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Catholic Spiritual Direction

Should I ask my spiritual director (a priest) to also be my confessor?

Dear Becky, I have a question for you. I have a priest spiritual director that I usually travel more than an hour to see every month. I go to confession weekly and am wondering if it would be best to see the same priest for confession for continuity, etc. Before my spiritual director relocated, I most often saw him for confession because it worked out that way, and, I believe it was God who arranged it that way. Would it be appropriate to ask my spiritual director to also provide confession when we meet?

The fact that you are receiving the sacrament of reconciliation weekly, and are traveling a good distance to see your spiritual director each month shows that you are serious about becoming holy.  Keep up the good work!

The short answer to your question is that it can’t hurt to ask.  We need to be considerate of our priests’ time, yet also remember that they became priests to help us to heaven.

Your concern for continuity shows that you understand the value of developing an ongoing relationship with your confessor, this is good.  And since we confess our sins, not to the priest, but to Jesus via the priest, receiving spiritual direction at this time is a very good idea.

Going to confession and receiving spiritual direction at the same time is a huge blessing.  There is special grace here because of the sacramental nature of confession, and it saves you from having to repeat or explain your struggles to your spiritual director when you see him each month.   If you have a good priest who can provide at the same time, both confession and sound spiritual direction, you are very blessed; this would be the optimal situation.

I can only assume from your question that the physical distance between you and your director has prevented you from seeing him more often.

That said, a few questions come to mind that you should discuss with your director:

First, does your spiritual director have the time/flexibility to see you more frequently?  If he does, do you have the means (time and cost of transportation), to make that trip more often? If not, you might want to alternate confession time (local for three weeks, then once a month with your priest/spiritual director).

Second, are you at a place where you can safely reduce the frequency of your confessions? If you are at a stage where you are not often tempted to mortal sin, it might be prudent to exchange frequent confessions for fewer that are more fruitful. You would, of course, still have the ability to make a confession with a local priest as needed.

That you believe God arranged for you to have this specific priest as your confessor is probably a reliable instinct.  If you think about it, having one person who sees the ‘whole’ of our spiritual life makes good sense. God knows what is best for us, and as we progress on the journey of the soul He may guide us to modify some practices in order to develop new ones.

Your spiritual director will be able to give you advice tailor made for your situation. Talk this over with him as appropriate matter for spiritual direction discussion.

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About Becky Ward

Becky is a wife, mother of four (One in heaven), grandmother of five, and a ‘re-formed Catholic’ who, after receiving the gift of a deep conversion in 2006, and working through the Disciples of Jesus and Mary faith formation program, now considers herself to be ‘fully Catholic’ What this means is that she now, at last, understands and appreciates the beauty of the Catholic faith in such a way that she wants to share it with everyone. “I’ve heard that the Blessed Mother told a visionary, “If Catholics really lived their faith, the whole world would be Catholic.” I see the truth in this, and it is my deepest hope to be a living example that draws others to Jesus. Given the nickname Rebel-Becca by her mother, Becky strongly identifies with St. John the Baptist and his call to “make straight the path of the Lord.”, and with his role as “Friend of the Bridegroom”. The poem, “Broken?”, written through her hand, is a reflection of the journey of the soul, and Becky explains what the Holy Spirit is teaching her as she writes posts for each stanza.

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  • jack g.

    This is sometimes a difficult decision to make. I remember reading St. Faustina Diary and how Jesus told her to listen for direction in confession. So it seems appropriate to follow that route. I would ask a confessor and then the s/d priest in another confession. Same question, apart from other more down to earth issues. Well, I would also pray about it, find peace in an idea before a decision is made. I had one confessor after my conversion and we would also talk about my experiences. This lasted for about two years when I decided to change that for my son’s sake. He is 13 and I needed to give him good example for confession, so I needed to give up on my original confessor and ask one that is closer to my house where my son stays for weekends. This way we could both go to confession once a month and i could be of an example for him. In parenting talking alone doesn’t work, one needs to show the way to children.This worked out and I know that my son’s needs are more important at this time so I had to sacrifice a really good relationship and develop another one. This happened without major impact on my spiritual life and seemed natural to me.It has been few months and I know that I will sometimes go back for confession to my original confessor, but there is no sens of urgency. From that example one can see that even without special planning this can happen smoothly. So, again it would be wise to ask confessor, but one also needs to pray and find peace in decision making. To me continuity was great grace and gift from God, but I also saw the need to show my son the way and value of confession. I slowly built on continuity with new confessor and sometimes have to go back and tell him parts of story again for him to better understand me, but it looks like this works well and we both are getting used to each other. I am blessed to have lots of Polish priests in my area who also speak English and can take good care of my son’s needs.This just is my example and everyone will be different in many ways, I just hope this could be of help.With love of Jesus, jack g.

  • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

    It is important to note the central point here. Should your confessor also be your director? The answer is yes, whenever possible. Why? The grace given in confession can only enhance one’s ability to receive and follow direction. As well, the bearing of one’s soul to a confessor – which is necessary for a good confession – is the same disposition required for effective spiritual direction. If we bear our soul in confession (and our director is our confessor) then he is able to more clearly see the deepest challenges within us. Then these challenges often become the appropriate battle front – the point of focus. This is particularly true in the purgative stage of growth when we are dealing with habitual mortal and venial sin…

    • http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog Mary@42

      Thank you, Dan, for confirming how spiritually fruitful it is to have your SD as your Confessor. As Jack g. says, Saint Faustina reiterates to us how important it is to always 
      to listen for direction in confession. And while I thank you, Dan, I must thank Father John who advised me to get a Spiritual Director. May you be blessed for the good work you are doing in “God’s Vineyard”.   And thank you, Becky, for the enlightening Response

  • Sandy

    While trying to grow in holiness, the reason why we have spiritual directors and confessors, it would be such a blessing to have the same priest for both of these grace giving moments of our life.  When I was seeking a spiritual director at the onset of my spiritual conversion, I asked my parish priest if he would be my spiritual director.  He couldn’t because I was a teacher in the school he administrated, so I asked him if he could be my regular confessor.  Of course he said yes, since I was also a parishioner.  I started going to weekly confession while praying for a spiritual director.  Since then I have had several spiritual directors.  My parish priest was reassigned to another parish and was recently named a bishop.  The latest parish priest is now my weekly confessor and I continue to receive regular spiritual direction from another priest.  However, any time I need to discuss a spiritual matter my parish priest is more than willing to take the time to talk with me in the privacy of the confessional.  

  • sue

    Just wondering why a priest can’t sometimes give spiritual direction to someone via email, for instance in bad weather – as she is an hour away it would just be easier.  Sometimes, I for one need time to think about things.  But there are confidentiality issues I guess  Thanks. 

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Dear Sue – there is no doubt that this can work out and it does. We have a post on that topic at http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog/2009/11/30/skype-and-remote-spiritual-direction-is-this-ok

      • jack g.

        To me this website is part of my s/d journey, where I can use the posts as well as the comments to my advantage. It is very helpful to be able to share and give from the heart. Thanks be to God and all involved here with Dan, Fr. John and Sr. Carmen as the front runners.
        Many times it is very humbling to read the comments here. Also a spiritual director is one person, who also is human. Here we can hear many opinions and stories and be able to sometimes get a better understanding of a problem at hand.
        That said s/d is a gift and a grace to be cherished at any time. Jack g, with the love of Jesus

        • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

          Approved

  • LizEst

    Yes, I agree this can be very fruitful.  But now, suppose you have an issue with your spiritual director that you need to bring to confession?  That can be an extremely humbling experience.

    One question, Dan:  Did I miss something?  Who is Becky to whom this is addressed.  Do we have a new person that is providing spiritual advice on this blog?  Please introduce her to us!  Thanks.

  • judeen

    i have been told by several preists that they do not remember or cant talk about what is said in confession .. so if I wanted spiritiual advise to ask at another time if I wanted them to remember or talk about it… preists do penences for the people who confess to them… also … if your are spiritually growing.. God give that preist knowledge or words you need ,, and the preist will not understand it.. but says it.. had this happen alot.. or your love for God will promote his love for God also…