Dear Catholic Spiritual Direction, how much are you supposed to reveal to your spiritual director on your first visit? Are you supposed to go back to your first sin, like a general confession? I have found a priest who is willing to be my spiritual director, and I just want to know how much and how far back should I discuss with him on my first meeting.
Great questions! I will address the easy one first.
What does your spiritual director want you to reveal in your first visit?
The answer to this will likely be very simple. Good directors know that the first and most important task is to make a personal connection with you. They know that trust and openness only develops in an atmosphere of personal relationship. So, the simple answer is to ask them what they would like you to come prepared to discuss.
With respect to the specifics of your question, I very much doubt that they will have any interest in sins of your distant past. Their task is to identify where you are today in your spiritual journey and to work with you to discern the path that God is calling you to today.
On to the more difficult question.
What do you want to reveal, or what should you reveal, in your first visit?
In my upcoming handbook on spiritual direction (Navigating the Interior Life – Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God), I discuss this in detail. Before you continue on to the exercises I suggest below, it would be good if you could print this out and take it with you, along with a notebook and pen, into adoration. Spend some time in quiet before the Lord and ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the things that are most important on your journey to him.
Basically, so that you are well prepared, you should review the spiritual history of your life in stages or periods (preteen, teen, young adult, etc.). Note the highlights and lowlights of your relationship with God. Take care to be clear about your current drive to seek spiritual direction. What triggered this impulse? Is there a significant life event that has you thinking more about eternal matters? For instance, often the death or severe illness of a loved one can draw us to the well of suffering and exploration of our spiritual lives.
Next, outline your present spiritual status. How is your prayer life? Are you struggling with any particular aspect of prayer? How often do you participate in the sacraments of the Church? How often do you go to confession, adoration, Mass, etc.? What is your perception of God? What motivates you in your spiritual life? Is your motivation based on fear? Is it based on duty? Is it based on love?
Finally, outline your goals for spiritual direction. What is it that you hope to gain from your work in spiritual direction?
Well, I could say a lot more (and do so in the book), but this should be a good start.
I would be grateful to hear how it goes (both the preparation and the meeting).
Be assured you are in my prayers.
Seek Him – Find Him – Follow Him,
PS: Don’t forget to review our collection of posts on the topic of spiritual direction. There is a great deal more that you would likely find helpful there.