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Catholic Spiritual Direction

Skype and remote spiritual direction… is this ok?

November 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Finding a Director, Fr. Bartunek, Spiritual Direction

w_letterDear Father John, I have loved reading your blog and have gained many insights from it that I will put into practice! I have been wondering about a spiritual direction question: I live quite a distance from the priest I would prefer to seek direction from and it is difficult for us to connect. I was wondering if it was possible to do spiritual direction remotely using a phone, email or video messaging (eg: Skype). I understand sacramental confession cannot be done via such methods but I was wondering if using these technologies for remote spiritual direction might be permitted if both parties agreed.

Thank you for the encouragement and for the excellent question. Remote spiritual direction is certainly permitted, if both parties agree. In fact, throughout the history of the Church, spiritual direction through letters has been a fairly common, though not normal, practice. Usually, however, it is a practice used by directors and directees who have already established a person-to-person relationship, or who are already fairly advanced in the spiritual life. The practice has also usually occurred in situations where there really was no other choice. St Francis Xavier, for example, received his spiritual and apostolate guidance from St Ignatius Loyola solely through letters, once he began his missionary work.

That said, in general, remote direction is not encouraged, especially if you are just starting to receive spiritual direction. I think you can figure out why. Much of spiritual direction involves the two people getting to know and trust each other. And that takes so much longer when it has to happen remotely. We communicate more than we realize through our postures, expressions, and other intangible signals at work in same-space, face-to-face situations. When we substitute remote connections, even video connections, all of that is truncated. In such a situation, it is hard to make steady progress.

If you really see no alternative (have you read the post about looking for a spiritual director?), and your director agrees, the challenge will be to keep your interaction clear and objective. Your biggest ally in that effort will be drawing up a program of life, and structuring your directions around that. I would also recommend making a special effort to meet same-space, face-to-face, at least once in a while (every fourth month, for example) if at all possible.

I hope these thoughts are helpful. I will say a prayer that you find a good spiritual director.

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". He has also published four other titles: "Seeking First the Kingdom", "Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions", "Meditations for Mothers", and "A Guide to Christian Meditation". Fr. John currently splits his time between Rome and Rhode Island, where he teaches theology as an adjunct professor at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum and at Mater Ecclesia College. He is also continuing his writing apostolate with online retreats at www.RCSpirituality.org and questions and answers on the spiritual life at www.RCSpiritualDirection.com. FATHER JOHN'S BOOKS include: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer", "Inside the Passion"--The Only Authorized Insiders View of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, "Meditations for Mothers", and "A Guide to Christian Meditation".

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  • amanda

    Fr John,
    Thank you, your site is so helpful! I have grown such a lot through reading and praying about the issues you raise. I am now looking for a real time Spiritual Director. I have asked advice and have a couple of people I am praying about. Do you think it is a mistake to have a Director who you see a fair bit of on a day to day basis? Should they be someone a bit more “removed” from your daily life?
    Thank you again!

    • Dan Burke

      Dear Amanda in Christ,

      Father John is not available to reply at the moment. Though having someone removed from your daily life can have benefits, typically, the better the Spiritual Director knows you, the better their guidance is likely to be. This is why, in the past, Spiritual Directors were often synonymous with “Confessors.”

      Pax Christi

  • ralyge

    Hi,

    I am in a situation which requires spiritual guidance by phone because in-person is not an option. Though it has its own challenges, it has been my life line for 10 years, and I have grown tremendously. God blesses those who seek him, even when there is not a perfect situation.

    ralyge

  • Mary Macharia

    Thank you Fr. John. I will certainly request the Priest who came to see me in hospital in 2007 when I suffered a mental break-down to become my Spiritual Director. I have kept in touch with him since then and after I was discharged from Hospial after 2 weeks, he advised me we offer a Novena of 9 Holy Masses for my condition. And by God’s Grace, I have improved tremendously. I also ask him from time to time, to offer Holy Masses whenever I have a serious matter on hand for my daughters, my grand-children and my nephews, nieces and their children to whom I am like a mother or whenever a friend asks me for prayers, because I believe the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass is the apex of our Faith and the surest source of God’s blessings and a way to strengthen our Faith and fidelity to Him. God bless you Father

  • Letty

    hello, first of all sorry about my english, i live in mexico and i am not so good in grammar but i will try my best….I want to ask, i use to have a regular spiritual direction, and i had experimented alot of growing in my spiritual life and apostolic, then he, the priest used to guide me was changed to other place, and suppose i had to continue with the one came in his place, but he never call to me, and once i asked him, if i will continue with him as my spiritual director, he said, no i dont think so i must think that with faith eyes….what do you think about this, you think this is like a sign of God, about his willing in my life….or what do you think i might to do?

    • Dan Burke

      Dear Letty in Christ,

      It sounds like you should find another spiritual director.

      Pax Christi