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Spiritual direction orientation – it takes time… and patience

Have you ever been in an unfamiliar area and stopped to ask a local for directions only to find that the well intended helper begins to rattle off street names, turns, and landmarks faster than you can blink? Why does this happen? It really is very simple. Our chosen helper is very familiar with the area. He or she is simply working at a pace that makes complete sense to them; though almost none to us. The challenge is that even if our helpers are extremely benevolent, we will rarely find one who will recognize the glazed over look in our eyes and slow down enough to really help us to get to our desired destination.

In spiritual direction we have the same problem for both the director and the directee – particularly when the relationship is new. My wife recently went to confession at a local parish (it is a good thing she has a sense of humor) and the direction after confession was that she “get her life in order and start praying.” At this point in her life I can attest that she was praying at least forty-five minutes a day and well into a solid position in her spiritual journey. Why then did he give such poor advice? Simply put, he was moving too fast and did not take the time to really orient himself to her situation before he provided input. Now, granted, confession is not a great time to receive spiritual direction (especially right before mass as in this case), however, confessors and directors still need to be cautious with their assumptions.

Proper orientation takes time. For the director he or she needs to move slowly and prayerfully before offering feedback. However, the same is true for the directee. It is very important that the directee not expect the director to quickly get to the point and solve all their spiritual challenges in one sitting.  Good experienced spiritual directors will never jump into giving advice without developing a relationship; without developing a solid understanding of the complex landscape of the soul they are seeking to serve.

For directors, be cautious of the dangerous rut of pat answers. Don’t miss the opportunity to really help someone to God because your many conversations are all blurring into one. If you are struggling to really connect with a person, don’t feel pressure to rush into a response. Instead, the struggle should be a signal that you too need to slow down, pray, listen, and wrestle to find clarity about the real issues at play.

Regardless of which side of the equation you find yourself on, the key is to slow down. For directees, ensure you are open and clear about the challenges you face. Don’t look for quick answers to complex questions. If you are not going to spiritual direction with Padre Pio, don’t expect a mere mortal to be able to understand and help after just twenty minutes of discussion. It may take months for you both to understand the Holy Spirit’s leading in your soul.

Seek Him – Find Him – Follow Him

Dan

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the founder of Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction and author of the award winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God. Beyond his “contagious” love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN’s National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN’s Journey Home program and numerous radio programs. If you have an interest in having Dan come speak at your parish or Catholic event or group, contact us at rcspiritualdirection@gmail.com or call 818-646-7729.

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  • Roland Moraida

    that is a great use of a story to tie into your subject…..when I steal it I going to attribute to you!!

    roland

  • Mary

    Fr. you have reminded me. Next time and from now on when I pray for the Virtue of Humility and must follow it up with praing for patience. Here is where I fail repeatedly. On Jesus, do not give up on me. You know I'm trying real hard but habits of a lifetime are difficult to change. Can you curse them like you cursed the fig tree and it withered proto? Just a thought, Jesus. Do with me as You will

  • http://www.blestatheist.com Elizabeth Mahlou

    Your wife's story reminds me of my experiences with two different priests. They both laughed at my confession: out loud, uproariously. You could hear the laughter throughout the church. Now, I admit, that sometimes my life experiences are somewhat hilarious. In both cases, I was startled, but then I could definitely see the humor in the situations and was happy to know that priests can also look on the light side. One knew me well and frequently laughs at what happens to me (because I am never hurt by those events), and one did not know me at all. I know that confession is between a person and God, yet I love the human element in it, whether or not there is a relationship that has been previously developed or not. One can always gain some kind of insight even from misdirected/uninformed “guidance.”

    • Dan Burke

      Elizabeth – good to hear from you – your reply made me smile! :-)