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Catholic Spiritual Direction

Spiritual Guides, Spiritual Directors, and Spiritual Mentors – What’s the difference?

May 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Finding a Director, Spiritual Direction

Dear Dan, What is the difference between a spiritual director or mentor? I have heard the terms used interchangeably… are they the same thing?

Good question. Depending upon the source of training of the spiritual director, there are different types or titles of those who offer spiritual direction. For instance, a number of movements in the Church offer training for lay people so that they can provide spiritual direction. These organizations often make a distinction between ordained (men) or consecrated (men and/or women), referring to them as “spiritual directors,” and laypersons who might be called “spiritual guides” or “spiritual mentors.” The distinction is usually a reflection of the level of training and education possessed by the one providing the guidance. When these distinctions are made, it is likely that those with the title “Spiritual Director” have received a level of formation that is higher than those who might be called “Spiritual Mentors” or “Spiritual Guides.” 

It is important not to get caught up in the specific titles. Nor would it be appropriate to assume that someone with a lower level of formation would be less equipped to help you with your spiritual life. Spending time with another soul that is aggressively pursuing Christ and has some experience that exceeds yours can be very beneficial. The goal is to understand and pursue Christ in the process regardless of the specific titles that may or may not be applied to the individuals available to help you do so.

PS: This post is an excerpt from Dan’s book on Spiritual Direction and Spiritual Growth. If you would like to be personally updated on the progress of this book or to have Dan speak at your parish or Catholic group, send an email to

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the founder of Catholic Spiritual Direction, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, 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.

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  • Guest

    A timely and splendid clarification to us all who have found Spiritual Direction absolutely essential to our Spiritual growth.  One again God bless you all on this Website.

  • Taotto

    I have family members say, they attended 12 years of Catholic School, and no one mentioned Spiritual Directors.  I would say years ago. your Parish priest was your Spiritual director, especially in smaller churches.

    • Dan Burke

      Toatto – no surprise there. The practice has never disappeared but there have been times when it was far less common. Historically, director and confessor were synonymous.