Dear Catholic Exchange:
I read your faith question Can I Go to Confession Online?. While I can very well understand the answer to that question, I wonder what, if anything, stands in the way of online spiritual direction. My priest, as are most priests, is VERY busy—he pastors two parishes with no assistance. We have a Catholic therapist who comes once a week, and while he is a very good man and very helpful, he charges $70 a visit. I wonder why retired priests, deacons or brothers/sisters couldn’t offer spiritual direction through this and other Catholic websites. It certainly would be helpful.
Thank you for your website and for your attention to my question.
It is desired that spiritual direction be available to Catholics striving for Christian perfection. It is a sign of our troubled times that so many priests are too busy to guide souls in their spiritual life, feel incompetent to be spiritual directors, or, worse, do not want to be spiritual directors. Even the sacrament of Confession has fallen on hard times in many places, and this necessarily affects the situation when the spiritual confessor should also be the spiritual director (since it is helpful that good spiritual direction be given at the same time as the confession of sins in the sacrament of Penance). In her time, St. Theresa of Avila lamented the difficulty of finding a good and learned spiritual director with whom one can candidly discuss anything related to one’s spiritual progress. While confession covers only the sins committed, spiritual direction addresses: one’s natural temperament with its favorable and unfavorable aspects; acquired good and bad habits; likes and dislikes; special difficulties, temptations and dangers; imperfections, and vulnerabilities.
By “online” it is presumed you mean by private e-mail. Would there not be some imprudence and possible danger in expressing candidly on some website—online—the condition of one’s soul? Would not such public access cause temptations and problems for other souls who would not ordinarily have been troubled by the spiritual difficulties peculiar to another soul and now bought to their explicit attention? It would also be contrary to humility to draw upon oneself the voyeuristic interest of all those strangers attracted to that particular website.
Perhaps one could communicate via e-mail with a trusted priest, religious or even layperson and receive a measure of spiritual direction (excluding, of course, confession of sins). Communication, however, is highly non-verbal. Via e-mail, the interpersonal communication essential to spiritual direction would be weakened. It does seem it would be best to keep trying to find a confessor willing to give spiritual direction or some retired priest or religious to do so within the context of a truly personal relationship.
United in the Faith,
Catholics United for the Faith
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Steubenville, OH 43952
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