Spiritual Director

A spiritual director is someone who would serve as a guide, aide or conversation partner for someone on a spiritual journey. Under the theme of Ignatian spirituality the director has an emphasized importance and expands a typically isolated idea of spirituality to encompass others, and how we can seek help, and help others in turn.

Related to the Life of St. Ignatius of Loyola

St. Ignatius, the founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), incorporated the idea of the spiritual director in his Spiritual Exercises. He found this concept to be significant because of how it penetrated into his life and conversion to becoming a man for God. Throughout his travels he sought out people with whom he could have spiritual conversations. Despite his claimed lack of knowledge of spiritual things, it was in these conversations where he felt especially moved to serve God.[1] Ignatius, as he was discerning his mission and conversion, was in frequent contact with a confessor. He would turn to this confessor to work out the many questions and emotions he was struggling with and the two would discuss what would be in his best interest. [2] As the Companions of Jesus were growing in number, each was brought into the brotherhood through the Exercises, led by a spiritual director among them whom had undergone the Exercises himself.

Duties in Spiritual Direction

The duties of the spiritual director under the theme of Ignatian Spirituality are discussed in relation to the Spiritual Exercises. The first of these duties is simply to serve as an experienced conversation partner, to serve as a guide and provide some sense of structure to those undergoing the Exercises, from the view point of someone who had completed them. Another duty is to ensure that the retreatant does not get swept away with the emotions of a retreat experience, but rather keeps a foothold in practicality, so that the remainder of their spiritual quest is not lost.[3] The director serves as an unbiased aide in the discernment of spirits. Through conversation he can lead his retreatant to a deeper understanding of their feelings and prayers, and help the retreatant to bring their concerns to God.[4]

Contemporary Applications

Today, the Exercises are still a common practice, among Jesuits and others interested in Ignatian Spirituality. The desire to participate in the Exercises takes with it the need for spiritual directors. Jesuit Retreat houses have been established to meet this need, and offer retreats for interested lay people, at which there will be available experienced directors to guide and talk with them based on the needs of the retreatant. Others offer a most structured approach and walk the retreatant through the Exercises. Some offer contact with a director daily and individually, where others attend group lectures to learn more about Ignatian Spirituality, and their relationship with God. Many are non-denominational.

Another contemporary application of the role of the director is seen in Jesuit colleges and universities throughout the world. Many of these schools offer retreats or other opportunities for students to explore their faith lives through the help of an experienced director, either in the laity or the clergy. Some, such as Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia, offer programs to train their students to become spiritual directors for others.


  1. St. Ignatius of Loyola. Reminiscences paragraph 21
  2. St. Ignatius of Loyola. Reminiscences paragraph 25.
  3. St. Ignatius of Loyola. Spiritual Exercises para.14
  4. St. Ignatius of Loyola. Spiritual Exercises para. 6

Jesuit retreat centers

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