Pope Benedict and Spiritual Direction

Dear Friends,

If you are not a regular pope-watcher you may have missed Pope Benedict’s frequent encouragement regarding the importance of the ancient and powerful practice of spiritual direction. Here’s excerpts from a recent article from CNA that contains some interesting insights:

Pope Benedict XVI highlighted a saint from Turin as a model for priests in light of the recently concluded Year for Priests. The Holy Father said during his catechesis at Wednesday’s general audience that St. Joseph Cafasso offers a reminder of the importance of having a “spiritual guide” in life.

In his catechesis, he recalled the 150th anniversary of the death of St. Joseph Cafasso, a 19th century priest from the northern Italian city of Turin, who was a moral theology professor and a respected spiritual director.

Pope Benedict said of the saint, “His secret was simple: being a man of God, doing, in the small daily activities, ‘that which could give the greatest glory to God and in favor of souls.”

Among those who looked to him for direction was the young St. John Bosco, also a resident of Turin, of whom the Holy Father noted that the Fr. Cafasso never sought to create in him “a disciple in his image and likeness.”

Don Bosco, the Pope recalled, imitated his teacher “in the human and priestly virtues … but maintained his own attitudes and his own specific vocation, a sign of the wisdom of the spiritual director and of the intelligence of the disciple …”

“Dear friends,” said Pope Benedict, “this is a precious teaching for all those who are committed to the formation and education of the young generations and also a strong call back to how much it is important to have a spiritual guide in our lives, who can help us to understand what it is that God wants from us.”

St. Cafasso also made a lasting mark in his ministry to those in jail, said the Pope, explaining that he was known to spend numerous hours hearing inmates’ confessions, thus developing a “fruitful” apostolate with prisoners who, through him, re-encountered God’s infinite mercy.

For the saint’s dedication to prison ministry, he was named the patron of Italian prisons and, years after his death, Pope Pius XII pointed to him as a model for all priests who hear confessions and give spiritual direction.

Pope Benedict urged clergy today to look to him for direction, saying, “May his example encourage all priests in faithful witness to the Gospel.”

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