We’re not alone in the journey to heaven. There are many players on our team who keep us in line, strengthen us, coach us. We have people who we learn from and others whom we are teaching. Guardian Angels, the Saints, Pastors, brothers and sisters in the faith, etc. We all need this whole team in order to get there.
There’s a very important person too many people get by without. But none of us wants to just “get by.” In fact, once we realize we are finished “getting by” we need this person: the Spiritual Director.
What is the Spiritual Director?
First, lets talk about what the person is not. The SD is not s counselor, a confessor, a prayer partner, or a significant other. The SD is the person who helps you listen closer to the Holy Spirit in discerning the promptings of your vocation. Spiritual direction is for lay people, those considering the priesthood, and religious life. Not just those considering these vocations, but those making their way through these vocations.
You pray, you go to Mass, why/when do you need a Spiritual Director?
The SD is vital because there is one Holy Spirit. Many people get into a rut when they attempt their spiritual life and vocation as a lone wolf. None of us is a Chuck Norris of the Kingdom. We truly need others to help us listen to what the Holy Spirit is directing us to. Are we to pursue another degree program? A life in a monastery? Marriage? Third orders?
You’re ready for a spiritual director when you realize that you want to make your whole life about Jesus. When you sense something in you shift, when you realize that nothing else in your life matters but serving the Kingdom of God, you need to find a spiritual director.
What to look for in a Spiritual Director?
Understanding of you. This does not mean they know you intimately. In fact, they might not know you too well. In the process of evaluating and getting to know a potential SD, meet with them and make sure they have a full grasp of your needs and communicate with you well. You’re not looking for someone who tells you what you want to hear; you’re looking for someone who can tell you what you need to hear.
Respect. You need someone you can look up to, someone that, when given advice and direction, you cradle those words as you do a most valued possession. This doesn’t have to be someone you want to be like, but that you hold in high esteem. We learn best from our heroes, so many sure you choose someone with a heroic faith.
Wisdom and training. Many priests and others receive real training from a seminary for this exact purpose – providing spiritual direction to others. Ensure your SD has the training and experience to carry out this most important task.
Vocation. This matters, but don’t let it hold you back: make sure they understand your vocation. You don’t want advice from someone who does not have a proper grasp on your given vocation or prospective vocation. That said, you don’t have to be pursuing the priesthood or religious life to get direction from a priest or religious. Just make sure they understand your general direction in life and vocation.
Lastly… Your prospective Spiritual Director should have received his or her own direction. The last thing you want is someone who is just giving you advice off the cuff. Your SD should have the spiritual ambition that calls them to a life of likewise direction.
When I became Catholic I was ecstatic. But that infatuation died down a little after some time. When the dust settled, and I got a little more into the lasting romance of my faith, I became more aware of where I fit in, what apostolates I wanted to be part of, and also a better understanding of what life God had already planted me in (laity, matrimony, and fatherhood). After some time I realized I am very academic and evangelically Catholic. My studies in theology and admiration of other Catholics attracted me to the Dominican Third Order. When I realized this, I got with my deacon from RCIA (a couple of years earlier) for advice. He didn’t recommend anyone, but told me I needed a Spiritual Director. I gave this a lot of thought and time, and by chance, I got to talking to my pastor and realized he might be the perfect fit. I cordially asked him, being respectful of his time and energy. He told me he just had a position open up and that he wanted to do this with me. We really hit it off! Today, I meet with him once a month and we discuss a range of topics, mostly revolving around my development and where I sense the Lord urging me, assigning me small but cultivating homework tasks. He prays for me each day and we’ve become very close.
Here’s a picture of me and Fr. Stillmunks of St. Robert Bellarmine, Omaha.