On Spiritual Direction

priestSome years ago my son, who is not burdened with visitations, told me he had prayed he might get a touch of what I had. He was surprised when I immediately panicked and begged him quite emotionally not to do that. I was almost in tears. My vehemence over it shook him up a bit. It even took me by surprise how intense my emotional fear for him was. He promised me he would withdraw that particular prayer.

Fearful that my son might think I considered my gift a curse rather than a blessing, I spoke to him again after I had thought about it a while. I told him I both understood and was profoundly grateful for the honor involved in it, but that the honor was something akin to that of being able to throw yourself on a live hand grenade: you do it in hopes that none you love will ever have to.

While still a teenager I came to admire the unique stark, spare prose of Ernest Hemingway. He used so few words to convey such complex emotional scenarios. In one of his novels, the protagonist lives an ethic of working very hard, getting all the finest details right while going to great pains to look as if he is hardly working at all. Something about that reverberated in me. Even then, it wearied me how many people I knew who accomplished next to nothing while going to great pains to make sure everyone around them saw their every exertion. I thought how true it was to Hemingway’s work, itself. It must have taken prodigious work to pack so much meaning and pathos into so few words, words that were so punchy and powerful – and I could feel his labors to make it look and feel effortless. I was so taken by it I largely adopted it as my own ethos. A political client once told me, “I don’t really know what it is you do, Charlie, or when you do it. I just know good things seem to happen when you’re around.” I still get a tingle of guilty pleasure at the memory of the compliment.

While I am not going to abandon a quirk that has both served me well and is deeply engrained in my psyche, I am going to set it aside for the purposes of this article.

In the Book of Joel it is prophesied that a time shall come when, even as things grow dark temporally, a great spiritual awakening shall rise to bring joy; “…your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions…” -Joel 2:28. One might reasonably suspect we have entered the beginnings of that time. Many hear the call. Many also cherish the little intimacies – the supernatural nudges – Our Lord gives to let you know He is near and give you heart. This is good.

I am a bit unnerved, though, at how many people seem eager to fully immerse themselves in the spiritual world and do spiritual battle in these times. You don’t know what you ask. Everything comes at a price. Can you bear the burden, the discipline, the deep self-denial and genuine suffering needed to burn away your vanity and self-will in order to be fruitful and steady? Most cannot. But most do not need to, for God calls them in another way.

It should be suggestive that for the first 30 years of regular visitations I told no one about the extent of it. I told friends about certain experiences and intimated at times at something larger, but I kept the fulness of it to myself for 30 years. I only went to another human being after I was frightened of the verisimilitude of the everyday world to what I had been being shown. Even then, I spent four months vetting the priest I would first talk to about it before venturing to open the matter – and I chose him not because he seemed likely to be enthused by such a thing, but to be skeptical. He did not suffer fools or foolishness gladly. As the priests I have worked with could tell you, I spent a good five years desperately trying to find a way out; NOT confirmation of what scared the bejabbers out of me.

Two people I am close to got a significant immersion into the fulness of the spiritual world. One sought it, one did not. One’s experience involved continued encounters with demonic forces without their masks on. The other had a perfectly benign, but intense, encounter. Both were shaken to their core – and prayed to just be able to do ordinary things and NEVER have to experience that sort of thing again.

People imagine that if they enter the realm of the spirits with eyes wide open, they will see wonders and dance with angels. Well, you might, if your sanity holds out long enough. But the only way that can happen is to hold fast to Christ. There are monsters here – and not the one-dimensional type found in movies. These monsters’ unrelenting purpose is to find your deepest fears, your deepest vanities and turn them against you to trick you into letting go of Christ. They will scare you; they will play at being feeble in order to deceive you that you can easily dispatch them on your own; they will tell you how special and magnificent you are; they will threaten and even influence those you love, holding them hostage before your eyes; they will show you how pathetic you are and every disreputable thing you have ever done; they will publicly shame you; they will privately shame you. They have a million different gambits – each custom designed for your weakest spot – all with the same goal in mind, to get you to let go of the Lord for a moment that they may crush you. It is unrelenting. There is a reason why the class of people most vulnerable to demonic possession are exorcists, themselves. It is not because they are weak, but because they are on the field of battle most frequently. If you are where the artillery is flying, you are much more likely to be wounded than if you are away from the field of battle.

On a few occasions in my life, people have told me with confidence that they could handle a demon. Every person who has ever said that to me has shortly thereafter undergone terrible demonic influence and been deeply wounded. Only Christ and His angels can handle a demon. All we can do is hold fast to Him. Others tell me they can always perfectly discern clean from unclean spirits. They are deceived – and about to get their head handed to them. Only unremitting submission to the Lord will prove discernment. Satan will appear to you as an angel of light and life – and is only unmasked when you turn it over to God. If you are getting a little uppity, the Lord will let the deceit persist for a time, to grind the knowledge into you that He is your only defense.

I see people get so excited over a spiritual encounter that they welcome any spirit, just to prove to themselves they are special. When people talk to me eagerly about engaging in spiritual warfare, I usually see children armed with a fistful of rocks eager to get in the middle of a tank and machine gun battle. You cannot be useful in battle until you know how small and frail the very best of us are. If you submit fully to the discipline of the Lord, He will not spare your feelings to prove that to you, to drive home the point that your only defense is to hold as tightly to Him as an Oak Tree’s roots hold to the ground.

An age of overt spiritual battle, an age of miracles is upon us. The first thing you must do, if you are beginning to live the prophecy of Joel, is to get solid spiritual direction. You must learn obedience before you are fit for anything else. Find a priest or a Christian counselor. Spend a few months getting to know them before making it permanent. Once you do, accept direction. Do not shop around for someone who will merely confirm what you already believe. If they tell you something you do not like, do not jump to another director – that is just defiance wearing a false cloak of humility. With a good director, you may often argue vigorously about a course – but when the argument is finished, follow direction. If it is wrong, there will be time enough to correct it. How, though, do you correct unyielding pride?

In the world, obedience is understood to mean the submission of the lesser to the greater. But in God’s economy, that is not what obedience is at all. It is a means of opening up channels of grace. The director is required to give careful consideration to what he recommends. If he does, even if he errs, it opens up a channel of grace, and fruit will be drawn from it. The directed must be obedient, at least to try for a good period to live the direction after having agreed with the director on it – and to revisit it with the director before trying another way. When both parties live their duty, grace abound and covers the occasional lapses by one or the other. Should both neglect their duty, the channels of grace will clog. After the Temple, Jesus was obedient to His mother and father. That should erase any doubts that it often pleases God to have the greater submit in Christian obedience to the lesser – and not in a pretended obedience, but real obedience – that grace may flow abundantly.

I worry that, because many people know I have several spiritual directors – one emeritus and two active – that it might encourage the sort of director-hopping that destroys the very purpose of direction. My directors are from the same order and are in regular communication with each other: one, in fact, is the immediate superior of another. I have NEVER played them against each other – and nothing is told to one that cannot be shared with the others (with the single exception of the identity of Menses). One of them often ‘scraps’ with me – we wrestle over how certain things should be handled. I delight in it, for it so refines and purifies my thought and prayer. But he and I resolve each of those things – I NEVER sneak about like a child and ask another to release me from what I have agreed to be bound to. If I played games like that I would expect – and deserve – to be dropped from direction. Ours is a peculiar situation that is needed and has worked because we live fully the spirit of direction in unusual circumstances. Do not director-hop. If you are going to change directors every time you don’t like the direction, you would be better off not having taken direction in the first place. Why add prideful disobedience to the multitude of sins you must already account for?

Accepting spiritual direction is important for any serious Christian. For those who regularly have any sort of extraordinary spiritual experiences, it is absolutely necessary to weed out deception, delusion and burn away vanity and self-will. For your own good, find a director who is rigorously skeptical – for at least 99 times out of a hundred these are matters of delusion or mania – but one who has not so abandoned hope in God that he reflexively dismisses all such experiences. Active spiritual encounters without solid direction is just a particularly virulent form of occultism – and more dangerous than playing with a Ouija Board. A director can be a priest, religious or properly trained layman. Ask at your parish, call the chancery of your diocese or check with local orders and houses.

I know more than a few priests read this – I have heard from several. To you I ask you to put a priority on taking on more spiritual direction. Christ only counts to one – and each of us is the one. Imitate Him. Advocate for such at meetings of fellow priests – and advocate at the diocesan level to establish training programs for spiritual direction.

I do not encourage people to go running into battle with spiritual forces. I certainly would not encourage people to rush into what I tried so long to get out of. But the battle comes. It is vital now to arm people with Christ, to help them direct their minds towards the reality that He is the source of their only help, through His angels and His saints.

Also for the priests, understand that actual possession is not nearly as common as it once was. It does not need to be. Actual possession requires a commitment on particular demons that limits the scope of their activity. In times of greater faith, it is more often necessary to demonic purposes. But in these times of deep cultural degeneracy, mere demonic influence gives dark forces all the benefits of possession without imposing the limitations inherent to it on them.

Finally, I am working on a booklet of guidelines for effective charismatic ministries, healing services and prayer meetings. It will be top priority when I return to Colorado later this month. I will have it available online and see if I can work with the woman who runs the Full of Grace Supply House to see if we can get an inexpensive print version available, too. I hope to have it up by September, but will be working with a group of people who have not been involved in charismatic ministries before to put together a reformed version of it.

About charliej373

Charlie Johnston is a former newspaper editor, radio talk show host and political consultant. From Feb. 11, 2011 to Aug. 21, 2012, he walked 3,200 miles across the country, sleeping in the woods, meeting people and praying as he went. He has received prophetic visitation all his life, which he has vetted through a trio of priests over the last 20 years, and now speaks publicly about on this site. Yet he emphasizes that we find God most surely through the ordinary, doing the little things we should with faith and fidelity. Hence the name, The Next Right Step. The visitations inform his work, but are not the focus of it. He lives in the Archdiocese of Denver in the United States.
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25 Responses to On Spiritual Direction

  1. Judy says:

    I can’t even begin to imagine your experiences and what you have been shown. May God bless and protect you always!


  2. Jim says:

    Amen Charlie!

    Greater spiritual “contact” often opens all doors. St. Pio is a prime example. Few men who walked this Earth were ever closer to Jesus, yet St Pio suffered intense battles with dark forces from the age of 5. Not just temptations or ghastly visions – he was physically attacked and beaten, in battles that frequently lasted all night long.

    And while knowledge of future events may seem “cool”, the weight of that cross is beyond most of our imaginations. Even if that knowledge is from heaven, and not a burden foisted from hell.

    As Charlie so succinctly stated, “it is absolutely necessary to weed out deception, delusion and burn away vanity and self-will.” We need to take care that it is not our pride that drives us to request serving as the point man in spiritual battle. We have no idea of what we ask. I have seen close to the worst of evil incarnate in man, and the frightening detachment those people reflect from anything good,or the chilling demeanor belying anything remotely human. And I understand that the worst of man, even under demonic influence, is not even close to pure, unadulterated evil.

    Be careful what you wish for. You just may get it, and not from the source from which you seek it.

    Spiritual advisors and directors are gifts from God. At times, we are like small children wanting to jump into the pool. With our fathers there to remind us we do not know how to swim. They can teach us to swim. They first teach us to draw closer to God. And when they see we are leaning to walk spiritually from our crawling stage, they are there to warn us that shutting off temptation or evil from one area of our lives only draws new attacks from increasing stronger forces. It is only when we recognize our pitiful weakness and inability to joust with the devil that we can understand to defeat evil and to walk on the path of the Father in this life, we need the continuous help of our family in Heaven.

    A spiritual director sees things we cannot and do not. They are there to remind us the battle rages on constantly; there is no cease fire. For the devil does not sleep, and he is a very sore loser. Most of us will be in constant battle for the salvation of our own souls. And some of us may have an influence on others to follow God’s path. Few will have gone through the basic training, and “specialty” schools to get the call to lead not just themselves but others on the path. We cannot rely on our own evaluations as a guide to where we fall. We need to rely on the eyes of how God sees us. He loves us all and we are all unique in his eyes. But we are all judged by His standards, not our own. Confession with a Priest is important, even if you have “nothing major” to report. It not only provides an impartial view of our conscience, but it is a living well of endless grace that provides us with the strength we need for battle. Those who question why they just can’t talk to God directly, I would ask why they can’t turn bread into the Body, and wine into the Blood. The breath of Jesus is upon our Apostles of today, and through them we receive His grace. Not just in the Sacraments but in spiritual guidance.

    Listen to your spiritual directors. If you have any chink in your spiritual armor, any latent weakness, satan already knows about it. And he will torment you mercilessly with it. We crawl before we walk; we walk before we run. As we work up to things in our physical lives, so goes our spiritual progression.

    I said it before but it is worth repeating – be careful what you wish for. I have not seen evil unmasked, and I think the Lord for that. Because I have felt the breath and indescribable malice of a most vile presence next to me, and this former college linebacker and 20 year Army Officer was paralyzed with fear, but not too paralyzed to force out, with all my might and will, the word JESUS. At that, the hold was broken. Followed by many prayers to St Michael. While it was not an experience I ever wanted to repeat, that was not the last. But we learn that there are spiritual weapons at our disposal. And more importantly, help is just a word away.

    Please do not ask to be tested. God, our loving and caring Father, will make that decision. He does not burden us with more than we can take, unless it is to perhaps teach us a lesson in humility. Which can happen if we continue to ask for something we are not ready for.

    Just remember, the world we live in is the mirage; the world we cannot see is eternal reality. Make clean your spiritual house. Fear not death in this life; fear eternal after this life.

    Quisnam est amo ut Deus!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Judy says:

    God calls us to serve in many different ways…..Several years ago (7 or so), I was asked to translate a Catholic book (about 250 pages or more) for hispanics who wanted to read it. The organization that made this request knew that I speak Spanish. Wow, what a request. Was I good enough? Could I assemble some other people who knew both English and Spanish well? To make, a long story short, I succeeded and we started translating, and it was not easy, but we took pride in it and thought we were doing God’s work. Then soon after we started the task, the people who had volunteered to translate were becoming ill. I am not talking about a cold. My body started getting numb in July or August, starting with my the area beneath my breasts and eventually spreading all the way to my feet and ankles. i was finally diagnosed with MS in early December. My other friends started getting strange symptoms as well. One was having trouble with vision and hearing and more ….the doctors could not figure it out…..until almost 10 months later when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After an operation, one side of her body was affected. The other translators were hit, too. I was often angry about this. It was clear that we were being attacked by satan. I could not understand why God did not protect us. After doing 3 chapters, we gave up the project because the group had been essentially disbanded by serious illness. ….I frequently asked God “Why?” for a long time……On May 5th, two or three years ago, I was sitting by my computer and I began to wonder when the feast of my “santo” was……that would be the feast of St. Judith. To my great amazement, the feast of St. Judith of Prussia was May 5th, the very same day I looked it up. I figured that this could not be coincidence. So I read about St. Judith’s life and what she had to say. She indicated that there were several paths to heaven. One of those was suffering illness. At that point I thought that I had my answer to “Why?” . That does not mean that I am now saintly about the suffering. Maybe I will get there. I would gladly have it all taken away….but I think I know why….and that helps……As for you, Charlie, God has called you to illness and much more. You, Mark Mallet, and all who have been called to powerfully work in God’s vineyard need our prayers. And you will always have mine!


    • charliej373 says:

      There is wisdom in what you write, Judy.

      There is a tale about St. Teresa of Avila that I love. Perhaps it is apocryphal, but I think not. She went on a pilgrimage that was directed by Our Lord in a vision. Everything that could go wrong along her way did. Walking through a swamp with a sprained ankle in miserable cold, it is said that Teresa complained to the Lord in prayer that He had directed her on this journey, that she had been fully obedient – so why had it been so very hard and miserable? The Lord appeared to her, smiling, and said, “Why, Teresa, don’t you know this is how I treat My most especial friends?”

      To which Teresa sullenly replied, “Small wonder you have so few.”


      • Stephen Maresch says:

        She also said ” that I do not fear Satan half as much as I fear those who fear him”


        • charliej373 says:

          Ah, well said, Stephen! The Lord blesses me even with a vigorous, witty and alert ‘devil’s advocate.’ (Sorry, I couldn’t resist that pun). It may pleasantly surprise you to know I agree with her. Context, of course, is key. When you cloak yourself with Christ, satan is utterly powerless. He doesn’t win a single throw. It is as useless to worry about satan’s battle plan if you hold fast to Christ as it is to worry about the damage a softly blown puff of cotton might do you. In fact, I have occasionally chided some groups for such inordinate fear. I have gone to meetings where they go through pages and pages of things to publicly renounce as tools of satan. By the time they get to ‘Flintstone Vitamins’ or ‘Devil’s Food Cake’ I am usually grumbling loudly or heading for the exits.

          But we live in a benighted age that is spiritually and theologically impoverished. There are all too many people who think they carry such powerful prowess that they think they can take satan and his minions on without reference to Christ. they are scarier than the misguided souls who, trusting to Christ, still fear satan has useful power over them.

          I appreciate your steadiness, Stephen – neither reflexively credulous nor reflexively cynical. From that posture, wisdom can be extruded – and you very much help clarify things here. Hope you don’t take offense at my little pun earlier. I really am glad you are here and helping keep everybody, including me, clearheaded.


          • Stephen Maresch says:

            Yes Charlie I have those who see Satan in everything in my extended family. Those who chastise you if you turn on the TV or open a book because Satan is there. They even destroy relationships within the family for fear Satan maybe clinging to one member of the family. But they do little to clean or watch their own house or to heal instead of divide. They act like a tornado just knocking down everything in their path and then act like they were never there, and you cannot reason with them to be more Christ like. My wife an I cannot attend any family functions because we just don’t want the turmoil that is constantly coming our way. As for the pun; I always test the waters before I get in! Thanks Charlie,


      • Judy says:

        It seems to me that God will allow satan to test you where you are the weakest. I know I have alluded to this before, but I want to tell you the full story: Probably my greatest human love is for my son. ( I have always thought that I have a better idea of the suffering of the Blessed Mother, as she watched her son be crucified, because of having had a son) I have always found the strength to go on when things were tough because I knew that he needed me. However, my mother and I have seen my son go through great turmoil over the last 4 – 5 years. His ‘starter’ marriage (he was 21, she was 19) was a disaster, and she was very cruel. It lasted less than a year. Although he would not admit it, I knew he was badly hurt, though he would not go into counseling. He got involved with another girl about 5 months after the divorce and she became pregnant. I will never forget the night he told us about it. I had just driven him to the polls in November of 2012 and advised him to “vote for life”, which I am sure he did. When we came home, he told my mother that she would make a fine great grandmother. At that time I was getting an exacerbation of MS, got up to find that an extreme abortionist had been elected to the highest office of our land, and now we had to face a new situation. I was very upset about everything, but, of course, I had to accept it. Then the baby was born on Saturday, April 13, 2013. I was in the waiting room until about 2 am, but could not see the baby because I had a horrible cold. The next morning my son woke me up early with some news. He was very upset: the doctor thought that the baby had Down’s Syndrome. I was in shock, as was everyone else. I sobbed all day Sunday. I knew nothing about D. S., but what I read on the web was awful. The possible impairments were incredible. So, for the first time in my life I began to fast on bread and water (asking God for another outcome, while the tests were being run to confirm the doctor’s suspicions) ….even though I was working full time. Incredibly, this was not hard…so the Holy Spirit must have been helping me. Then the test results came back positive. I was so disheartened and my spirit felt broken. I went to work daily like an empty shell, and I would cry at different times of the day. I think that I was so hurt that God sent us yet another cross after so many. Was it a punishment? I would ask “Why? Why? Why?” I told an older friend of mine (whose son is a priest) that I think that “this was possibly the worst thing God could have allowed”. I always had such a hard time understanding why babies were born malformed, with terrible illnesses, etc. God knows what I felt in my heart, so I have to say it: It seemed horribly cruel, since these were virtual innocents. Oh, yes, they carry original sin, but this is removed at baptism. My older Catholic friend said to me, “Listen to yourself. Listen to what you are saying. ” She explained that God is going to continue to forge and refine me…..But I continued hurt and, yes, angry. Finally, after a month and a half of sorrow, my best friend, Linda, received a locution on the last day of May, Mary’s month. The voice said, “You have a wonderful friend in your life. Tell her that God loves her and that all is working for her good.” I said to her, “How do you know that this locution was for me?” She said, “I thought of you immediately.” It was soon after this that the baby was evaluated by a center in Trexlertown that is fully dedicated to D.S. children. A team looked him over for a very long time. The doctor said that he was showing good muscle tone, and even though his white count was very high (another child w/o would D.S. would have been diagnosed with leukemia, but D.S. children usually fight this off ), the doctor thought that the baby would have a bright future. That made me feel hopeful. And, of course, I had my answer to “Why?” I was still sad. But it helped to know that the Blessed Mother understood and acknowledged my pain, and so we were not walking alone into this uncertain future. ….. My grandchild, Gabriel, is really a beautiful child. It is now 15 months later. I still have some concerns, but he brings us a lot of joy. Most people who meet him have no idea that he has D.S. I am told by doctors that he is not a mosiac, but a full D.S. He has beautiful blue eyes and very blonde hair and is very curious about his environment. His mother and father love him to pieces, and so do my mother and I. My son is truly an excellent, loving father, which is a joy to see. However, this is just the beginning. God’s full plan will only be revealed with time.


        • charliej373 says:

          Thank you for your testimony, Judy. Let me ask you to contemplate something carefully. Would you have abandoned your faith if you had not gotten the answer you wanted? If the child had been full Down Syndrome and gotten worse instead of better?

          Forgive me, I mean you no ill – and I thought about just sending you a private note, but you touch on something we ALL need to contemplate. Long ago, I was among several witnesses of a fatal auto accident. Sitting in a room with some other survivors, I took comfort in the people who thanked God for their rescue and gave Him the praise for it. Until, that is, one woman whose husband was killed wailed in agony, “Does God hate my husband? Does He hate me to do this to us?” I offered comfort to the woman, but it shook me badly. I thought a lot about what kind of faith is it that will only persist so long as God does not allow the person to suffer in some really fundamental way? It’s not faith at all – but an effort to make a bargain with God. As I contemplated more deeply, I thought that perhaps some of the truly great blessings, blessings for the ages, come wrapped in brutal suffering.

          There was a time when I was so beset and in such agony that I don’t know if I could have made it with my sanity intact were it not for my son. No, it was not what he did – he was just a little fella at the time. It was simply that he was – and that I was his only source of support. So I persisted when every bone in my body wanted to give it up.

          I don’t want you to actually answer this…just to contemplate it. I am going to put up the post on Abraham’s Journey I did after a tragedy. It is something we need to contemplate, for the Storm will leave no family untouched. Now is the time to take the wisdom of the Book of Job to heart – for satan is betting that many will abandon God if he afflicts them severely enough – and lose eternity while bewailing temporal losses. Thank you for bringing it to the fore.


          • Judy says:

            Gabriel, my grandson, is full down syndrome and he is not completely better. He sees many specialists, but it appears that he will do as well as possible for a D.S. child. However, there are no guarantees. He could get leukemia one day. I just took him to a hematologist for a blood test to monitor his progress and the doctor told me that he will have to be monitored for a long time. As to the question, would I have lost my faith if he had gotten much worse? ….that is a good question and I can understand that you would ask me it. No one can answer that now. It may be that he will have some serous issues down the road and my faith may be tested again, because I do not understand why many little children suffer so much. At present, he is not yet walking, so he is a bit behind; he is also behind with speech…….Your question makes me think of a friend of mine who not long ago watched her beloved son die of cancer. We were all praying for the child, but God’s will was not our will. He died in less than a year. She did not lose her faith, but she is not the same person. She is not functioning well at work and she is tatooing her body with angel wings and other religious symbols. She is surely in great pain. Her son died at least 1-1/2 – 2 years ago and she is still struggling with her pain…. If your vision of the future is true, I expect we will all be tested again and again and again. I would like to think that I will pass the tests, but only time will tell.


          • charliej373 says:

            Thank you so much for responding candidly and gracefully, Judy. I really did appreciate the opportunity to raise something all of us will have to face, perhaps more than once. When I wrote that all of us will lose hope before the end, many were upset. I have thought of espionage novels and movies – there is the fantasy of the heroically unbreakable man. I say fantasy because I know a few people connected with special ops work. To a man, they all say the unbreakable man is a fantasy. Everyone has a breaking point – the variance is simply where it is. I think it prudent for us to contemplate these things – both for th humility it will engender and for the commitment is likely to build to trust more in God, whatever the circumstances, and less in ourselves. Thank you for your candor and humility.


          • Judy says:

            I fully relate to the Book of Job and have read it several times. By the way, I have taken to saying your Prayer of Miraculous Trust. I am sure our Lord is tired of hearing me ask “Why?” 🙂


  4. M Cruz says:


    Do you personally know of any charismatic prayer groups near Brevard or Hendersonville NC?

    Thank you and God bless you and your family! Mary


    • charliej373 says:

      I do not, offhand, Mary. But if you will drop me an email on the contact page, I will put you on a list of people to contact as I get the guidelines set up. I think it important to get some new groups going without the baggage that the existing charismatic groups have loaded themselves up with.


  5. Kris says:

    Hi Charlie, what do you look for in a spiritual director? I live somewhere that has very few options for direction and have tried to reach out for that in many ways. It is just not encouraged here. We do have a women who went through a course through the Archdiocese and now offers counseling/direction for so much per hour. I thought that was odd. Do you know of priests who would work with someone even though they live far away?


    • charliej373 says:

      Hey Kris, would you drop me an email in the Contacts section telling me what diocese you are in. I am finding, to my surprise, that resources for spiritual direction are very sparse and poor in many parts of the country. Funny, I would think it would be a priority. I am making it my business to try to find resources one by one for everyone who asks, regardless of what part of the country they are in.

      Now, as to assessing one…it has to be a good fit. The first thing to look for is holiness: is this someone whose devotion to Our Lord and Our Lady you can feel – and whom you admire? For me, it was important to find someone whose gifts complimented my own – certainly with some overlap, but with a perspective that would challenge my preconceptions. I like what I call “scrappers,” people who have a point of view they take seriously, have thought through carefully, and are willing to defend. I can be very stubborn – and I need someone equally stubborn to sometimes dissuade me from the occasional dumbheaded ideas that get into my head. Integrity is key. You have to know they have things they believe in that will defend tooth and nail, unless genuinely convinced that they are wrong. But there is always that something more – chemistry when people click. Don’t drop one for light reasons, but don’t persist with the same director if, after four or five months, it is clear you are not growing in faith. You are the directed and the director is the director, but it really should be a dialogue for both of you. I always pray intensely before visiting my directors that it will be a fruitful encounter with the Lord, Himself, for both of us. Thanks be to God, it almost always is.

      But watch this site. I am aggravated that the pickings for direction are so meagre and am going to highlight it.


  6. Janet says:

    There is a good resource on Catholic Spiritual Direction here: http://spiritualdirection.com/blog/topics/spiritual-direction/finding-a-director. Likely it will answer many of your questions about spiritual direction.

    The lay association I belong to (www.bspenance.org) requires professed members to have regular spiritual direction. That said, most of us have trouble finding an SD. At one point I was paying for spiritual direction. I know some people are uncomfortable with that, but if it is a trained lay person, they are giving of their time, and have probably paid to be trained. I don’t see anything wrong with it personally. As St. Paul tells us, “A laborer is worthy of his hire.” I do think it’s better to have a priest or religious, and certainly discernment is needed in choosing one. Keep praying for one! God will provide.


    • charliej373 says:

      Thank you so much, Janet. I have added it to the links at the right here. My mind is racing. I am working to get people specific resources right now suited to their situation. But when I get back to Colorado, I am going to get some people to work on a permanent resource – put together an interactive map, perhaps and a separate site giving specific local resources to find direction – and orders which give direction, in every diocese in the U.S. and Canada, to begin with. People should have this available to them and it should be a priority.


  7. Matthew says:

    I was very moved by this post. I certainly recognize in myself the kind of pride that would want to be noticed and admired these kinds of “gifts”. At that same time I have some questions: aren’t we all called to some kind of spiritual warfare? I DO want to help – help establish the kingdom, help myself become more holy, help others become more holy. I teach high school theology and want to really help my students overcome the problems and temptations in their lives. Yet your post makes me want to run for cover and not stick my neck out for fear the devil will chop it off. How do I do this? In addition, in my personal life I have felt the call to priesthood / religious life re-emerge. I do work with a spiritual director and he has encouraged me in this. Yet, this post makes me nervous about setting myself up as a target for attack – I am NOT strong and fear my weakness.
    Maybe my question is are we not giving the devil too much credit? Jesus is stronger than satan. Is it wrong to move forward with confidence and trust in God rather than fear of the devil?


  8. charliej373 says:

    Matthew, your comment inspires me. It is perfect. Yes, you should move forward with confidence. And yes, I am glad I scared you.

    There is great honor in serving in special military forces, such as Seal Teams and Green Berets – but to seek the glory of doing what they do while eschewing the discipline they must learn and live over years and decades is not just cheap vanity – but the sort of cheap vanity that would get a man quickly killed. I listen to far too many people glibly talking about spiritual warfare and envisioning epic battles with demons in which they can display their great heroism and courage – and scant concern for fitting themselves to the yoke of discipline, obedience and restraint necessary for fruitfulness. Your odds of surviving a machine-gun battle armed only with a pair of stones would be far better than surviving ‘spiritual warfare’ armed with only the flimsy self-absorbed piety I hear so many speak so glibly about. So yes, I want to give a little glimpse into what the reality is for those taken up with fantasies of glory.

    If you wanted to go take down terror cells, armed only with your own imagined awesomeness, I would try to discourage you to save your life. But if you chose to accept the years of training, conditioning discipline and preparation required to qualify for such work, I would admire you.

    It strikes me you have adopted exactly the attitude I hoped for; not looking at this as a lark to show how great you are, but as an opportunity to submit yourself to a discipline in order to serve. You may find that it is not for you. But you take it seriously – so I am confident that whatever you find by following this path, you will find what God intends for you. And if He intends you hold tight to Him in leading others away from darkness, I will be glad to have you around.

    Years ago, when I got to be influential in statewide and regional politics, I occasionally had friends from local circles who wanted me to get them in the door. On a few, I offered to open a door for them, but I always had a warning. The warning was that the bigger arenas were a lot tougher than they looked – and the shallow cleverness that made them beer-league sluggers in their hometown would just get their heads knocked off where I worked. So I told them I would open a door for them, but they would have to carry their own weight and a little more besides. I had too many people counting on my competence under fire to be distracted with getting an incompetent out of fires he had no business being near.

    The key is submitting to good direction – and then relentlessly trusting to Christ’s strength, rather than your own – and being willing to accept whatever comes.

    Recently I was advising a very good man who had taken on a brutally hard task. He told me he was up for it, only fearing one particular thing. I candidly told him that if that is what he feared, that and much worse would happen – for the devil is not stupid. He does not attack you where you are strong; he attacks you where you are weak. The fellow settled himself with my blunt candor, but he also feared that, doing the right thing might look bad – and he has a noble reputation. I told him he had to decide which was more important to him, the love of Christ or the love of his own reputation – for if it was his reputation he was concerned about he could be assured that the devil would crush that and make it look like he was doing wrong. The man contemplated, took up the task with real fortitude – and has been an absolute champion. I am proud of him. But this is why I say that love is the only motivation strong enough to sustain a true Christian vocation.

    Finally, as brutal as the devil is, far trickier and more subtle than almost any of us give him credit for (and our vanity far deeper and more dangerous than we credit it for, ever ready to betray us), if you set your jaw with fortitude and hold fast to Christ in ALL circumstances, really ready to suffer disaster, disgrace or shame for the sake of love of Him and His children, the devil cannot touch you – he will hold no power over you whatsoever, save the power to try to get you to turn loose for a moment. I hope you continue the course you contemplate – with fear and trembling at your own frailty, but with absolute confidence in the Master you would serve.


  9. David says:

    Charlie, thank you for your prayers. I had a great revelation in my prayers. I have been very blessed. I have finally realized why I was carrying a great burden. God Bless You.


  10. anne says:

    Charlie, have a comment. Could you please email me.


  11. Amy says:

    I just wanted to respond to your remarks because they resonate with me as the mother of special needs children. I will not claim to know the “why” and I feel most unworthy of that answer. I do know that I am not the same person. We’ve tried to despair a few times but the short answer there is “to whom would we go”. We almost let it claim our marriage but God intervened when we called. We have two sons with Autism, one of whom is also an insulin dependent diabetic. The real cost is that after their diagnosis we decided not to have more kids and held to that for 6 years until we filed for divorce. Like I said, God intervened. Although we were married in the church we didnt go to Mass and fell for the lie of contraception. We have since changed our lives and have gone on to have 4 more children including 5 month old twins. We pray as a family and though it is very hard we all go to mass together. Its hardest for our autistic sons. My point here is that you never know what God can use to draw you closer. In fact I strongly believe that God hasn’t healed them despite many prayers because it is one of the life lines tethering us to the Vine. It keeps us continually clinging. If they were healed tomorrow how long might it take for complacency and greater materialism to set in. There are a lot of things we cant do because of these disabilities. Eating in restaurants, going to the mall, etc. I can’t even go into Walmart with them. I have to say that I thank God to have been given this experience even though oft times I have to envision that it is Christ himself that I am doing these things for because it is really hard. Take heart because the salvation being worked out may be your own or that of your beloved (son). Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. janet333 says:

    ” I am working on a booklet of guidelines for effective charismatic ministries, ..”

    I might have missed it ..but did you ever finish that booklet Charlie?


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