to follow Christ closely, needs to be accompanied personally by a guide reliable in doctrine and expert in the things of God.”
So here are five steps to finding a spiritual director.
- Pray: Speak with the Lord about finding someone to help you in the spiritual life. This prayer will help: “Come Holy Spirit, fire of love, sanctifier of souls, and director of directors. Through the example of countless saints, on whose intercession I rely for help, You have given me the desire for spiritual direction. Since without You I can do nothing, grant me the favor of a spiritual director, who will speak to me in Your name, smooth out the path to holiness and lead me to my true homeland.”
St. Francis de Sales writes in the Introduction to the Devout Life, “Have no misgivings in this regard for he who sent down an angel from heaven, as he did to young Tobias, will give you a good and faithful guide.”
- Ask priests for recommendations: This wording may be helpful: “I’m looking for a spiritual director. Do you know of anyone with experience in this ministry, including yourself?” If you would prefer spiritual direction with a woman or a priest, mention this preference. Ask other priests in your area until you have three candidates.
- Arrange a time to meet your candidates: Then ask them some questions. Some things you might want to know:
- Do you have experience in this ministry?
- Are you familiar with the major works of (insert names of your favorite spiritual authors)?
- Are you available by phone between sessions?
- What is your prayer life like?
Finally, be aware of your own comfort level. While you can’t expect to be completely peaceful speaking about your interior life with a stranger, if the potential director makes you uneasy for any reason, avoid them.
- Start a trial period with the top candidate: If your “interviews” have left you with one good option, begin a trial period of spiritual direction. After a few sessions, stop and evaluate.
If you’re trying to decide between two seemingly equal options, choose the director who lives closer to you. You might imagine that because of the importance of your spiritual direction sessions, you won’t be influenced by mundane considerations like traveling distance, but you would be wrong.
- Commit to the new director or return to step two: If you’re trial period has been fruitful, rejoice that you’ve found a spiritual director and commit to meeting with him or her regularly. If not, don’t worry if you need to begin the process again. St. Francis de Sales said, “There are fewer men than we realize who are capable of this task.” A good spiritual director knows that he or she won’t be a good fit for everyone.
If you’re not sure what to do, prayerfully consider these questions:
- Have I benefited from the advice this director gave me?
- Are my concerns about the director solvable?
- Does repeating this process seem impossible?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, then return to step two. If you responded “yes” to all, speak to your director about your concern with concrete examples of what has bothered you. All relationships require a certain amount of discussion “about the relationship.” If your director is willing to work with your needs, you can be even more confident that you have found the right one.