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Spiritual Direction

Christian spiritual direction is “the help given by one Christian to another which enables that person to pay attention to God’s personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with this God, and to live out the consequences of the relationship.”

(William A. Barry, SJ and William J. Connolly, SJ, Center for Religous Development, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA)

What is spiritual direction?

Spiritual direction is a time-honoured term for a conversation, ordinarily between two persons, in which one person explores with another spiritually mature and skilled person about the ways in which God may be encountering her or his life, directly or indirectly.  

In our postmodern post Christendom age, many people dislike the term "spiritual direction" because it sounds like one person giving directions, or orders, to another. They may prefer "spiritual companionship," or some other expression. What we call it doesn't make any real difference. The reality remains that the experience is conversations about life in the light of faith. 

Although spiritual direction has had a burst of new life in the last 20 years or so, it is really quite ancient. Across both the Hebrew and the Christian Scriptures, we find people seeking spiritual counsel and in the early church, people flocked to hermits in the desert for spiritual counsel. Across the centuries we find striking examples of directors, most from the Catholic tradition. Today, spiritual directors come from many traditions.

It is often offered as a one-to-one, or group experience, in private sessions with spiritual mentors who have most likely completed extensive formation for the ministry of spiritual direction.

What spiritual direction is not ...

Spiritual Direction is not counselling, pastoral care, psychology or therapy, although, there are times when aspects of these helping disciplines may appropriately occur within spiritual direction.

How often do you meet?

This is arranged between you and the director. The time between visits varies, but people seeking spiritual direction (called either pilgrims or directees) usually meet with their spiritual director on a monthly basis and take a break over the Christmas/January period.

How long do I stay in spiritual direction?

Spiritual direction is normally a long-term process – a thoughtful reflection on your faith journey. To help clarify this and to increase your discernment you may, however, have several different directors over many years.

It is helpful to review any new spiritual direction relationship after a few visits to ensure you are comfortable with the process and the director. At some centres, it is policy that sessions finish at the end of each year and are renewed as desired by the pilgrim at the beginning of the next year.

What can you expect in a Spiritual Direction session?

What to expect in Christian Spiritual Direction by Thomas Hart

A Spiritual Direction session involves exploring a pilgrim’s life journey in light of the presence of God. It may include times of silence, times of prayer and contemplation and conversation. Some Spiritual Directors use tools such as poetry, art materials, guided imagery or meditation. Above all the Spiritual Direction space is about you and your journey. It is a safe place where you can be yourself and talk about any aspect of your life.

It involves:

  • the guide or director listening carefully to the pilgrim reflecting prayerfully on his/her life
  • both pilgrim and director seeking to pay attention to the presence of God in the pilgrim’s life
  • co-discerning – noticing the ways in which the pilgrim responds to God and the way he/she resists God
  • nurturing the life of God in the pilgrim and encouraging the expression of this life in ordinary and practical living

It is often offered as a one-to-one, or group experience, in private sessions with spiritual mentors who have most likely completed extensive formation for the ministry of spiritual direction.

Who can be a Spiritual Director?

Spiritual Direction formation training is open to anyone but acceptance into a formation program normally involves an initial and then ongoing discernment process as well as the completion of required exercises and written work. Spiritual Directors come from a wide range of backgrounds such as counselling, teaching, nursing, ministry and business. They undertake a formation course over a number of years and agree to peer or individual supervision and to see their own Spiritual Director on a regular basis. It is wise to check with any Director what training they have received and if they are attached to a particular centre.

How much does spiritual direction cost?

Spiritual Directors may charge for their services on a session basis.  Some charge nothing. It is something you need to discuss with your director who will be sensitive to your financial situation.

Is there a Code of Ethics?

Yes, many centres require that their spiritual directors agree to adhere to a Code of Ethics. This is something you should discuss with your director.

How do I find a spiritual director?

While spiritual directors work as an individuals in a one-on-one relationship with their directees or pilgrims, many directors are part of a network or centre, so one of the best ways to find a director is to start with some of these centres and find out if they offer spiritual direction services.

Many of them also offer retreat or quiet day opportunities as well as short seminars on spirituality and prayer.

You may find the following links helpful for locating a Spiritual Director or a Spiritual Direction Formation programme:



Wellspring (Baptist):www.wellspringcentre

Campion Centre (Jesuits spirituality): Campion Centre of Ignatian Spirituality

Heart of Life (Catholic Sacred Heart): www.heartoflife.abundance.org.au/formation

Living Well (Anglican): Contact john.stewart@livingwellcentre.org.au


MacKillop Hill Spirituality Centre

123 William Street, Forth, Tasmania 7310
Phone: 03 6428 3095 Fax: 03 6428 3467 
Email: rsjforth@bigpond.net.au
Web: www.sosj.org.au

Emmanuel Centre
Emmanuel Pastoral and Spirituality Centre
123 Abbot Street
Telephone: (03) 6334 1082

Josephite Mission and History Centre
Sisters of St Joseph, Tasmania
PO Box 37 (67 Clare St)
P. (03) 6228 1628
E. josephite.mission@sosj.org.au

Maryknoll Retreat and Conference Centre
15 Home Avenue
P. (03) 6229 3109
E. maryknoll@bigpond.com

South Australia

Loyola CIS – Norwood
137 William Street
P. (08) 8364 3834
E.  loyola@cis.jesuit.org.au


Sevenhill College Retreat Centre 
Box 13

P. (08) 8843 4062
E.  sevenhill@cis.jesuit.org.au

The St Oswald Centre for Spirituality

5 St Ann’s Place
P. (08) 8373 1501
E.  oswald.emmanuel@internode.on.net

Western Australia

Dayspring Centre for Christian Spirituality
68 Waverley Street
DIANELLA WA 6059P. (08) 9275 3773
E.  info@dayspring.org.au

New Norcia
Great Northern Highway
P. (08) 96548018
E.  communication@newnorcia.wa.edu.au

The above information is adapted with permission from The Wellspring Centre’s brochure, Personal Spiritual Direction (April 2009).

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