Wanted: Spiritual Director

I need a spiritual director.  It’s not safe to develop my spiritual life alone.  I need a spiritual fitness coach like my body needs a fitness coach.  Where do I begin?  How do I know he’s the right one?  What can I expect in spiritual direction?  Basic questions that are surprisingly hard to answer.  Fortunately, God did not abandon me.  I see the light.  And, I’d like to share, in case others might be facing the same problem.

There was an Advent Penance Service on Monday.  My wife and I went, and as I was doing my examination of conscience, I recognized the threat my spiritual life was facing: I was on fire for God, but I am constantly being led astray.  I would lose spiritual battles either from the devil’s tricks, the world’s seduction, or the weakness of my flesh.  There was a pattern of failure: the more in love I am with God, the more vicious the spiritual struggle.  It’s especially difficult after Confession, or on Sundays after Communion.

So, during Confession on Monday, I asked my priest where I could get spiritual direction.  He was open to the task, but I suspected he might be too busy.  I didn’t want to put him more on the spot than I already was at the moment.  I mean, he just absolved me from my sins.  It seemed ungrateful to guilt him into such a commitment.  Although I left feeling the sublime joy of reconciliation, the question of finding a spiritual director stayed with me.

The need for a director is becoming more pressing because of other decisions I’m considering.  I’m afraid of going down the wrong path.  I’ve been discerning whether I should volunteer as a catechist, for example, in addition to singing in the choir.  Should I get a MA in Theology or just get continuing education courses as a catechism instructor?  Long-term, like when my daughters are older, I am discerning whether God is calling me to the permanent diaconate.  These are some big decisions.  I still have a full-time job as a diplomat, another full-time job as a husband & father.  There’s so much room for pride to sneak in, temptations for shortcuts, and distractions in worldly pursuits.  A spiritual director, I hope, will help me see my blind spots.  Like an athletic coach, he would see where I need training and give me an idea (a direction) on how to win the championship title: a faithful child of God.  Sainthood.  Eternal life with my Creator.

God bless Dan Burke and Fr. John Bartunek!  They created a wonderful website about spiritual direction, and I found many comments highly recommending their book, “Navigating the Interior Life: Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God.”  I quickly got my questions answered:  What is spiritual direction?  It’s “a relationship through which we come to better know, love, and follow Christ through the help of a kind of spiritual coach.”  He lists what spiritual direction is not:

  • It is not a boss/employee relationship: just as with a coach in any sport, the athlete is the one that is ultimately in control.
  • It is not confession: while one’s confessor also used to be spiritual directors, that is no longer necessarily the case.
  • It is not spiritual friendship: like a coach, the directee needs to be firmly challenged, pushed, and encouraged toward concrete progress.
  • It is not a Catholic self-help program: it’s not just a quick pep talk and then we go about on our own again.  There’s a relationship that’s needed for the director to see one’s blind spots.
  • It’s not psychological counseling: one needs to seek specially-trained professionals for serious emotional/psychological issues.
  • It is not a one-time emergency-room event
  • It is not wandering around with a spiritual companion

The main focus of spiritual direction is union with God.  The central aim of spiritual direction is to help guide the directee to purposefully, consistently, and substantively grow in their relationship with God and neighbor.  It’s about developing a love relationship with God that inevitably spills into all other areas of our lives.

God has yet to provide me a spiritual director, but He’s letting me know that I’m not alone.  He’s sending help.  I just need to be patient, pray for additional guidance, and be persistent about this goal.  It’s a good thing.  Our Father loves giving us good things.  It’s all about timing.

Resisting Confession

John 20:21-23, “As the Father sent me, even so I send you….  Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

When my wife suggested I go to Confession this past Saturday, I admit that I did not want to go.  My mind kept making excuses:

  • I’m not ready to confess my sins, yet.
  • My sins are venial, not mortal.  (Not quite true.  Although not mortal, my sins were “grave” and required the Sacrament to reveal the light within me, to make my body worthy of the Holy Spirit’s residence.)
  • I already confessed to God in my prayers; I don’t need to confess to a priest.
  • I’m embarassed to confess to Father John.  (I ended up confessing behind the screen to the new priest.)
  • It’s only been two months since my last confession (It was actually five months.)
  • When I briefly got lost going to Church, the thought of driving around and around until the time for confession was over crossed my mind.

I did a brief search and found a great article on Catholic Answers on Confession.  I reposted a portion of it on another blog entry.  It helped me think about the importance of this Sacrament, again.

When I read Scott Hahn’s “Lord, Have Mercy” a couple years ago, I remember being deeply impressed by the power of confession.  Angels would find my soul indistinguishable from that of a newborn baby.  It is a seldom-used weapon against Satan and his demons.  I need to re-read the book, but I remember telling myself to go to Confession often if I want to stay on the road to Heaven.  The devil can’t actually walk on this road, but he can throw dirt and mud on the souls who are on the path.  After sin, my soul will be covered in this dirt and mud.  I would feel ashamed to continue on this road to Heaven and be tempted to take another path, or stop walking altogether.  Confession pours holy water onto my soul, washing away the dirt and filth.  It makes my soul feel clean.  I may still feel guilt, but I’m no longer ashamed to walk on the road, again.

In the end, I ignored the rationalizations of my mind.  By force of will and the grace of God, I made it to Church.  I stood in line for 30 minutes before my turn in the confessional.  When I received the absolution, I envisioned my soul being wiped clean.  I felt like how I felt before after Confession: a lightness of being and gratitude.

Confession | Catholic Answers

Confession | Catholic Answers.  This is a great article on the Sacrament of Reconciliation, courtesy of Catholic.com.


Are all of our sins—past, present, and future—forgiven once and for all when we become Christians?  Not according to the Bible or the early Church Fathers.  Scripture nowhere states that our future sins are forgiven; instead, it teaches us to pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:12).

This sacrament is rooted in the mission God gave to Christ in his capacity as the Son of man on earth to go and forgive sins (cf. Matt. 9:6).  Thus, the crowds who witnessed this new power “glorified God, who had given such authority to men” (Matt. 9:8; note the plural “men”).  After his resurrection, Jesus passed on his mission to forgive sins to his ministers, telling them, “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. . . .  Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:21–23).

[Original article]

Two Pieces of Advice During Confession

I went to confession on Saturday.  The priest who took my confession was very good.  I valued his advice and I wanted to make note of them here and maybe reflect on them more later.

I mentioned how I intellectually understood that my sins were wrong, but I couldn’t understand it in my heart.  The priest said that we do things that are good, and there is something deceptively good in sin that attracts us to commit it.  This deception is what keeps us going back to sin, even though we know the sin is wrong.  It reminded me of the deception the serpent committed to get Adam and Eve to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

I also confessed how I didn’t want to make my blog and YouTube channel public to my friends and colleagues because I did not want to be persecuted.  I wasn’t afraid of losing friends, but I was afraid of people not liking me.  The priest advised that there are great blessings in being persecuted when it is united with Christ.  At that moment, I felt that I needed to make KeenforGod public as soon as possible.  I was reminded of something Peter Kreeft once wrote about living the Christian life, “If you’re not being persecuted, then you’re not doing it right.”

My penance was to reflect on the Passion of Christ and the persecution he suffered.

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