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Question Title Posted By Question Date
Spiritual Direction Carla Monday, December 22, 2008


I recently realized that I have been trying to give my heart to God my entire life, but never knew my heart enough to actually do so. In college, I began to pray in a more intuitive way (which I now know to be meditation or contemplation), though in the end I did not know what to do with this method, or what God was telling me, so I abandoned it. I did not pray for four years (aside from robotically attending Sunday Mass), and was so averse to rote prayer during that time that I was rather dumbfounded, wondering what in the world was happening to my spiritual life and if I was indeed a horrible person because of my total lack of fervor. Eventually I stopped worrying and became complacent about it.

Last year, I began going to Mass daily because it was an objectively good thing to do, and I began struggling through rote prayers. It was only a matter of time before my contemplative heart began beating again, reviving me interiorly. Indeed, I was like the girl whom everyone thought was dead, and then Jesus said, "Little girl, get up!" and I was alive again.

Because I eventually reach a point where my intellect cannot understand what is going on in my soul, I sought spiritual direction, but it ended quite badly. The priest I asked was not living an interior life, he refused to direct, began telling me his sins, gossiping about all the other priests in the diocese, etc. I felt as though it was a classic case of the blind leading the blind. It ended very badly.

I tried to continue praying, but many things happened to distract me. The fire in my heart died out. I began to doubt the reality of my interior life. For over a year now, I have ceased to pray, though I attend Mass regularly. I know it may sound silly, but after failed spiritual direction, I felt emotionally so betrayed, so discouraged from the journey. I felt burnt out. My heart was like lead inside me.

Then two weeks ago, a priest at our parish said three inspiring sentences that led me to open my heart and begin the journey again. The problem is, I am at a loss. I had sincerely tried everything right last time. I had gone to Mass, received the sacraments regularly, sought direction, spent time in prayer.

This time, I feel like I am beginning in darkness, a darkness of the understanding. I feel the need for spiritual direction--real direction--but I do not trust the process. However, I let God lead me past that mistrust, and I thought I had sincerely discerned that a) I should seek spiritual direction and b) God had pointed out the priest. I mustered up the courage to ask the priest to formally direct me, and he flat out said no, he didn't have time.

My reaction was a stab of pain and confusion, for I thought it was made quite clear to me that this priest would be able to direct me. So I am in a what? Unfortunately, devout priests are rare in our diocese, but ones who understand the contemplative heart are even rarer. I am trying to trust God, but I do not know how to proceed. Any suggestions would be helpful. Thank you for your time.

Question Answered by Bro. Ignatius Mary, OLSM

Dear Carla:

Merry Christmas!

I am sorry you had a bad experience with a Spiritual Director and are having a hard time finding a new one. A good Director is hard to find. I would recommend to you Father DuBay's book, "Seeking Spiritual Direction: How to Grow the Divine Life Within" This book defines what is involved and what is not involved in Spiritual Direction, how to find a Director, and what to do if a Director cannot be found.

It is important that you do not allow your feelings to dictate your spiritual life. Feelings will often lead you astray. Instead you need to devoutly offer yourself to God in prayer even if you do not feel like it. Many people go through dry times in prayer, but perseverance anyway is important. God will honor your perseverance.

You also need to be careful about concluding that God is leading you to a particular Spiritual Director. We can easily misinterpret these leadings. If the priest you approached was too busy to take you as a directee then that pretty much says that he did not feel called to provide you with spiritual direction. If this was a divine appointment he would have felt called provide you with spiritual direction (unless he was not listening to God). In any event, you need to pray for God to send you a Director, but let it just happen -- do not try to "identify" the person, rather "discover" who the person is. Part of how to do that is to ask people about spiritual direction. One of them might say yes.

But, do not look for or expect something emotional in your prayer. Contemplation is not an emotional activitiy, rather it is a spiritual one. Instead offer your prayers devoutly and faithfully. If an emotional experience happens, praise God; if no emotional experience happens, praise God.

Begin slowly. I would advise spending time before the Blessed Sacrament. Sit there quietly and contemplate our Lord. At home you might read a passage from Scripture and then mediate on it.

What do you do with it? You love God with it. The purpose of contemplation is intimacy with God. We contemplate to get closer to God. As we grow closer and closer to God we find ourselves living better lives, we find our minds conforming to the mind of Christ, we find ourselves on the road to holiness.

Contemplate and meditate to know and be intimate with God.

God Bless,
Bro. Ignatius Mary

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