Finding the Right Person for a Religious Journey
by Melissa Roberts
Be Informed About Spiritual Direction
Background information on spiritual direction and criteria for spiritual directors can be helpful in selecting the right person for a spiritual guide. Spiritual Directors International, a professional organization for spiritual direction training, publishes material on the ministry of spiritual direction, available online or in hard copy.
Different Types of Spiritual Directors
If a person is already connected with a particular religious community or type of spirituality, this is a starting point for finding a spiritual director. Someone who enjoys contemplative, quiet prayer may find a spiritual director trained in the Benedictine tradition helpful. Another person who prefers active questioning and reflection might find a director steeped in the Ignatian tradition more to his or her liking.Many religious communities offer lists of retreat centers with spiritual direction programs to assist the individual seeking spiritual direction from a trained Catholic sister or brother.
Settings for Spiritual Direction
Some spiritual directors work out of churches, others from retreat centers or out of private homes. Consider one’s comfort level- where one is comfortable meeting.
Finding a spiritual director who one can confide in completely without worrying about professional boundaries is important, so that one can fully explore his/her relationship with God in spiritual direction. A minister in a church may not find the church’s spiritual director a viable candidate simply because he/she is also church staff. A lay person may enjoy traveling to a monastery for spiritual direction and having a monthly break from life.
Choice of Priest, Religious, or Lay Person as Spiritual Director
Another consideration when selecting a spiritual director is the director’s relationship to the church. Some Catholics prefer a spiritual director who is a priest in case they desire to offer confession and receive absolution. Other believers are just as happy with a religious sister, brother, or lay person as their spiritual guide.
Finding Potential Spiritual Directors
Benefits to receiving spiritual direction from a religious might include spending time in a retreat center or monastery affiliated with a religious order. Retreat centers and monasteries can be goldmines for prayer, rest, and worship to revitalize one's faith.
Word of mouth can be an effective way to find a spiritual director. Ask around the parish, a nearby religious retreat center, a seminary, or the diocesan office. Online offers a third option: Spiritual Directors International has a database of spiritual directors available through their website.
Questions for Potential Spiritual Director
A spiritual director/directee relationship is extremely personal, as it explores one’s faith and relationship to God. Be proactive in finding a spiritual director who is comfortable, informed, and professional.
Some questions for a potential spiritual director might include:
How long have you been a spiritual director?
How were you trained for this ministry?
What spiritual tools- prayers, saints, books-influence you as a spiritual director?
What is a typical spiritual direction session with you like?
If any of the answers do not feel right, or fall short of one’s criteria, another spiritual direction candidate may be better suited. If uncertain, arrange a tentative spiritual direction session or two with the spiritual director to gather more information and better discern if the relationship will work.
Spiritual direction is an intentional time for the believer to seek God in the presence of a spiritual guide or director. With patience, work, and prayer, one can find the right spiritual director to guide him/her on the journey of faith.
For more about the spiritual direction process, What is Spiritual Direction: Believers Seek God through Holy Listening may be of interest. What is a Retreat Center: Believers Rest, Pray and Worship with God on Retreat might also be enjoyed for more about how to plan and enjoy a religious retreat.
Salem Institute for Spiritual Formation. "Spiritual Direction," Available online through the Salem Institute's website, March 2010.
Spiritual Directors International. "How to Find a Spiritual Director," Available online through the SDI's website, March 2010.