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How should I prepare for a meeting with my spiritual director?

May 10, 2012 by  
Filed under Fr. Bartunek, Spiritual Direction, The Process

Dear Father John, how should I prepare for a meeting with my spiritual director?

Jesus-PeterPreparation for spiritual direction can be divided into three parts.

1. Remote preparation. Preparing for your next spiritual direction starts during the last moment of your previous spiritual direction. By making a note of the key insights that you received during direction, and by identifying some concrete actions you will work on, you create your own spiritual map for the coming month.

You can capture the insights in meaningful phrases, like “discouragement never comes from God” or “I am impatient because I am arrogant.” You can capture concrete actions in motivational phrases, like “I spend the first three minutes of my commute thanking God for today’s blessings” or “When I come home, I give the first ten minutes entirely to my wife” or “When my friends start to gossip, I change the topic.” Put these phrases in your planner, your journal, your home page – wherever you will be sure to see them regularly. Don’t leave spiritual direction without this map. (By the way, it is not necessary to invent new points in every spiritual direction, but sometimes changing a word or two on a previous phrase can refresh it for you, or sharpen it. Also, your insights and concrete actions should be connected to your “program” or “rule” of life; you should perceive the connection clearly.)

2. Proximate preparation. The day before your spiritual direction, take some time to sit down and look over the map you made after the last spiritual direction. Asking the Holy Spirit for light, analyze the following areas, making notes where relevant (e.g. I really made progress on this point; I made no progress here, and I am not sure why; this crisis came up and it totally derailed me…). Remember, always include the question “Why?” as part of your analysis. The analysis will leave you with things to report and questions to ask. This will be the agenda for your spiritual direction. (Your spiritual director may suggest alterations to the following list; it is meant to be a reference point.)

A) The general state of your soul since last spiritual direction

B) Difficulties or failures in your moral life since last spiritual direction

C) The effectiveness of your motivational phrases from last spiritual direction

D) Progress on and results of the concrete actions chosen after your last spiritual direction

E) The main points of your program of life, if they were not covered in C and D.

F) Challenges and progress in your prayer life, if they were not covered in C and D.

G) The quality of the key relationships and responsibilities of your state in life, if they were not covered in C and D.

You will not necessary have a lot to say to your spiritual director during each spiritual direction regarding every single one of these points. But as you go through them you will identify those points that you really do need or want to address. This proximate preparation, the calm and prayerful analysis of these areas, is like cleaning out the garage: it refreshes your soul and motivates you to look with enthusiasm towards the coming month of spiritual work.

3. Immediate preparation. A few minutes before your spiritual direction, make a visit to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament to put everything in his hands. If the Eucharist is not nearby, say a prayer to the Holy Spirit to guide you and your director. Make sure you have the notes from your proximate preparation. Finally, call to mind the real goal of all spiritual direction: to discover more clearly God’s action in your life, and to equip you to respond generously to what he is asking of you.

PS: Dan has a new book out on Spiritual Direction that you can find more about at www.NavigatingtheInteriorLife.com. It is scheduled to release later this year. In it, you will find more helpful information on this topic and spiritual direction in general.

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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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  • http://buscandounidad.blogspot.com/ Isabel Warleta

    Dear in Christ Father Bartunek:
    As you can see my name is Isabel and I´m member of the Regnum Christi in Spain and also I use to go to a Charismatic group with the permission of my LC (Father Félix Medina, LC) spiritual director. I’m really impressed by your answer to this question, because I had the same experience and also a lot of people I know and I use to make me the same question. Your answer is perfect, and I think that can help a lot of people. That’s the reason why I ask your permission to translate it and put it in my blog (http://buscandounidad.blogspot.com/) always putting the main reference, if you can translate it to Spanish and send it, better.

    Sorry for my english.

    In Christ and The Movement,

    Isabel Warleta

    • Dan Burke

      Dear Isabel in Christ,

      Feel free to translate and use it as you wish. The only thing we ask is that you link back to this site…

      Pax Christi

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  • Margo

    Dear Fr. Bartunek,

    A hundred thanks! I have been unsure for several months how to actually prepare for and walk through a good/effective mtg w/ my spiritual director. This was — well, Providential! — and very, very helpful.

    I’m breathing easier now, and looking forward to being better prepared for my next direction, next week.

    Again, thanks!

  • http://www.kepharocks.org Corey Harned

    “Hello! What an awesome insight to spiritual direction. Thank you Padre.

    If I may, I want to let you know about an awesome group called “Kepha, the Brotherhood of the Iron Will.” Kepha is a growing brotherhood of Catholic fathers and sons in seven states that are faithful to the Holy Father. We promote the Culture of Life through monthly retreats and shared daily prayers and provoke each other to Heaven according to our motto, “Dynamic Orthodoxy, Infectious Joy.”

    Kepha is a high-octane Catholicism rejecting spiritual laziness and moral compromise. We are under the patronage of our “BIG 3″: St. John Bosco, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. Kepha members agree to live by 5 commitments : Apologetics, Brotherhood, Charity, Mortification and Prayer.

    Kepha is a non-profit organization with chapters in Texas and Louisiana. If you know of any men who are looking for an excellent way to strengthen their relationships with their sons, then please tell them about Kepha.

    You can find out more information on our web site at http://www.kepharocks.org

    God bless you!
    Corey Harned

    • JoFlemings

      Corey! I know this is maybe not the best place for this little endorsement, but thanks for the info! I know people who will be interested in this!

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  • Becky

    Father do you have a list for people like me who would be going for the very first time? What would the very first meeting sound like? I don’t want to go in there and waste the priests time. What would he expect from me at the first meeting?

    God bless you in your work!
    Young wife and mother of 4

  • Anonymous
    • Rita ocds

      Dear Dan, I would not dare offering the money to the priest as it’s not a business matter.( We can find the words in the Bible.) The priest may be insulted by such generosity. I’d rather pray for him and on some occasion would think how I can express my thankfulness in terms of donation. 

  • Anonymous

    Thank you Father, this really helped me.

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  • JoFlemings

    This is so helpful! I really appreciate the whole post, except I would change one thing- here. Father uses cleaning out the garage as a metaphor- I think that might apply to guys who happen to have all kinds of athletic gear stored in their garages or boatloads of hobby supplies– for women however, cleaning out the garage or attic is more like a metaphor for a lifetime confession- how about something more like rennovating the kitchen or laundry room instead? Taking out what is dated or ineffective, or even useless and updating the work area with new, state of the art, best suited to the space tools, furnishings and accoutrements…. :o)

  • Donna

    As a certified Spiritual Director I found this article very interesting.
    The following are additional suggestions that I would appreciate from my directees (my spiritual companions on the journery):
    First:  How was God for you this month?  When, where, how did you experience God’s presence in your life.  What was that like for you?
    Second:  How is your prayer life going?  Have you prepared a prayer space in your home?  Are you intentionally spending time in that space each day?  How are you growing in your contemplative prayer practice?  What is most difficult for you; what is most rewarding with this prayer practice of silence and listening?
    Third:  Were there any times during the month that you felt that God was at a distance?  What was that like for you?
    We end the session with prayer and if appropriate I would suggest a book or article for further reading and always I offer encouragement to continue daily praying in a contemplative manner…centering prayer, Lectio Divina, or daily Examen of Consiousness (Ignatian Spiritual Exercises). 

    • ged

      what is centering prayer..i thought that is a new age practice( but i doubt you would suggest something new age on this site, lol

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

    Dear Friend, I wouldn’t categorize Centering Prayer as a New Age practice but it is not something we promote here. The comment is helpful in general and our allowing it is not an endorsement of Centering Prayer but a reflection of agreement with the central point she was making about preparation.

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