How To Find A Spiritual Director

You may already have a good relationship with your priest and feel comfortable asking him to be your spiritual director, but even if you don't, it's appropriate to ask him.

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Because many parish priests are overburdened with responsibilities, it may be more effective to ask, “Is there someone you can recommend to give me spiritual direction if you are unable?”

Not only does this relieve your parish priest of stress, but it also prevents you from being disappointed if he is unable to serve as your spiritual director—and it allows him to consider making a recommendation for you.

When a good friend asked her parish priest to be her spiritual director, he was unable to do so, but he offered her the names of two other priests in her diocese who were available for spiritual direction! She was quite appreciative.

Our pastor or another priest, our confessor (the priest from whom we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation on a regular basis), a religious (monk, friar, or nun), or an experienced and well-formed lay person could all serve as spiritual directors.

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The Catholic Church's Catechism says this about seeking and finding a spiritual director:

For the sake of the common good, which is prayer, the Holy Spirit bestows the gifts of wisdom, faith, and insight on a select group of believers (spiritual direction). Men and women with such gifts are worthy servants of prayer's living tradition.

According to St. John of the Cross, anyone seeking perfection should “take care into whose hands they entrust themselves,” because “as the master is, so will the disciple be, and as the parent is, so will the son.” ‘A spiritual director should be experienced in addition to being learned and discreet… If the spiritual director has no experience of the spiritual life, he will be unable of leading the souls whom God is calling to it into it, and he will not even understand them.'

What does a spiritual director do?

Spiritual direction has its origins in the early Christian church. According to the gospels, Jesus acted as a mentor to his disciples. In addition, Ananias is described in Acts of the Apostles Chapter 9 as assisting Paul of Tarsus in growing in his newfound faith. Similarly, Paul is described as mentoring Timothy and Titus, among others, in various Pauline epistles. Polycarp, the 2nd-century bishop of Smyrna, is said to have been instructed by John the Evangelist.

John Cassian, a fourth-century theologian, wrote some of the first known principles on the Christian practice of spiritual direction.

In the monasteries, he established mentoring. Each novice was assigned to an elder monk for supervision. Cassian's precepts were incorporated into what is now known as the Rule of Saint Benedict by Benedict of Nursia.

Spiritual direction is common in the Catholic tradition: a wise and spiritually discerned person, generally but not always a priest or a consecrated person in general, counsels a person who aspires to embark on a journey of faith and discover God's will in his life. The spiritual guide's goal is to identify and grasp what the Holy Spirit is telling the person accompanied via life events, spiritual insights gained through prayer, reading, and meditation on the Bible. The spiritual father or spiritual director may give advise, give life and prayer hints, and resolve doubts in areas of faith and morals without taking the place of the accompanying person's choices and judgments.

Do spiritual directors charge a fee?

What is the expense of spiritual direction? An hour of spiritual direction costs roughly 50-70 dollars on average. If the expense is onerous, many spiritual directors may make exceptions.

Can you make a living as a spiritual director?

Teresa Blythe is one of the presenters in the Making a Living as a Spiritual Director webinar series, which is now available in online recordings. The Making a Living as a Spiritual Companion 2 webinar series from this year is also available online. Take a peek at these new additions as well: Spiritual directors and spiritual companions will benefit from the books Follow Your Calling Without Quitting Your Job and Consciously Change Your Money Relationship.

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“Can you make a living as a spiritual director?” I'm frequently asked. The answer is complicated since it relies on the individual, the market, and the philosophy. Spiritual Directors International has two webinars on the subject (one of which I participated to), and if you watch both of them, which I hope you do, you will receive the long answer to your question.

Can it be done?

Yes. However, developing a spiritual direction practice to the point where you can earn a middle-class wage may take years. You may receive a few inquiries after you start promoting, but your practice will really take off once people who have come to you for advice start referring their friends. Your most effective marketing weapon will always be word of mouth, and it will take time.

But I heard about this one person who is making good money at it!

Contact him or her immediately to learn how they achieved it and how long it took them to reach to the point where they could support themselves only through spiritual direction.

The majority of spiritual directors I know who make a living at it do one of three things:

  • Working a second or third job to supplement your income. (And, full transparency, I have a working spouse and we are a two-income family with no children.) As a result, I'm not going into this without a safety net.) In addition to seeing roughly 25 people in one-on-one spiritual direction, I also manage the Hesychia School, a spiritual direction training program, and I take on contract work from churches that ask me to assist them with discernment. A full-time spiritual director friend of mine formerly rented a big multi-room space and sublet it to other spiritual directors and healing arts practitioners for sessions, retreats, and workshops. (Her name is Amanda Petersen, and she appears in part 2 of SDI's webinar series on the topic.) You'll like hearing about her adventures!)
  • Session fees are being charged at a higher rate than usual. There will be no condemnation here! However, if you want to make a living seeing individuals once a month (the standard frequency), you'll need a large number of directees or charge them upwards of $150 per session. Spiritual direction sessions in Phoenix, where I live, cost $60-80 per session. I've decided to charge the market rate. Even with a sliding scale, I believe that if I went for the upper end, I would price myself out of the medium and lower middle-class market.
  • Individuals are being seen more frequently than once a month. To put it another way, we spiritual directors build a practice in the same manner that a therapist or life coach does. They see folks on a more regular basis than once a month. As a result, if you start meeting them every two weeks, you'll be able to earn more money. Unless the directee insists on visiting more frequently, I've decided to keep appointments at around once a month (which is not usual in my case). Most directees need around 30 days of living and completing their spiritual practices before they are ready to spend one hour in direction, according to my experience. This is not the case for all filmmakers. You might try to reach out to some spiritual directors who visit individuals more frequently than once a month and ask them why they do it and how it's going for them.

It's a matter of discernment

Spend a lot of time in prayer, thought, and discernment before quitting your day job and starting a spiritual direction practice.

Spend time with the Divine, asking questions and listening for responses from the depths of your being.

  • How many clients do I need at my target price point to pay my bills and live a life that is sustainable?
  • What is the pricing range that I am looking for? What are the advantages and disadvantages of pricing my product lower or higher than the market rate?
  • What kind of employment will afford me the independence and provide me with enough energy to see customers if I take on a job to anchor and support this practice?

Pay attention to your gut instincts. “Why am I seeking spiritual direction in this manner?” you might wonder.

Make a test run. Let's see what happens if you start marketing yourself. It's a good indication if you're inundated with people seeking spiritual guidance. It's not only fine if it takes a while; it's the standard. The majority of spiritual directors I know had to wait for the practice to mature.

Is it possible to make a living as a spiritual advisor? I hope you are able to do so. One of the reasons I do what I do is to show people that spiritual direction can be a significant component of what you do professionally. It doesn't have to be a second job any more!

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What should I ask my spiritual director?

People frequently find it easy to answer the first few questions. They do not make people nervous or perplexed. These questions provide a foundation for the spiritual director to learn about the person and his or her spirituality. Leading questions aren't the same as starting questions. When someone wants a certain answer, they ask leading questions. On the other hand, there are no correct solutions to these questions. A person can reply in any way they want without fear of being judged.

Should I get a spiritual director?

Consider hiring a spiritual director if you wish to progress in your faith and spiritual life. Spiritual directors assist people examine issues of the soul, faith, and God by leading them on their spiritual journeys. Spiritual guidance is a practice that can be found in a variety of religious systems.

Can deacons be spiritual directors?

In response to a desire from both laity and consecrated members of the Catholic Church, Franciscan University of Steubenville piloted a new School of Spiritual Direction a little over three years ago. This demand conveyed a desire to be guided further into the Faith through means other than weekly adoration and Mass attendance. It was a longing to be led into the inner workings of the heart, the depths of the soul, and the complexities of the Holy Spirit's action. In a nutshell, it was a desire to have one's spiritual life guided.

What Is Spiritual Direction?

In their book “The Practice of Spiritual Direction” (HarperOne, $16.99), William A. Barry and William J. Connolly define spiritual direction as “a help given by one believer to another that enables the latter to pay attention to God's personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with this God, and to live out the consequences of the relationship.”

Anyone attempting to live out their Catholic faith knows that distinguishing the voice of the Lord from the cacophony of the outside world, much alone the noise within our own thoughts, may be a near-impossible undertaking at times. How can we be sure it's the Lord's voice? Is there a specific symptom to look for? Is this something else, or am I actually developing in connection with God?

Doubt and uncertainty might come in when one is aggressively attempting to sail the straight and narrow on their own. Temptations to second-guess oneself may keep you stuck in one place for longer than necessary. Our minds are magnificent and wonderful things, but without adequate guidance and training, they can be a minefield of deception.

A spiritual director, who acts as a guide on your road to intimacy and relationship with God, can help you with this. A qualified spiritual director, like a counselor, works with clients to offer them advice, new views, and alternative thinking patterns on the road to recovery.

Who Can Be a Spiritual Director?

The School of Spiritual Direction at Franciscan University gives lay people, priests, deacons, religious, formators, and catechists from all walks of life the chance to become spiritual directors. Each person a spiritual director meets has their own set of tales, experiences, joys, and sorrows. As a result, with sufficient training, devout Catholics of any vocation or background can become spiritual directors.

While many people can contribute something special to the function of spiritual director, I'd want to focus on how deacons in particular qualify as good candidates.

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Role of the Deacon

The deacon's ministry is not to be taken lightly. They serve as ministers of the Word (by proclaiming the Gospel) and ministers of the Sacrament (by administering the sacrament) (witnessing marriages, baptizing and conducting funeral services). In addition, they are charitable ministers. Deacons are “leaders in identifying the needs of others, then marshaling the Church's resources to address those needs” as “servants in a servant-Church” (USCCB). Identifying and satisfying the needs of the faithful is a difficult mission, especially in a time when instability and upheaval dominate the narrative of modern society.

Keep in mind that deacons, like other consecrated members of the Church, are persons. They still have to fight the world's temptations with their spirits and brains. As a result, it's just as crucial, if not more so, to provide them with encouragement and resources to help them resist and overcome the flesh's temptations. After all, it is to them that the lay faithful turn for guidance. But how can we expect them to assist us if they are lost or conflicted themselves?

A Cohesive Whole

Deacons get rigorous seminary preparation, which is not disregarded; rather, it is supplemented with spiritual direction training. Seminary time is spent focusing on the spiritual, human, intellectual, and pastoral (SHIP) aspects of a deacon's ministry. Acting as a spiritual director not only touches on each of these themes, but spiritual direction training allows deacons to expand their personal grasp of each concept and put this spiritual, human, intellectual, and pastoral ministry into practice.

Furthermore, the tripartite role of a deacon (minister of word, sacrament, and charity) is taken into account. Spiritual direction helps them to delve deeper into the sacred liturgy and sacraments for their own spiritual growth as well as to witness their directee's spiritual growth. Furthermore, giving up their time to spiritually guide one or more persons relates to their vocation as a charitable minister.

Knowing how many spiritual directors come from a consecrated life vocation, we don't want to reinvent the wheel. Rather, the curriculum honors the wisdom learned in seminary and aims to not only deepen this training but also to provide a pathway for these vocations to achieve their goals.

If a doctor is suffering from a fever, he will be less successful in caring for his patients. Similarly, if a deacon's own needs aren't being fulfilled, he won't be able to adequately serve the needs of the Church's members. This is where a school of spiritual direction's program design comes into play. The effectiveness of a spiritual director is limited by his or her own relationship with God. How will that person be able to firmly accompany someone on their spiritual journey if that relationship is in trouble?

Our program's participants will be able to care for the spiritual needs of their future directees by attending to their spiritual needs. Our deacons, in particular, will be able to not only serve the Church's need for spiritual directors, thereby serving the needs of the people, but they will also get guidance for their own lives through Ignatian spirituality and their reliance on a deep and personal relationship with God.

Can spiritual directors help?

Spiritual Directors International's rules state that spiritual directors should have their own directors, as well as mentors or peers who may give oversight and responsibility. Spiritual direction fees are usually on a sliding basis, ranging from $50 to $150 each 50-minute appointment. For those who cannot afford to pay, some directors provide pro gratis services.

The relationship between companion and seeker is personal, and spiritual directors must establish proper limits, just as they would in any other type of counseling. Some spiritual companions, such as Ms. Pannier-Cass, have social work degrees.

While therapy “may provide expert aid with recovering from mental health problems,” spiritual direction “focuses on your relationship with God or the divine” through prayer or reflection, according to Emily Malcoun, a clinical psychologist in Philadelphia who has worked with a spiritual director.

Some argue that the profession should be held more accountable. In an article published last October in Presence, a journal published by Spiritual Directors International, Andree Grafstein, a spiritual director in Avon, Conn., recalled an episode of sexual harassment from a director nearly 40 years ago. “I look forward to a day when the reality of sexual harassment by spiritual directors is as obvious as other forms of sexual abuse,” she added.

Ms. Grafstein said she has gotten supportive communications from other spiritual directors since the piece was published. She is particularly concerned about the need for spiritual directors to get instruction and assistance if they hear that a directee has been harassed or abused by another director.

Directees can be vulnerable, especially if they came to a spiritual director because of their rejection of organized religion or a previous religious community. Kristabeth Atwood, a spiritual director and former United Methodist minister in Burlington, Vermont, refers to herself as a pastor for individuals who don't attend church. The majority of her subordinates “I just don't feel at home in a traditional or formal religious group,” she explained.

How often should you meet with your spiritual director?

How frequently should we gather for spiritual guidance? The standard meeting schedule is once a month, although there may be periods or seasons when meeting twice a month or every other month is more appropriate and beneficial.

What is the difference between spiritual direction and Counselling?

Spiritual direction is usually ongoing and is part of one's inner desire to figure out “Where is God in this experience?” Counseling, on the other hand, is frequently brief and focused on a single topic. Unlike therapy, spiritual direction takes place in the context of prayer and a sense of God's presence.