You might think I have put the project on spiritual direction on the back burner because I have said little about it lately. To the contrary, some marvelous people have stepped up and have offered help to provide people with real help that will get everyone who seeks it guidance that is solidly grounded in the faith.
Once I began researching this seriously, I discovered several big obstacles:
First, the harvest is abundant and the laborers are few. Many people are coming forward to seek solid direction in their faith. Right now, there are not enough priests to provide direction to all who seek it. Even those orders which emphasize direction are swamped. One priest in authority of such an order told me plaintively that such a flood is coming in that he and his priests are only able to give 15 minutes a month to new people coming in. That is not enough time, for at its best, direction should be a sort of spiritual father or motherhood.
Second, many places and institutes that boast of offering lay spiritual direction are frauds. A huge number of them are about the business of peddling New Age or Eastern mysticism and trying to deceive people that it is consistent with Orthodox Catholicism. It is not. It is an effort to pull people away from the Church. Some of these frauds have attached themselves to particular parishes or otherwise good orders or diocesan institutes, so it involves a lengthy process for a diocese to investigate and expel them.
My initial approach is to attack this on two fronts. The first front is to set up a map by American State and Canadian Province with a list of the resources available in each diocese in that state, whether done through the diocesan office or by orthodox orders of priests within the diocese. For that project, I need volunteers. If you are willing to volunteer, please send me an email using the “Contact” button above. Entitle your email “Direction Volunteer.” I will contact all who volunteer middle to late next week with instructions and a list of diocesan phone numbers. I will keep the number of dioceses to be researched for each volunteer to about 10. If you finish completely and want more, that is fine, but we will take it one step at a time. There will be a short list of questions to ask the diocesan contacts. Any institutes that are listed by a diocese will have to be vetted for orthodoxy, fidelity to the faith. As we get the list built, I will get a team to do that as well. I will not knowingly list an outlet that is playing with New Age Nonsense or undermining the deposit of faith to people. I say ‘knowingly’ because I have compiled big directories of resources from disparate geographical areas before. Inevitably, some errors slip through. In this case, there are agencies out there which are actively trying to subvert the faith. They are deceptive (sometimes even to themselves) and persistent. So as it gets going, we will need feedback from readers here to do further vetting of an institute they have personal knowledge of that has become suspect. If a suspect organization gets on the list, it has won a battle – but only a battle. We will live to fight again – and will be equally persistent in weeding them out. If suspect organizations persuade us to abandon the effort because they will pick up a battle or two, they have simply won. With God’s help and our determination not to be frozen in place, that will not happen.
I know that this site gets daily readership from around the world. In fact, nations from every continent except Antarctica are represented here on a daily basis. It would be too much for me to try to supervise the necessary research and vetting in other continental regions. If I tried, I fear I would make a hash of it. However, if readers from other countries want to take on the project for their country, I will forward you the instructions and vetting procedures we will use here. And I will be delighted to add your results to the master list and map. But outside the U.S. and Canada, it will unfortunately be an ad hoc rather than a comprehensive effort.
The second approach, though, will be good throughout the entire world. The Archdiocese of Kansas City in the U.S. has put together a spiritual mentorship program, using qualified lay people, to help meet the growing need. I am also in touch with a man from Chicago who has started a small, pilot program based on a portion of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium. A gentleman who is administrator of a Diocese and on one of the lead committees for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is being very generous in helping me develop resources. I have ordered and will be studying several orthodox manuals and scholarly treatises on spiritual direction. Working with the people who have offered help, we will develop a slightly modified program of spiritual partnership. I think it will be anchored in St. Therese of Lisieux’s Little Way. You all know my inclination that the more simple and direct it is, the better – and that will be a guiding principle. If there are not enough priests to meet all the needs for one on one direction, there certainly are enough to supervise and watch over the groups of the faithful that are ignited for this purpose. So if we can establish relationships of spiritual big brother or sisterhood, we have begun well. The good news is that this will be useful throughout the world. The downside is that full instruction will not be ready until late fall or early winter.
As we get things done for the state and province lists, I will put those up as they come through. I hope we can get the first entries on the map up by late September. So if you can volunteer, drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get started.