Dear Fr. John,
I have read Dan Burke’s book, Navigating the Interior Life, and have diligently followed all of his suggestions for how to find a spiritual director. Frankly, I am frustrated to tears writing this to you. I have not found a director who actually believes the teachings of the Church. In fact, I have met with several priests and laypeople. Every one of them, to a person, disagrees with Humane Vitae, and they all are very soft on Church teachings like abortion etc. I AM FRUSTRATED! So, assuming that I can’t find a director, can I pursue spiritual friendships or what? I really don’t know what to do.
You are not alone! Many of our readers, and many others whom I know personally, have faced or are facing the same dilemma. The Avila Institute, in collaboration with Heart of Christ, and other faithful institutions have put together programs that are training more spiritual directors in order to help fill in this gap in today’s Church. In the meantime, what should you do? I would recommend three things:
First, don’t panic. It seems you have done your homework, making a reasonable search for an acceptable spiritual director. How could God expect you do do any more? Now you should continue the search, but without straining yourself. Simply keep your antennae up, keep asking around, and keep bringing this petition to God in prayer. He knows what you need, and he will sustain you even without a spiritual director, as long as you keep doing your part. And when the time is right, if you don’t give up, he may indeed connect you with a good director. Even some saints had to endure long periods of time without a quality confessor or spiritual director. It was painful for them too, but God can handle that.
Second, keep doing your part. Spiritual direction is an important means for spiritual growth, but it is not the only means. Continue your life of prayer – vocal, mental, and liturgical. Continue frequenting the sacraments. Continue seeking to love God and neighbor in Christ through the loving fulfillment of the Lord’s will, especially in obedience to the Commandments and in pouring yourself into the duties of your state in life. Continue seeking ways to support the Church and its work of evangelization. Continue sharing your faith with those who don’t know Christ or are estranged from him. Continue studying your faith and digging deeper through spiritual reading and other faith-formation activities. Pursue faith-based friendships insofar as they are possible for you… All of this can be done without the aid of spiritual direction. If you are making a decent effort to find a director, God will certainly not punish you if your search continues unsuccessfully! He will supply everything that is lacking, and more.
Third, ask questions. Even if you haven’t been able to find a trustworthy spiritual director, you have probably been able to identify some individuals who are wise and knowledgeable in the things of God. Bring to them the persistent questions that you face, the questions that just won’t go away. You may not get a fully satisfactory answer right away, but if you keep asking and keep searching, eventually light will come: “The one who searches, always finds” (Matthew 7:8).
Your frustration is understandable, but it is up to you to avoid letting it become a stumbling block on your spiritual journey. Humbly accept the status quo as it is, and continue doing what you can do. Stay calm, continue to trust, and keep seeking the face of the Lord. When you feel the frustration building up, turn it into a prayer – even a prayer full of complaints! – and then turn back to doing whatever it is you know the Lord is asking of you right now. He will take care of the rest.
Count on my prayers for this important intention, and thank you for your question. God bless you!
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr John Bartunek, LC, SThD