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Catholic Spiritual Direction

No spiritual director in sight – how can I keep growing spiritually in the mean time?

December 14, 2009 by  
Filed under Fr. Bartunek, Spiritual Direction

road_to_emmausDear Father John, I cannot find a spiritual director in my area. I will keep looking and praying, but until I find someone, what do I need to do to ensure that I continue to grow spiritually?

As you patiently continue looking and praying for a good spiritual director, God will continue to guide you through the other means for spiritual growth that the Church recommends. These are the some of the same items and activities that you would discuss with a spiritual director. If you make a decent effort to keep these plates spinning, the Holy Spirit will have plenty of room to work in your heart until he gives you a good spiritual director. These are the plates I am referring to:

  • Participation in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and confession. It’s funny, but sometimes you run into people who claim to be enthusiastically pursuing spiritual growth, but who make little effort to receive frequent Holy Communion, spend some time regularly in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and go to confession (Although the Church only requires us to confess our mortal sins once a year, for someone like yourself, whom God is clearly drawing to a deeper intimacy, I would recommend at least a monthly confession – every 15 days is even better.).
  • Daily prayer. A daily God-time is absolutely essential for spiritual growth. I would include both vocal and mental prayer. If you are not already doing this, I would start with a very realistic time commitment – 15 minutes of mental prayer in the morning would be plenty. If you can add a few minutes at night to prayerfully review how your day went, thanking God for his blessings, asking pardon for your sins, and renewing your desire to seek and serve Christ during the next day, that would be a big help.
  • Spiritual reading. This is not the same as prayer. It consists in taking some time each day (or a few times a week) to read about the spiritual life. This is like fertilizer for the soul. If we are filling our minds with solid teaching about what it means to follow Christ and how to know, love, and imitate him better, our decisions and attitudes will gradually become more and more like his. What you are doing right now, for example, is spiritual reading. Some classic works that can be a good place to start include St Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life and Eugene Boylan’s This Tremendous Lover. (If any of our readers have some favorite spiritual reading books, I would ask them to share their recommendation with the rest of us!)
  • Fellowship with people seeking to follow Christ more closely. Christianity is not a self-help method; it is a family affair. We were not meant to pursue holiness on our own, but together with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Developing friendships with others who have the same priorities as you do and are trying to live them faithfully helps keep the fire burning in your own heart, and actually makes it burn better. If you take a burning coal out of the hearth, it will lose its heat. But if you keep it in the hearth, in contact with the rest of the burning wood and hot coals, it will stay warm. If you can plug in to a faith-sharing or Bible study group that is truly focused on transformation in Christ, it will give exponential help to your growth in holiness.
  • Service to others. Christianity is about redeeming the world, showing forth God’s goodness, rolling back sin and evil, and leading others to friendship with Jesus Christ. If we aren’t engaged in this activity, consciously and purposefully, we will be like those stultifying ponds that receive water from a stream but have no outlet. They become rank, clogged, and swampy. We want to be like a spiritual reservoir, constantly receiving new floods of God’s grace through our means of spiritual growth, and just as constantly sharing what we have received with others – grace flowing in, grace flowing out. That keeps our souls fresh, and gives God a chance to work more freely in and through us. This service could be directly religious, or it could be humanitarian. If you have a profession, this too can be supernaturalized, simply by offering your work to God for the good of your neighbor. Not everyone is called to be an explicit missionary, but everyone is indeed called to be actively engaged in the mission of spreading Christ’s Kingdom.

If this seems like too much, don’t fret. Just take baby steps in each area, gradually. The important thing is to get started and to keep going, not to break speed records. I will say a prayer for the success of your search for a 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 and questions and answers on the spiritual life at 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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  • Connie

    My favorite spiritual reading is “Fulfillment of All Desire” by Ralph Martin based on the doctors of the church.

    • Dan Burke

      Dear Connie – Great recommendation! There really are few single books that rival the “Fulfillment of all Desire” – we have a brief recommendation and info here

  • beatrice

    I have the same problem looking for a Spiritual Director and this post really means alot me too. I am also taking baby steps in recovering our Lord’s present and his will in my life. All that is mentioned in response is really taking place slowly in my life. I recommend ‘The Better Part’, our Lord’s present and guidiance helps me to follows him closely each day.

  • Gina

    The Better Part written by Fr. Bartunek is like having a spiritual director hold your hand each day by reading,thinking and applying the lights of the Gospel to your life. I have grown so much from this incredible book. It is like Jesus speaking to you through the writings of Fr. Bartunek. To read and then stop and listen was such a valuable lesson.
    Thank you Fr. Bartunek!

  • http://google Mary Macharia

    Fr. John, though I haven’t found a Spiritual Director in this corner of the world – Nairobi, Kenya – the Booklet which I have found most helpful in my Spiritual Journey is “My Daily Bread” by the Confraternity of the Precious Blood.

    As you advise, fortnightly Confession, the daily 3.00 O’Clock Holy Hour of the Divine Mercy Devotion, Holy Adoration Hour of the Blessed Sacrament, followed by the Eucharistic Celebration and Holy Communion in addition to morning and night prayers preceeded by the Holy Rosary through our Catholic Radio Waumini is filling the void of not having a Spiritual Director.

    You are right. The Holy Spirit led me to join the most nourishing Cenacle of the Eucharistic Apostles of the Divine Mercy. I would recommend our Family Members to join this Outreach Ministry where it exists in their own countries. Please continue to pray for us to find a good Spiritual Directors. God bless you, Father

    • Mary@42

      Thank you, Guest. I am thrilled to have a Companion who is my fellow Eucharistic Apostle of the Divine Mercy on this my beloved Website.  

      And you bet you are spot on. “My Daily Bread” is my Companion, too. You will notice most of the “Family Members” on this Website are very well read. And like I have done, you will be immensely enriched by their Responses.

  • Angela

    This is a great post! I have loved “This Tremendous Lover” for years. Another great book is “Interior Freedom” by Fr Jacques Philippe.

  • Karen M Kamphaus

    I am in need of a Spiritual director who can help me with Infused contemplation,and revelations. The burning fire of Love within my heart is so intense, I have always thought that what I have experienced is normal? That Jesus speaks to everyone this way? It seems that I am an odd ball?

    • Jesusbpraised

      Karring57, have you ever considered a religious vocation?

  • Dolores Castro

    Dear Father John: I am thankful for this websit you can never imagine the help you give to the faithful I am also looking for a Spiritual Director .
    Pray for me that I will find one soon.
    I would like to leave a recommendation for a Spiritual reading
    A series of 7 books IN CONVERSATION WITH GOD. by a Opus Dei priest Francis Fernandez very powerful meditations
    God Blessings from Mississauga Canada

  • Julie

    I found this book, “Soul of the Apostolate” by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard to be excellent in helping me to begin to develop, and maintian, my interior life. It is one that I will read many more times.

    • Dan Burke

      Would you like to writ up a brief recommendation for our readers? If so, I can send you an outline to follow.

  • Sharon

    As a Secular Discalced Carmelite, I look primarily to the great Carmelite Saints – St. Theresa of Avila (The Way of Perfection), St. John of the Cross (Ascent of Mt. Carmel), St. Terese of Lisieux (Story of a Soul), St. Elizabeth of the Trinity (He is My Heaven); also books by Thomas Dubay.

  • Kathy Quade

    I have just finished reading “Consoling the Heart of Jesus” by Fr. Michael Gaitley.  There is so much in this book that leads one to Jesus through Mary and ultimately to God that I have started to re-read it.  It has influenced me tremendously.  I have always had trouble reading the works of the Fathers of the Church and other classics, but this book was written for people like me (small souls) who realize they can be saints too.  I used to have trouble with spiritual reading, but now I can’t wait to wake up in the morning and pray and read this book.  It has brought me closer to God than anything else and has even made me appreciate the Bible more.

    • LizEst

      Thanks Kathy.  That’s a great recommendation.

    • MariaGo

      I really have to set aside time to read that book. Your’re the second person here to recommend  it recently. I just got a copy a 2 weeks ago. Thank you! I think I’m a small soul too…