What to Look for in a Catholic Spiritual Director
You wouldn't think of building a house without an architect. How can you build your soul without help and guidance?
Reprinted from CatholiCity.com with permission of the author.
Open up the yellow pages of your local phone directory. There you will find listed attorneys, financial advisors, plumbers, electricians, beauticians, bankers, and even fitness trainers. All of these people know much more about their business then we do. Therefore we pay them a fee to help us in their particular specialty. Some of them become regular consultants and a few even good friends. All of their expert advice is directed towards help in this present life.
In addition, you will find dozens of people listed as psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists and so on. Although these health professionals can perform a useful function, often times they serve as surrogate spiritual directors, giving erroneous or unfortunate answers for spiritual problems. Their advice depends on their particular training often based on naturalistic theories or ideologies which can do much more harm than good.
The only question truly worth asking is that of the rich young man of the Gospel, "What must I do to gain eternal life?" which leads to other questions, such as "How can I achieve holiness in this life?" or "What is God's will for me?" God answers these questions for us in many ways. Simply to follow the Ten Commandments as they are written in our hearts in natural law and come to us through God's Word is a good start, as Jesus himself advised the rich young man. We can also look to God's Revelation to us through Sacred Scripture and Tradition -- the guidance of the Church through its teaching authority and sacraments. We can then look at our present state in life and our past life experiences for good clues as to what God wants for us in any present moment.
However, in order to find answers to these questions, every Catholic should have a spiritual director. As Blessed Josemaria Escriva put it, "You wouldn't think of building a good house to live in here on earth without an architect. How can you ever hope, without a director, to build the castle of your sanctification in order to live forever in heaven?" This is true for everybody, not just for the poor, simple, or uneducated but even more for the complacently successful. Escriva goes on to say, "You think you are really somebody: your studies -- your research, your publications; your social position; your name; your political accomplishments -- the offices you hold; your wealth; your age...no longer a child. Precisely because of all of this, you -- more than others -- need a director for your soul." You may have several or even many during the course of your life. He will provide you the answer to your many questions as our circumstances change and as we grow "in wisdom and grace." Besides he won't charge you a dime. Each person is a unique child of God with his particular genetic code, temperament, and life experiences. God has a specific plan for each. To discern this particular plan should be the continuing goal of any serious Christian. As God normally prefers to work through secondary causes, there arose right from apostolic times, the practice of seeking personal spiritual direction from a wise and prudent person who could guide one along the path to holiness with all its unexpected twists and turns. One would search with great difficulty throughout history to find canonized saints who did not receive regular spiritual direction. After all, even our Blessed Mother, the Immaculate Conception herself, found her vocation through the words of the Archangel Gabriel. And even she asked how this might come about.