Spiritual Direction Update – Volunteers Needed!


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 chrljhnstn@gmail.com and we will get started.

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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24 Responses to Spiritual Direction Update – Volunteers Needed!

  1. vicardwm says:

    Charlie, are you saying that you are taking KC’s spiritual mentorship program and modifying it slightly for roll-out to the entire world? I am very excited about this, as I think there will be a shortage of spiritual direction at least for the short and medium-term future. There is no reason that lay people can’t do this. I know that I have seen prophecies that the lay people will save the Church in these times. More accurately, it will be a combination of clergy and laity, but the laity compose 99.9% of the Church, so the onus falls on us.


  2. Catharine Innerst says:

    Hi, Charlie,
    Have you heard of the Apostles of the Interior Life? They are a group of consecrated women, faithful to the Catholic Church, who do spiritual direction and evangelization full time. I have heard wonderful things about them. Here is the link: http://www.apostlesofil.com/
    Our prayers are with you and your mission! Your words have been fresh air for us.
    Cathy Innerst
    Denver, CO


  3. Teresa says:

    The Apostles of the Interior Life are the ones who are teaching the Spiritual Mentorship program in Kansas City. They are outstanding. I am currently in the program and will be graduating in January 2015. I highly recommend this program for anyone who is interested in becoming a spiritual mentor. The instruction is orthodox and the sisters and lay teachers are wonderful.


  4. Janet says:

    It looks like a wonderful program. I see it costs $1500 per session to enroll (there are 4 sessions) plus travel to Kansas once per session. I have had people tell me they don’t think you should have to pay for spiritual direction, but for the lay mentor/director, there is a cost for training. Just something to consider when we are asking lay people to take this on. A priest might not charge a fee, but a lay person may have to in order to make it feasible. (Once the economy collapses, the fee might be in eggs and tomatoes. 🙂 )


    • charliej373 says:

      Well Janet, you know me…I love simplicity. Right now, the need is great and it is now. Most existing programs that are sound and orthodox will be listed as part of a directory. For covering the need and shortfall, I am perhaps a bit more ambitious – and simple – than is obvious yet. There is not time to properly train a massive number of laypeople to be spiritual directors – and if you just go that route you are very likely to have more problems and abuses than fruit. Beyond that, one of the authentic calls of Vatican II that has barely been tapped yet is an authentic apostolate of the laity. Usually lay groups try to mimic clerical or religious life writ small. I rather think that is beside the point. I am mainly thinking of a sort of spiritual partnership. One of the disheartening evils of modern times is the isolation people who try to live their ordinary lives enlivened by the faith. It seems to me that if you develop good, straightforward formation, following some method like the Little Way of St. Therese, and then create spiritual partnerships, you have the beginning of something that can set aflame a real brush fire of hope and joy while strengthening the bonds between Christians. Within the context of a larger group, have people pairing up. Perhaps once a week they will spend an hour discussing some Church text – the Catechism, St. Therese’s writings, St. Augustine….whatever provided it is basic and solid. Beyond this, they will spend a little time each week putting their faith into action together – simple things like taking some retirees shopping, or organizing people to do a little clean-up of a road, creek, something of the sort – or quietly help someone who can’t get around very well with mowing the lawn or repainting a porch. Again, it is embryonic, but I am thinking of the Flame of Love – to set the world on fire by living the phrase, “See how they love one another.” This can be done almost IMMEDIATELY and with full faithfulness to the Church. It will knit together the bonds between Christian and Christian – and of non-believer as well. How lovely to think of giving witness through service, action and friendship.


  5. Stephen Maresch says:

    Charlie I am always willing to do Gods work but I am still confused on the what, when, who, and hows of what you are asking? And will this cause the Bishops to get their nose out of joint. FYI I am a certified master catechist for the diocese of Washington, as is my wife.


    • charliej373 says:

      I don’t think anyone is going to get their nose out of joint. I am not doing anything in secret – and I am incorporating part of a program the Bishops are enthused about – and getting advice and help from someone who works directly with the Bishop’s Conference. I think a thing to remember is that, despite my visitations and such (though it probably is BECAUSE of them), the two things I most value are obedience – everybody living their proper sphere – and simplicity. You just aren’t going to get a program from me that is complicated and tries to teach something new and esoteric. Basically, we are getting up a directory, which will be drawn directly from diocesan resources – and forming a program more of spiritual partnership and formation to meet the needs. The work right now is labor-intensive to be sure, but straightforward and transparent.


  6. MM Bev says:

    Charlie: I am in awe of what you have already done, the concept of your plan, and the emphasis on simplicity (especially as in St. Therese of Lisieux). What you have concieved of, and are planning will be a tremendous blessing for a myriad of people. While I can’t volunteer, I can certainly pray for it’s development and ultimate success. mm


  7. Lucy says:

    Dearest Charlie,
    After spending a moment looking over this particular site : http://www.catholicspiritualdirection.org/personaldirection.html
    it seems to be very similar in scope to what you describe. It offers an on-line Directory of Spiritual Directors by geographic location, so a person can find one that is duly “certified” in one’s area and it offers personal Spiritual Direction on-line. My Diocese (Austin) has a formation for Spiritual Direction that lasts two years (by cycle) and costs almost 1800 $ per year . Next class starts in 2016… Ah. So I sense that one is out….clearly.
    Reading about lovely formation programs like that brings a couple things to mind. First, something very important Mark Mallett said a while back was about the Age of Ministries being over and basically obsolete as we know them. Spiritual Direction in that Diocesan format of formal training is considered a Ministry in the Church. I truly sense that we are moving to a whole other scenario, far beyond our “control” within the traditional frameworks. Even Spiritual Direction will cease to exist as we know it. Soon. Now. And the other thing I am trying to discern in relation to this very serious subject of “how to” for Spiritual Direction is a comment that came recently from our Holy Father Francis, who said (I largely paraphrase here) that Ministry in our time is not something formal or formatted, but something we should look at from another , far more urgently realistic perspective : we are working in a Field Hospital ! There is a big gap between a normal hospital and a field hospital. This also applies to Spiritual Direction , since we are all rather spiritually wounded. As I read the comments, and the burning fire of Charity and zeal for souls that abounds, I feel over and over the sense of the Holy Spirit crying out to us : “But My Children ! Come to Me and allow Me to fill you with Living Waters ! Come to Me and sit before My Eucharistic Heart, gaze upon My Eucharistic Face and I will fill you with all that you need! Only bring along My Word and let Me speak to you from the pages of Holy Scripture. I Myself will direct you, I Myself will feed you ! (Isaiah 54. Ezekiel 34. John 6) Only allow yourselves to sit with me in silence, and be filled with My Spirit “. Jesus said to the Samaritan in John 4 : ” Woman, believe me, the hour is coming , and now is , when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for such the father seeks to worship him. God is spirit , and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth”. WHERE can we go to find the Living Waters of Spiritual Direction ? To Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament ! In union with the Word of God, the Father and the Son will speak to our hearts, in Spirit and in Truth. This is the spiritual formation and discernment we must have above all else . Mariam the Little Arab, Carmelite Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified (1846-1878) wrote : ” The world and religious communities are seeking novelties in devotions, and they are neglecting the true devotion to the Paraclete. That is why there is error and disunion, and why there is no peace or light. They do not invoke light as it should be invoked, and it is this light that gives knowledge of truth. It is neglected even in seminaries…Every person in the world that will invoke the Holy Spirit and have devotion to Him will not die in error”. I believe that we desperately need spiritual formation and direction, but I fear that it will have to come in another way, in Spirit and in Truth. Therese de Lisieux is a Doctor of the Church. Not because she was a brilliant student or educated theologian, but because she had taken the Seraphic Way of Love, a turbo-elevator of Spiritual Direction in the Holy Spirit ! Like Thomas Aquinas, it was her deep hunger and thirst for God, as she sat before His Eucharistic Presence, that drew Wisdom into her heart, her mind and her soul. She was directed above all by God Himself, in the Blessed Trinity. I am concerned that we are looking elsewhere for answers that require great Wisdom, and the Incarnate Wisdom is readily available in every Tabernacle on the Face of the Earth. It is true that one day the Holy Sacrifice will be momentarily abolished, and humanity will hunger and thirst for the Word of God. But at the moment, we still have Him, Truly Present. May Mary, Mother of the Eucharist and Seat of Wisdom help us and pray for us. drawing us ever nearer to Jesus Hostie. Thank you for patiently reading and praying further, all of us, to know what is the Divine Will. Yes ! I believe that it is the Flame of Holy and Divine Love, the ardent fire of Charity found in the United Hearts of Jesus and Mary that must become the real focus and source of all Spiritual Direction… May God draw us into His burning heart of Love, for the more we love, the more we know.


    • charliej373 says:

      Hi Lucy. Bluntly, I think you are right. I have a plan that will be able to be implemented immediately, that has very little danger of abuse, is fully in accord with the Church and that carries within it means of spreading like wildfire (I am working on it particularly from a “Flame of Love” perspective). It is simple, different than anything out there. I am saying little publicly about it right now as I am in the process of fully vetting it. Today I talked to several people on the embryonic outline of it, including one who holds a formal position with the USCCB and has been helping gather resources. God bless him, he was so enthused he said he was certain this is an inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I do not want to speak publicly in any detail about it yet so I can fully vet it, test to find the flaws – and so then can execute it in a way that is solid from the start. I hope to do that by the end of September. I ask you to offer the Flame of Love devotion particularly for this.


  8. Lucy says:

    Oh ! How could I forget to say : Of course ! I joyfully volunteer and am all yours to assist in any manner possible , in the Flame of Love…


  9. Anne says:

    Lucy …….Thank you , thank you , thank you …….. I agree with all of your comments.


  10. vicardwm says:

    I have to say – I am disappointed to see that a person wishing to help others in spiritual direction or mentorship can only do so if they have a spare $3600-$6000 laying around. I know that it’s a matter of priority and many could afford the cost if they really were serious about it, but many can’t. It’s the same feeling I have (but less strongly) when Catholic high schools (for example) cost $12,000-$20,000 a year. That’s a scandal, and I refuse to send my children there as a matter of principle. Fortunately, there is a nearby Catholic high school that takes the priority of family and inclusiveness seriously and charges around $6000 a year. Pope Francis’ statement about being a Church of the poor, for the poor will come to fruition at some point, and it sounds like that point will be soon.

    Very excited to witness what you have in mind, Charlie, and I love your beautiful comments, Lucy!!


  11. Anne says:

    http://Www.locutions.org. July 29th,2014. Flame of love. Starting in the hearts of little people. Reminds me of much I have read above.


  12. RJW says:

    @Pontifex: Jesus Christ, with his closeness and tenderness, leads sinners into the place of grace and pardon. This is the mercy of God.


    What a great message from our dear Pope Francis. Have a blessed weekend everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

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