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Catholic Spiritual Direction

Spiritual Direction Is…

October 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Navigating, Spiritual Direction

A definition of what spiritual direction is, its main focus, its central aim and its ultimate end as well as a listing of posts which explain what it is not and a link to spiritual direction posts on this site.

Now that we are clear on what spiritual direction is not (see the posts listed below), we can provide a summary of what spiritual direction is:  a relationship between three persons: 1) the Holy Spirit, 2) the director, and 3) the directee. The main topic of spiritual direction is God’s will for the directee. The central aim of spiritual direction is to help guide the directee to purposefully, consistently, and substantively grow in his or her relationship with God and neighbor by discovering God’s presence and embracing his will through the fruitful practice of prayer and virtue. The ultimate end of spiritual direction is, as Jesus commanded, to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:29-31).

This post, and the posts below, are excerpts from Dan’s book Navigating the Interior Life – Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God. To learn more about the book, click here.

Other Posts on Spiritual Direction:

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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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  • JustMe

    It may be simple, but I don’t think it is easy! The more I try to grow in virtue, the stronger the temptations to sin become. I sometimes wonder if its not better to not try to grow spiritually? It seems that there are more risks due to the temptations and that you could fall farther than you would if you just kept a tepid spiritual life. Or perhaps that is just rationalization, as a way to avoid the struggle altogether?

    • faithful123

      Agree JustMe, understanding the definition of spiritual direction is easy, to put the direction of our life of faith into concrete application ‘in the world’

      is not easy at all. “In this world you will have trials and tribulations” said our Lord, fear not “I have overcome ‘the world.’

      I heard this from a ‘cute’ movie where someone played God and actually I even read it – if we pray to God for patience, does our loving God give us patience ‘zap’ … you are now patient? OR rather, does he put in our

      path those who ‘try our patience’…to test our faith in Him? If we pray

      for courage – does He simply hand it on a silver platter OR provide us

      the means to be courageous. (Remember the Wizard of Oz… the

      Tin Man who wanted a heart (to love) the scarecrow who wanted a

      brain – to think, and the lion who wanted courage to be ‘king of the

      terrible jungle? Asked The Wizard to give them that stuff they wanted?

      Wise wizard he was… he sent them out on an assignment; and of

      course the lesson was – in their pursuit of ‘an object asked for’ they

      had to rely on what WAS ALWAYS WITHIN … love made the tin

      man help Dorothy in trouble, the scarecrow had to THINK of how to

      help her and the lion of course had to be brave and not run away.

      Growth of Spirit doesn’t come by hiding in ‘a simple job’ where you

      are comfortable, if called to pursue a certain vocation… God was

      the one who gave that ‘call’ … and then if we are aware…provides

      us the understanding of how to ‘reach the goal’ and I felt this – at

      the start of my working life; if our working goal is ‘easy’ – it’s not

      from God. I suppose we could all stay making those BIG piece

      kid puzzles and feel ‘smart’ for putting it together so easily – and

      not take on the 1000 piece interlocking puzzle where the colors

      of the puzzle look all the same. But life would not be challenging

      and we wouldn’t be living a LIFE would we?

      That’s what’s wrong with a ‘socialistic’ society where the ‘charitable’

      government hands persons jobs, education, dollars even, on just

      about a silver platter. Sure it takes the ‘worry’ out of living, always

      provided for… but FAITH (in the God who is provider, that eye

      cannot see) grows a bit stagnant. A LOT STAGNANT. People love to gripe; moan and look at where someone else is in terms of possessions they have and MISS the growth they themselves achieved WITH God.

      Not try to grow spiritually? avoid the risk of falling? Would you remain

      crawling as an infant crawls to avoid falling? or stay riding a bike with

      training wheels – instead of going to a two wheeler? or continue to

      read See Sally. See Spot Run (first grade reader) because you were

      a success at it – even if your were in 12th grade or would you attempt

      to read War and Peace with understanding?

      Thanks JustMe, your question helped me think and see. Spiritual

      Direction nor Directors is not there to encourage us; so that we

      become more filled with pride in our accomplishments if the director

      astutely sees pride as a problem. The director isn’t there to feed us

      answers on how to handle ‘a problem’, the director won’t even tell

      us our decision to resolve a difficulty was right (If in faith we acted

      we don’t need ‘human respect’ of approval for the action) The reason

      for spiritual direction is GROWTH of our ‘weak’ ‘flabby’ self to

      reliance and understanding of THE SPIRIT who loves us – enough to

      MAKE US STRONG in FAITH in HIM. (and thus the world and its

      temptations become nothing more than an annoying mosquito we

      shoo away the moment we ‘sense his light touch on our sensitized

      skin) Temptations are life sucking to our soul like the mosquito sucks

      our life blood…ONLY by exercising our will to conform to His will …

      are we sensitive to know ‘the temptation’ so as to avoid the temptation.

      As stated in the Lord’s prayer Lead us NOT INTO TEMPTATION…

      but DELIVER US FROM EVIL. This is the reason for fasting from

      ‘something we enjoy’ in lent or advent…exercise for our weak wills

      in the little stuff so we can SAY NO when BIG STUFF tempts that

      goes against the authentic God. GOT IT! Thank you JustME.

      • faithful123

        not sure why my comments appear double spaced. What am I doing wrong in my commenting?

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

          Are you copying your text in from a word document or do you type directly into the comment box?

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

            Hmm prayer might work…

    • Becky Ward

      The stronger the temptations, the harder the devil is trying to prevent you from making progress.

      We will always be tempted…….to some degree, in this life else we would get really, really fat heads from thinking about how good we are! :) God knows the danger in this and allows the devil to tempt us in order that we stay on the narrow path.

      The only souls who don’t suffer from temptation are those whom the devil knows are on a ‘downhill path’.

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

        Well said

  • faithful123

    It’s that simple. So, if a directee asks for spiritual direction – should it be every week, every month, or once a year? And if the aim is to grow our relationship with God, it would be wrong to speak of difficulties with others we encounter either in family or working environments is that correct?

    And should the directer provide specific assignments of a sort to meet before the next session. Reflect on the Rosary Mystery of ………….., in relation to

    the situation perplexing one? Does Spiritual DirectIon ever ‘end’ … or is one

    forever in need or direction? Can’t a spiritually mature Catholic who knows God, live a good life without reporting to a director? Isn’t the aim just that to bring a directee to see the movement of the Spirit for his or her life of thier own mind

    and not need to run to a third party to ask CAN I DO?

    Truthfully, I believe this is what I finally got from my sessions… I felt I was using the director as a crutch…and that’s NOT trusting in God with WHOLE heart,

    mind, and strength. Since saying goodbye to my director, I make my own

    decisions and rest that they are good one’s. I ended my session because

    for the most part, I came away from each session more tense than at peace

    even when I excitedly wanted to share an insight that came from spiritual

    reading. My director never gave me any encouragement I was doing ok.

    Sometimes he wanted to contradict what I came to

    So…I came to the conclusion spiritual direction is not for everyone.

    Perhaps it takes a person REALLY in tune to God, to seek to know more of God’s will to go to spiritual direction.

    • Guest

      Faithful123. A very holy Saint once said. One who has himself as the Spiritual Director has a fool for a Director!!!! We definitely need a Spiritual Director (and whom the Holy Spirit will certainly work through) to help us in our Spiritual journey to our Eternal Home.

  • Jesusbpraised

    Beautiful, just simply beautiful! Like God Who is our Goal. He is simple! He is beautiful! He is everything!

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  • Becky Ward

    Faithful,

    Jesus is our example. Every word in the bible has meaning and the Holy Spirit guides and protects the Church Jesus started.

    Look at how many times the bibles points out Jesus’ obedience……….I don’t think Pilate or the other leaders of the time were being led by the spirit of Truth (else they would have loved Jesus), yet He did not defend Himself………..He was True to what His father was asking of Him…..He is GOD, and yet He was obedient; to set an example for us.

    One good way to know if something is God’s will, according to many of the saints, is that it is contrary to what “The World” proclaims.

    What Fr. Dubay is saying, and with which I agree 100%, is that we need to be obedient to the official teachings of the Church. The priests who condoned artificial birth control are NOT teaching what the Church teaches.

    I would suggest you get a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church if you don’t have one, and use it, and the Bible as your #1 discernment tools. When we struggle with the teachings of the Church, (And I have been there not so long ago.), if we are truly humble we will accept that, as the Holy Spirit protects these teachings, I’m not as smart as God and so I will accept this and pray for enlightenment!

    I must smile as I read what you say about being a doormat………almost the very same words have come from my mouth, and in MY case, it was pride and vanity…..my ‘self’, as in ‘self-love’ gets me ‘all puffed up’ about certain issues……….and I think I need to go charging in on my white horse to either defend myself, or to speak up for, or defend, others. What my experience has taught me, is that when I take these issues to Jesus, and kneeling before a crucifix, lay them at his feet and give Him my anger, pain, frustration…..and whatever else I am feeling, He heals me….and I don’t care if I’m a doormat. And this speaks louder, although it doesn’t seem that way, than any defense I come up with. (God is in charge!)

    Finally, truly mature spirits……….souls who are united with God, ardently seek the assistance and guidance of other holy souls because they know how quickly and easily they can be deceived. Even the Pope has a spiritual director…………God gave us Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and all of our saints as examples………THIS is where we need to turn……….imagine Our Lady reaching over the body of her dead Son to say to those who killed him, “I am your Mother and I love you!”…….talk about heroic virtue!! (spiritually this is what she did) And Mother Teresa was out begging for her poor one time and asked a wealthy man for some money. He spat in her hand. She closed her hand, brought it to her heart and said, this is for me and my sisters…….then she extended her other hand and asked what he had for the poor? It is reported that the man gave her a large sum of money and was changed by this encounter. How I pray for that kind of perfect love and humility!!

    No doubt it’s difficult!! But Jesus says, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (perfect in love), and he would not tell us to do something which is impossible………..we need to pray for help and intercession from the whole communion of saints………make sure we have the right role models….(saints)……………and abandon our souls to Divine Providence. God loves us deeply and tenderly; each and every one of us…………and He will take care of us if we ask.

    Keeping you in prayer,

    God Bless!

    • faithful123

       Thank you Becky313, I do understand your words on NOT defending issues that we know are just plain wrong (either not defending those who attempt to accuse us OR not defending issues of a social nature that the world loves to speak of publicly TO WE WHO THEY KNOW are ‘good’)

      When I was in my 20’s (a good 30 years ago) many a person in workplaces would openly speak about not needing to attend Mass and
      ‘that greedy Catholic church’ always looking for money. (say nothing about the fancy sports car they drive in the parking lot and that they are working two jobs and very involved in money attaining and position if smart)

      I for the most part simply let them talk. Said nothing. I used to think this was weak of faith of me…NOW I realize; it WAS the right thing. Let them think what they want of me; IT’S THEY who are revealing who they are to all around them. If we are faithful to God; we know who is sincerely inquiring about why Mass is important and who is looking to rile us up.

      I admit…though…being in the world that demands THEIR RIGHTS and
      THEIR WAY… it’s easy to also want to SPEAK and declare our right
      to OUR PEACE and our right to earn our living. Be assured, the moment we declare “I don’t appreciate that tone towards me” — we are through
      in a working environment / the moment we defend any social issue
      for the good or for that matter for the other side … we are finished.
      The shrewd of heart…even if they are liberal, never speak of being
      for or against openly. Their tactic is for you THE GOOD to speak
      against something and thus they ‘twist that’ their way that we spoke
      God in a secular place, or we offended them with our ‘hate’ (they see
      truth as not being tolerant and speak words in such way they paint
      us as being hateful, argumentative, bad, selfish, etc. You are correct
      we are to only speak work issues and have the intellect of spirit to
      turn the tables on them. ASK THEM QUESTIONS as to their statements to us; so they must be put on the spot. NEVER give our opinions on
      ANYTHING. Let them wonder who we are. Remain mysterious.
      I actually did it right in my youthful days when I said nothing. It
      was GRACE and I wasn’t ‘not defending’ God. In truth, I was defending
      Him…THEY were stating who they were and GOD was there to
      see and hear it all.  IT’S ALL ON THEM… every word they speak.
      LEAVE IT WITH GOD. SIMPLE…but our egos get in the way at times.

      Without a doubt Becky…we should not ‘fall for their ways’ because
      we want to show how much more knowledgeable we are on the
      subject.

  • LSLinda

    My life was much easier before I started spiritual direction. I didn’t see the pain that was deep within, or have to deal with it. The enemy pretty much left me alone, and now is very busy. The temptations are stronger than before, and towards worse sin. God is allowing me to be tested like never before, and is having to pour out His mercy often. I’ve learned what it means to be poor. Spiritual direction is not a love-fest, a “sit down and let’s talk about how wonderful Jesus and prayer is.” It is difficult and painful and messy. Many times I wished I never opened that Pandora’s Box and kept living a life of simple tepidity. It was less painful. But this much I know: in the midst of this hurricane is Jesus, and much more frequent reception of the Sacrament of Confession and Holy Communion. Regular Eucharistic Adoration. There’s a regularly-prayed rosary now, the value of which I never before understood. And poverty. Extreme poverty.

    • Guest

       Linda take it from me you are on the right path.  Remember Christ told us. “Anyone who wants to be a disciple of mine must take up his cross (daily) and follow me.” Christ is our model.  There cannot be Salvations without the Cross. And just as He instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation where we meet Him through the Priest, confess our sins and obtain absolution and Graces from Him, so does He guide and teach those who are really, really serious and determined to follow Him to have a good Spiritual Director through whom He Himself will guide us.  As Becky 313 reminds us, even the Holy Father has a Spiritual Director. We need to realize our route to Eternal Life is narrow, steep and full of Satan’s traps.  But Christ will ensure we shall reach home safely. With regard to obeying our Holy Mother Church no one need  lose the way.  We have the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Canon Law for the Laity and of course,the Holy Bible and the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church and the rich, teaching Encyclicals from the Holy Fathers.  All these ensure we are never in doubt about  Christ’s Teachings and God’s Divine Law and what He expects from each and everyone of His sheep to obey and practice. Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life commissioned His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church to protect, preserve and proclaim His Teachings with total fidelity to all mankind – absolutely free from error –  until the end of time.

      • Becky Ward

        Regarding being hurt by another’s words or actions we often hear, “Don’t let them have that much power over you!”  But for myself, try as I might, even with lots of prayer……….it always hurts.

        I offer the following from the Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2843, for any out there like me:
        Thus the Lord’s words on forgiveness, the love that loves to the end, (142) become a living reality. The parable of the merciless servant, which crowns the Lord’s teaching on ecclesial communion, ends with these words: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do
        not forgive your brother from your heart.” (143) It is there, in fact, “in the depths of the heart,” that everything is bound and loosed. It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession.

        I cannot help but feel the pain………..this gives me an effective and holy way to deal with it.

    • Mickie s

      Wow, you said what I feel exactly. I have been in Spiritual Direction for about 8 months and it is not quite like I thought. Things that I thought would be issues to talk about have not been and things that I thought were cut and dried have arose many a good discussion, that made me think. And like you, the enemy keeps making his presence known, in many temptations that really hit me hard. Thank you so much for your insites.

    • Cecilia

      My husband often tells me “if you’re in the enemy’s pocket, why should he bother you. Its only when one’s eyes are opened that one truly enters the battle.” Possibly some of us are trying to live what we see as good lives but in actuality are only “surfers” in the spiritual life. There has to come a point in one’s life, I believe, that the Lord steps in and calls us to become “deep sea divers” and go deeper. We always have a choice to say no to the invitation and to stay where we are but remember our goal is heaven not purgatory. Anything we truly want takes work, i.e., motherhood, fatherhood, 5K marathon, any type of educational degree. If we are willing to suffer and agonize over those goals shouldn’t we put in as much work or more for our eternal soul?

      • LizEst

        Thanks, Cecilia, for this great imagery. Indeed, even when one becomes a “deep sea diver,” there are “monsters” to contend with, things we can’t see above the surface or even in the shallow waters. But, there is beauty and peacefulness in drinking deeply of God’s love and mercy. It is worth the effort to “put out into the deep.” God bless you!

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

    It is not a sin for a lay person to disregard the advice of a director.

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

      Good idea

    • Becky Ward

      DISCLAIMER:  Individual situations will be different; no judgment is being made here.

      As spiritual direction is meant to aid us in seeing ‘the plank’ in our eye, that we are usually blind to, unless it regards a matter of faith or morals wouldn’t it be best to accept the advice of the director….at least to try it out?

      I use your quote from the article on scrupulosity: Saint Philip Neri stated that “There is nothing which gives greater security to our actions, or more effectively cuts the snares the devil lays for us, than to follow another person’s will, rather than our own, in doing good.”

      And IF it does regard issues of faith or morals, for instance the director is telling us it is not right to use artificial contraception, would it not be sinful to disregard the director’s advice?

      Thanks, & God Bless!

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

        The sin is in rejecting the teaching of the Church and thereby God’s desire…

        • Becky Ward

          Gotcha!

          Playing devil’s advocate…….(although that doesn’t sound quite appropriate here.) :)

          In following my train of thought……….supposing a hypothetical situation where a director IS counseling a directee concerning a matter of faith or morals…………..(for instance suggesting natural family planning vs. artificial contraception), wouldn’t the decision to disregard the director’s advice and choosing one’s own will instead constitute a sin of pride?

          Thanks!

  • JustMe

    These questions may not be appropriate here, but they are questions that arise as I read the comments here.

    The people posting here talk about growth in the spiritual life as being on the narrow road to salvation.  Well, are the people that are doing the basics, like going to Mass once a week and generally not committing mortal sins (and going to confession if they do), on the narrow road to salvation too?  It seems that the  number of people honestly struggling to grow spiritually and to “be perfect as your holy Father is perfect” are very few.  So are they the only ones that get to heaven?  If everyone who does the minimum are going to heaven, they why does anyone do more than the minimum?  To avoid more “time” in purgatory?  To be rewarded with some sort of higher state in  heaven?  Why does the Holy Spirit call some people to work harder and grow more in virtue, and become more spiritually mature?  Or does he call everyone and only the few respond?  If you hear the call and ignore it, then is that worse than not hearing the call at all?

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

      Too many important questions to answer in a combox. Any one in particular more pressing to you?

      • JustMe

         The root question is the last one.  What is the effect of hearing the call to a deeper, more mature, spiritual life but choosing to ignore that call?  I don’t understand this call at all, and why anyone would respond to it.  Oh sure, in the beginning there are all sorts of consolations, but as others have noted it is not an easy path as you continue to progress.  So why do it?  It makes more sense for priests and religious to receive and respond to such a call, as the call has a purpose in their life.  But as a layperson, I find the call to be a nuisance and disruption to my life.  And I’m not trying to be disrespectful here, just honest.   Compare the faithful to  a college class.  Some will work with all their heart to get straight As.  Others will take it easier and get a B or C average.  Others will party for 4 years and get a D average or flunk out.  But, generally, they all succeed in life in one way or another after college days are over.  Over a lifespan,  being an A student in college did not confer any benefits (i.e. greater happiness) on the person compared to the ones that took college less seriously.  So, over a lifespan and into eternity, is there any real benefit to being a serious spiritual “student”.  It often seems that the main reason lots of people stay on the difficult spiritual path is because it stokes their pride, and so it all seems very self-defeating.

        • Guest

          I am trying to understand  JustMe why you are so determined to deny God calls each one of us to serve Him where He wants us.  These are your worrying words. “I don’t understand this call at all, and why anyone would respond to
          it.  Oh sure, in the beginning there are all sorts of consolations, but
          as others have noted it is not an easy path as you continue to
          progress.  So why do it?  It makes more sense for priests and religious
          to receive and respond to such a call, as the call has a purpose in
          their life.  But as a layperson, I find the call to be a nuisance and
          disruption to my life.”  My view is that, yes, we have absolute freedom to reject God and remain in the world, chasing the so-called successes and pleasures of the world. Blessed John Paul II has written extensively about the dangers of secularization and the culture of worshiping the god of “me I and myself” which has gripped the civilized Western World.

           It is not only the Religious who have answered God’s calling.  We are called to serve God in all spheres of life. Beginning your day by praying the Prayer of Offering  will make all that you do that whole day one unending Prayer. I am surprised to hear you say these words about God’s Calling – which is actually an unmerited Grace from God – “I find the call to be a nuisance and
          disruption to my life”. If God’s call to you to serve Him even in your current life situation and occupation is a nuisance to your life, then do you need God at all in your life”  I would humbly advise you to discuss this opinion you hold so dearly about your relationship with God with your Parish Priest.  You need to take your Spiritual life and Eternal Destination more seriously. That which 
          you value so much now is transient.  And what you are finding a nuisance in the path to your Eternity. Read again and ponder what  Faithful123 is advising you. Do not trivialize the purpose for which God created you.

        • JustMe

          You miss the point in that I’m not talking about a life with Christ versus a life without Christ.  Many people are very good Catholics, say their prayers, have other devotions, go to Mass every weekend, go to confession regularly,  but they do not seem to be called to a deeper relationship.  Or if they are, they are ignoring it.  I have talked to people like this and they are certain that they are doing all that God is asking of them with respect to their spiritual life.  They are coasting along where they are, assured that since they are good, honest, upright folks and they go to Mass every weekend, etc., that they are going to heaven.  And, for all I know, they are.  They are like the B and C students in my example.  So what could possibly be wrong in wanting to be like those people? Are these people ignoring a universal call to a deeper relationship, and if so, is that perfectly acceptable?

           A few people, however,  do really strive to be holy.  They work on their venial sins as if they were mortal sins.  They really, really work on their relationship with Christ.  I can sense it, but I can’t explain it.  But standing on the brink and looking into that, my will recoils.  My will says, “Nah, you’re doing good, don’t make this too much work.  It will be painful and fraught with pitfalls and won’t be worth it in the end. You’ll have a happy life and an eternity in heaven by staying right where you are.”  But my little soul is yearning to go, to get closer and closer, no matter what the price.

          And speaking of pitfalls, I was serious when I said that many people seem to continue along the spiritual life out of pride.  They do what they do out of love of self and out of pride and not out of love of Christ.  I can see it in their eyes and the way they act and the way they talk.   They multiply devotions and prayers, etc., but they stay in virtually the same spot, spiritually, year after year, decade after decade. Yet they feel that since they’ve done so much for so long, surely they have made progress.

          Virtues nourish vices. (I read that somewhere, I think it was in a Michael Casey book.)  You see, the spiritual life can be compared to a flower garden.  You prepare the soil carefully, set the flowers in with care, provide fertilizer and an irrigation system.  But what happens?  The exact same soil, fertilizer and water will feed every weed seed that blew into the flower bed.  And some don’t even look like weeds at first.  You’ll think “Hmm, did I plant that?  It has a pretty flower.  Its prettier than the geranium over there that isn’t even blooming yet.  I’ll leave it and see what it looks like later.”  And the tricky weed will sink its roots down, and quickly grow.  Its flowers turn to seeds overnight and spread all over the flower bed.  Then you’ll look and realize its a weed and try to hoe it out.  But the roots are so deep now, and the seeds have scattered.  You have much work to do.

          Whereas if you did not have such a carefully prepared flower bed, the flowers would not grow as well, but there is also less nourishment for the weed seeds.  They blow right over the hard ground in your flower bed and sink into the neighbor’s freshly hoed flower bed.  (The entire flower bed analogy is mine, I thought of it on the way to work today.)

          • faithful123

             Wow… I sincerely do love the analogy of the flower bed and the rich soil also producing weeds along with flowers. As someone once told me about one of my thoughts: “that is a GOD moment” (only the Holy Spirit could have brought such explanation to your mind; wouldn’t you agree?)

            And God sure does know about weeds and wheat. (you may have read that biblical passage) God surely does know His own and that even within his own church there will be doubters, betrayers, prideful types looking for position (James and ? Andrew was it who asked to sit on right and left of Jesus’ throne when they get to heaven) He knows the ‘heart’ of all.

            Good Catholics: say prayers regularly (at home) Grace before meals,
            say the Rosary occasionally, go to confession as the Spirit calls,
            attend Mass as obligated (daily work duties prevent daily Mass)
            but I ‘think’ I ‘hear you’ … other than all that, they are ‘just like’ any
            other person in the workplace. You can’t distinguish them from the
            atheist or the born again protestant – in the cubicle; right? They don’t
            talk of their faith like the born again protestant.

            You can’t tell the difference in them from ‘the world’ until you really
            get to know them – right? Seems you can’t get deeper in your faith
            life than doing all you say; AND not making a big deal of it to others.
            They responsibly take care of their duties and obligations to family
            and well they know if they were to speak ‘spirit’ in a secular work
            environment – they’d be ostracized or ‘bullied out of that job’ and that
            wouldn’t be doing their loved one’s much good would it? I think I wrote
            this to Becky313; we just have to hit the ball and get ‘on base’ ….
            we don’t necessarily have to SAVE THE WORLD from themselves.
            Recall the biblical passage of Lazarus the poor guy who begged
            while the rich guy never gave him anything. Lazarus wound up in
            heaven and the rich guy ‘down below’ in the fire. Rich guy said
            Please send Lazarus to warn my brothers so they don’t wind up
            here… The Lord said “they have the prophets, if they don’t listen
            to them; they won’t be convinced even if one were to rise from the
            dead.” We don’t have to wear our piety on our sleeve. We don’t
            have to reflect all the time (as I wrote Becky; too much introspection
            isn’t good)  Just LIVE THAT TRUTHFUL LIFE of Sacramental life
            and then go and work the work God gave us to work. Such an
            ordinary life.

            http://hbgdiocese.org/default.aspx?PageID=bf8c4151-c9f5-494b-b271-93957fa07526

            A ‘hidden’ ordinary life…like that of God incarnate. (the linked
            article says it best) but all He requires of us to be ‘extraordinary’
            and have a deep relationship is to live a GOOD LIFE. It seems
            like nothing to some. Such persons are just ‘coasting’ (it’s not
            coasting; it’s maturity: not falling for the baiting words of others
            who want to rile us up, not getting tense at the evils of the world
            that they have not been called to solve- but TRUST GOD and
            keep on working. (if they are called to run for political office
            they’d do so or called to consecrate their life as a deacon or
            priest they’d do so. All God wants of us is … ? FAITH IN
            HIM and then GO AND LIVE THAT FAITH.  Believe me, it
            used to be easier but these days… ‘the world’ is getting more
            brazen in trying to pull THE GOOD down to their level.
            C’MON… get mad ‘nyaaaaaah nyaaaaaa

            Just an ordinary life of prayer, fasting quietly when church
            says so or of one’s own mind without announcing it (as those
            do who stand on street corners as you hear read at Lent)
            Holy Communion weekly, Confession as called, married
            in the church and see to it children receive instruction in the
            faith when young, giving alms quietly (charity) not gossiping
            not griping.

            YES I HEAR YOU ALSO… in the church there are some who
            are SO DEVOUT.  Not a BAD WORD towards anything comes
            out of them.They practically wear a hair shirt and would go
            out to the desert to purify thier lives.

            I HEAR YOU ALSO…some folk want holiness and join every
            church committee and make sure Father sees thier devotion
            to the church.(I’m sure at daily work they make sure BOSS
            sees thier every good also) They are trying but they aren’t
            quite there yet.

            I misjudged your intent; you do take your spiritual life seriously
            if you are looking at those who are working harder at growth
            with more ‘seriousness’ (praying the liturgy of the hours’ or
            actively doing more penance for venial sins or reaching out
            a bit more to others than the ordinary Catholic – WHO IS
            GOOD for their state of life (duty to God, duty to family)
            and wondering somewhat perhaps to the slightly younger
            brother looking at the GOOD big brother with a AWWW
            DA-AAAAD … MO-OOOOOOM  do I hafta?  Perhaps that
            is ‘just you’ … looking and getting scared you aren’t doing
            enough.  So… PRAY… ask God to share where you can
            be ‘better’ … if He wants you to be more openly pious
            you’ll know… if he wants you to improve a bit in the spirit
            maturity area (more organized, more focused at work,
            better spouse or parent or whatever… maybe that’s what
            makes you cringe…

            I think we are all led to improve upon ourselves…
            trouble out there is many are pointing out the who’s
            wrong and who’s not and ignoring their own image.

            Don’t judge who’s coasting along and who’s working
            harder. Could be THE SPIRIT wants you to ‘do it just
            a bit better’ (never mind who’s doing what… could be
            GOD wants to lead YOU to a new area and you are
            reluctant to leave the comfortable existence you have.
            Could that be the root question? Pray and seek out
            a parish priest…

            I think I got your gist… GOOD QUESTION… GOD
            is always calling all of us to do more… but it’s not
            for ‘us’ (and I’m guilty also at times) it’s not judge
            who’s coasting and who is doing God’s will for
            the state of life they are at.  

            Did I help?

          • faithful123

             The effect of ignoring a call to improve where we are at? Since we can’t
            see more than a few feet before us (unlike God who is omnicient) The
            effects can leave a world a bit less happy. If the Wright Brothers were
            content to just fix bicycles and make their living; there would be no
            aircraft for a few more years (who knows how long) What other benefits to society would have not occurred. If someone is called to marry and
            chooses to remain single; how many new persons will not come to be
            and perhaps find a cure for a dreaded disease OR just make a neighbor
            happy when they shovel their driveway of snow (saving them a backache)
            You saw ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ I’m sure… look how a town changed because someone wasn’t there to act ‘in God’s will’ …

            I suppose that’s the effect of HEARING some whisper of a call to
            do something better and choosing to stay comfortable for self.

            TOUGH decision; I’ll say a prayer ‘for you’ (God will know who) and
            I do think you should speak to your parish priest.

          • faithful123

             God would not call us away from our current obligations. I don’t think so.
            So, discernment is important. If a father has a family to feed, he’s not going to call that one to give up a job to ‘save the whales’ or ‘be a missionary’ in Russia. I doubt that would be an authentic call.

            Most Catholics live ‘ordinary lives’ and are faithfully performing their
            Catholic duties. They make it look easy; because of the FAITH they
            have in who leads. But, lots of others could not just step into their
            shoes and do it as well. Not every person is called to marriage.
            Some women are meant to serve in ‘office work’ / some are
            called to teach, some to preach, some to be assistants…oh wait
            this too is a biblical passage. Find that verse and reflect on that
            one as well. God doesn’t expect more than we can give. (no,
            he doesn’t…if he calls; He ‘the boss’ believes we are up for the
            job and He will lead us ‘to it.’  That’s what I think. Profession
            or labor. Do it with a smile FOR HIM. (remember who we are
            working for) 

            From experience, I can say it’s getting harder because there’s not
            a lot of good spirited folk left. (everyone is wounded and grumpy
            and we walk on eggshells in office)  Not many know God, in my
            opinion. It’s strictly a money oriented world. Makes working hard.

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

      I don’t mind… thank you for caring enough about others to take the time to respond.

    • Becky Ward

      For Love!

      Would you want anyone to love you ‘part way’ or when it was convenient, or just when they remembered?  That’s not real love, and God wants 100% of our love.

      St. Therese of Lisieux tells us that in heaven we will all be perfectly happy and she provides imagery to help us understand the differences in how heaven will be for those who lived as saints on earth and those who did not.  The image is of glasses, like drinking glasses……we are the glasses and we will all be full………..some of us will be larger glasses and some will be smaller according to how much we loved and lived as God asked us to in this life.

      Another image (my own) is that of stadium seating…..like for concerts or sports events……..would you rather have front row seats with Jesus for eternity or ‘nose bleed’ seats? You’re in heaven either way……..

      The justice in this is that once we have died………..the devil will no longer be trying to deceive us by lying and telling us good is evil and evil is good, or that what we are doing isn’t really that big of a deal…….we will be stripped of all our excuses, rationalizations, and justifications, and will see ourselves and our life as God does.  Then we will choose whether we will go to heaven, to purgatory, or to hell, based on how we lived.

      The Church tells us what the minimum is……………this is because our ‘fallen nature’ makes it hard for us to see and know what is truly good for our soul…………the world drags us down and we are easily distracted.  But Jesus always taught taking the ‘high road’ and going the ‘extra mile’…..He lived what He taught.  Yes!  We can get into heaven by living the minimum, but eternity is a long, long time…………….I want to be a BIG glass!!

      One last thought……….the Church teaches about ‘The Universal call to holiness’.  This does, in fact mean all of us……..God does call each of us.  The question is whether or not we are paying attention or listening, and if we are………….are we willing to pay the price of being a true disciple (follower) of Christ.

      Few lay people have ever heard of the three stages of the interior life……. and if we have heard about it we usually think it’s meant for religious and priests…………….they are the ones who get ‘called’, right?  Nope!!  We are called too……………..this site and lots of other good resources are coming into existence to address this issue.

      As Catholics we need to learn what the Church really teaches…..and this is all contained in the Catechism of the catholic Church………..we need to take advantage of all the saints who have walked this path before us, and who teach us by their example how to deal with problems in our daily lives…….there are lots of saints who were married.

      We need to be actively SEEKING……..(thinking, pondering, wondering, and praying, genuinely from the heart)  If we are…………..we have The Lord’s promise that we will find Him.

      May God Bless us all on this journey!

      Here’s a link to a very good teaching on purgatory by St. Therese.

      http://www.franciscan-sfo.org/ap/litfwrpu.htm

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

      JustMe, I have been sort of tied up and off my beloved Laptop and Website, but your comments disturbs me. I would very humbly just ask you one little Question, hoping you will think about it HARD ENOUGH and reply it to yourself:

      What in your Life is the MOST IMPORTANT GOAL YOU WISH TO ACHIEVE before you come before the Seat of Judgement of God to account to Him what you did with the Greatest Gift of Life He freely gave you out of His Unfathomable Love for you?????

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  • faithful123

    heart of a servant? Like that of ‘in title’ admin. asst. in an office setting?
    By occupation, that is what I love best. (not a high wage position by any means; but I loved assisting administrators so they could better serve in their positions) filing, typing, setting up forms, creating fliers (I have an
    art school background) photocopying, faxing, sending mailings, filling
    coffee machine, assuring things are in order. SERVING is what I like.

    I’d love to just do it quietly and go home. (I was bullied out of my
    entry level position as such)

    I’m not a fighter, sometimes I think I’m a wimp…but generally I can
    speak up better than when in high school. Speak up ‘nicely’…
    Getting heard – in a ‘ego’ world…is the difficulty.

    • Becky Ward

      Yes.  Like that.  The devil tempts us in opposition to the grace/virtues God has given us.  (I recognize some of my own in you.) What especially triggered this memory of the ‘heart of the servant’ is the many references you’ve made to ‘being a doormat…or letting people walk all over you.’  My formation director/Spiritual Father used that term ‘doormat’ as he shared a story about a friend who was suffering terribly…..his marriage was troubled, he had trouble at work…….people always telling him how this should be or that should be.  (And he was the boss.)  Anyway, once he realized that in his heart he wanted to serve, but was tempted to do just the opposite……..by wanting everybody to listen to him (instead of listening more to his employees, wife, pastor, etc..)….and to have others do things for him, (instead of serving…..)…temptations to ‘do it his way’ (when he could easily give preference to another…)…to put his needs before others (when that’s the direct opposite of what his heart told him)((maybe like the voice that tells you you’re a wimp?))    Anyway, this guy goes to work one morning and brings the coffee pot and serves the nastiest woman in the building (whom he knew loved her coffee.)……..then he went around emptying all the garbage cans, and doing other “menial” work.  Everybody fell in love with him as the best boss ever!!  And he found peace because he was living according to the plan that God was calling him to. 

      I can’t tell you how many times during my formation I said, “But surely there’s a time when praying isn’t enough!  Somebody needs to DO something…….or SAY something.  This isn’t right!!”

      Nope………..I needed to pray more, listen more to others, and really, truly, reflect (Like a cow chewing its cud) over and over, on these things that were bothering me.

      I too found peace…….and I believe that this is more than the ‘calm’ you mention ……….because it’s HIS peace………nothing I earned, except maybe by learning to keep my mouth shut (more around my family than anywhere else, because I’d quit my job.) but even that was possible only through God’s grace…..pure gift.

      Now I know that when things start buzzing in my head……and I’m feeling like I’m getting ready for battle……even just verbally……I need to back off, find a quiet spot (in Adoration whenever possible) and wait until I can hear what Jesus is saying through my heart.

      This whole ‘Interior Life’ is fascinating!!  I am dumb-struck that we don’t hear more about it……….but am also realizing that we ARE in a new time for the Church……maybe that “New Springtime’ that Blessed JP II spoke of and it’s exciting to be on the front-lines.  This website, and other organizations are doing a lot of good work with the laity; and that’s important because the devil has been busy, busy, busy, (have you heard the acronym for busy? – – Buried Under Satan’s Yoke!), and there are a lot of misguided, mis educated souls teaching and leading in the Church……in some places…….teaching us that things are different now……and promoting outright lies…but then satan is the father of lies so we should probably expect this. 

      This is getting too long……bottom line; we need to make sure that the faith we believe is really what the Church (headquarters in Rome) teaches…….and not a watered-down or sugar-coated version of it. But how do we know????

      If you want to learn more here’s a link to the DJM Formation Program that I have been through.

      http://www.disciplesofjesusandmary.org/whatIsDjm.html

      Our problem is that we think God needs our help!! And yes, in a way He does need us as instruments to do His will……but it’s usually not quite how we picture it! :)

      Blessings………..

      • judeen

        really really like what you said.. the frustration of temptation of emotions..  and the power of love..  to stand up for the truth.. what God really wants us to live.. beyond our feelings and emotions…    to many churches has people in charge that have not faith… and dont even practice the sacrament of confession , yet they have say about what is going on in church… ! do you see anything wronge with this?  thanks for sharing will check out the site.

        • Becky Ward

          Awesome!!  :)

  • Cecilia

    Thank you, thank you for “what is & is not Spiritual Direction” I have downloaded these words & intend to hand them to all who request instruction. For some reason, some folks believe S.D. means to become their conscience. The Holy Spirit is left out as though He doesn’t exist & there is no understanding for the phrase “take this to your personal prayer time.” A friend of mine said that she will not even try to direct another unless that person has personal prayer in their lives because there is really nothing to direct if this doesn’t exist.

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

      Funny you should say this. My first intent behind my book is to help directees get more out of spiritual direction. My second is that directors would have potential directees read it so that the directee really had an understanding of what they are asking for and their responsibility in the process.

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

        Well, Dan. If that is what inspired you to write this Book, the Holy Spirit certainly is the Author of this Book…..and I mean that with all my heart. Just what I need as I wait upon Him to give me a new S.D.

        • LizEst

          Still praying for you and this intention! God bless you Mary.

  • Guest

    very well put! very insightful read.

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

    Dan, no sooner do I go on some Divine Mercy Excursions and then come to find such wonderful, educative and informative responses from our Family that I am forced to set a whole day apart to catch up. God bless you all, the RCSD Team and our Worldwide Family.

  • LizEst

    Glad to know the book is still on schedule. Thank you, Dan, for keeping all of us updated. God bless you.

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

      Pray!

      • LizEst

        Praying!

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