6 Questions My Spiritual Director Would Ask

August 1, 2011 | 38 comments

I’ve mentioned a few times that I had an amazing spiritual director named Christie. Unfortunately, she’s gotten busy with other commitments and I haven’t been able to meet with her lately, so I’ve been without a spiritual director for a while now. I hope to find a new person soon, but in the meantime I’ve been thinking back on my conversations with her, particularly when I’m trying to discern the right path for some big decision where there’s no clear right answer. When recalling our meetings, I realized that Christie almost always asked me the same few questions, and that prayerfully considering my answers to each one always helped get me off the fence and make a good choice. I thought it might be helpful to others to share what they were.

1. Have you prayed about it?

You would think that this question wouldn’t be necessary, but, alas, we’re dealing with me here, and Christie quickly learned that we might want to cover this base before moving on. With embarrassing frequency I’d come to her and pour out my angst about some conundrum, throw up my hands in frustration, and announce that God did not seem to be helping me here. Then she’d gently asked if I had prayed about it; specifically, if I had set aside the time not only to place my petition before God, but to calmly wait and listen for an answer. The answer was often “no, ” which gave me an obvious place to start in my discernment process.

2. How does it impact your primary vocation?

I can’t overstate the importance of this question. It’s brought more peace to my life than any other thought exercise. The Catholic idea of vocation is that the meaning of life is to serve others, and your vocation (e.g. married life, religious life, priesthood, etc.) is the main way that God intends for you to serve. It’s his primary path for you to find peace and fulfillment — and, therefore, no legitimate call from God would negatively impact your vocation. For example, God would never call a parish priest to do something that made him feel burdened and resentful of offering the Mass on Sunday, he would never call a father to something that made him feel tied down and frustrated by his wife and kids, etc. It doesn’t mean that the only things you ever do are directly related to the duties of your vocation, simply that those duties are your top priority.

On many occasions I’ve started pursuing opportunities that seemed great in theory, but made my life as a wife and a mother harder. I would walk around the house snapping at everyone, feeling angry that I didn’t have as much time as I wanted to work on these projects, bemoaning the basic duties that come with my vocation, etc. Thanks to the advice from my spiritual director, I would take this to mean that this wasn’t where God wanted me. And, sure enough, every time I made changes that improved my ability to live out my vocation well, I’d find myself on a far better path that made me much happier (and, surprisingly, often led to more success with the project than when I was sitting around fixating on it to the exclusion of my family).

3. What does your spouse think?

Christie always reminded me that God often speaks through our spouses. I’ve experienced this many times myself but, like with #1, I’d often get so caught up analyzing something that I’d forget to sit down with my husband and get his thoughts. (For people who are not married, an alternative might be to ask your parents, siblings, or a trusted friend.)

4. Are you taking care of yourself?

One of the most interesting conversations we ever had was when I told Christie how terrible my prayer life had been lately, and her first questions were about how I was taking care of myself. Was I eating well? Sleeping enough? Getting some exercise? Upon further examination, it came out that I was running myself ragged: I was stuffing myself with junk food all day, spending too much time online, staying up way too late, never exercising, then pounding coffee to help me muddle through each day. She pointed out that while God certainly blesses us when we suffer (e.g. in the case of chronic illness), self-inflicted suffering is different. Basically, it would be like if I’d been sitting around and hitting myself repeatedly with a hammer, then crying, “I feel bad and never feel like praying! So weird!” After I improved my diet, got my relationship to the internet in check, and changed my views about exercise, not only did I feel 100% better physically, but I found that my spiritual life was much better as well.

5. Are you making decisions based on fear or anger?

The Holy Spirit does not bark at us in a voice of anger. He doesn’t instill us with fear. He doesn’t make us feel bad about ourselves. Yet too often, I found myself making decisions out of these kinds of feelings — thankfully, Christie was there to point out that this was not of God. For example, at one point I was discerning whether or not to homeschool, but so much of my thinking was fear-based: I was worried about something I’d heard about the local school, worried about how one of my kids would do in public school, but also sure that I was too lazy and incompetent to teach my children, terrified of messing up their educations, etc. I couldn’t even engage in a rational analysis of the pros and cons of each path because my thoughts were consumed with fear, fear, fear.

Christie encouraged me to let go of those feelings and make a conscious effort to trust that God would lead us down the best path for us, and that he’d bless whichever path that was. Once I did that, I was able to let go of all those fearful thoughts, which freed my mind to objectively look at what I thought would be best for our family, as well as to listen to God’s promptings. In the end we have ended up homeschooling after trying a couple other options, but this time I’ve had complete peace about it, because I was no longer letting angst and fear drive my decisions.

6. Which path would bring you the most peace?

Similar to the above, Christie would sometimes ask me to imagine myself going through each of the various options that were before me in some dilemma, and to consider which one would bring me the most peace. Fairly often, I would find that when I actually took the time to do this, one option made me feel filled with the peace of the Holy Spirit, whereas other options that might seem better on paper left me riddled with anxiety — and the peace-filled option always ended up being the right path.

Additional Resources

I usually get a lot of great questions when I bring up the subject of spiritual direction, so here are some additional resources:


  1. Theresa in Alberta

    attending daily mass where the celebrant is a Marion priest, or going for an hour of Adoration. I have found (thankfully) that this is my spiritual direction. EWTN has also been a Godsend also.

  2. Jennifer Fitz


    This post was perfect for me this morning. Very helpful — exactly what I needed to be told. Thank you!


  3. Michelle

    Thank you for this today. I have often wondered what I might get from a Spiritual Director (unfortunately, I’ve not had an opportunity to discern one for me at this point in my life) and this was very helpful.

  4. IC

    You have a good spiritual director. 😉

  5. Kayla

    Thanks so much for writing this post. I’m in the process of finding a Church home and hopefully a spiritual director, and this post is just what I needed for the in between time!

  6. Leila

    Whoa, excellent stuff! This post is like a virtual spiritual director!

  7. Robin

    These are all wonderful suggestions for those who are married to someone who shares your faith. However, what if you are married to someone who loathes the Catholic Church and doesn’t hesitate to criticize her? (This relates to points 2 and 3) I understand that marriage is my primary vocation but when you are unable to have a faith-related conversation, it makes discerning very difficult.

    • Amanda

      I can’t quite relate to how difficult it must be to have your spouse hate the Catholic church, I am so sorry about that for you. But, I am definitely in an inter-church marriage, my husband is an ELCA Lutheran pastor, I’ve been to both Seminary and now his first call in a church where we live in the Lutheran parsonage. Sometimes I absolutely struggle with my faith vs. my marriage but thankfully my priest here has been helpful in reminding me that my marriage is still my primary vocation. It is still the best place for me to live out my faith, not in the ‘pray the rosary daily’ sort of way, but in the ‘show charity and love’ sort of way. Does it mean we don’t ever fight about (err, respectfully discuss) theology? No, but it does mean that in the day-to-day I still treat him fully as my spouse and he does likewise to me. We focus on the things we can agree on and try to base decisions from there. Sometimes one of us makes decisions based on theology that the other disagrees with and we are still working on how best to deal with that. But the first response has to be to try to understand the other person and at least treat them with kindness and never shut them out long-term.

      Does your spouse at least share a belief in God? Or Christianity specifically? Maybe even just a general understanding that humanity has an obligation to look out for each other and do what’s right, like a humanistic sort of worldview? You certainly don’t have to answer here, I don’t want to be nosy, just giving things to consider so maybe you can find more common ground with your spouse in faith issues. I know it’s hard though, especially if you’re both committed to your viewpoint.

    • Diane

      My husband is Catholic, but does not share a lot of my practices, the Rosary, Eucharistic Adoration etc. Like you, we cannot have a spiritual discussion. It is a big gap in our marriage, but over the years I have learned that I have to pray for him, and continue to do what I feel I have to do to stay connected with the Lord. It is difficult, I wish we shared more, but I have to continue my journey. I have talked about this with priests, and my own spiritual director, and I have to seek God the way He leads me. God bless you, and just keep praying.

  8. Margo

    I’ve never had a spiritual director but have often wished that I did. It is so kind of you to share these wonderful insights with us!

  9. Verushka

    These are great questions for most things in life but also it occurred to me they are very good for discerning family size.

  10. Dianne

    I don’t have a spiritual director but I’ve been blessed to have a godly counselor for the past few years. I’ve often wished the idea of spiritual direction would be expanded both in and beyond the Catholic church. I think we all would benefit. Good post and thanks for sharing.

  11. Mark S.

    I needed this so much right now. God is good and sends messengers like you along and I pray that I have eyes to see and ears to hear. Bless you and your family!

  12. Kathryn

    Those are great questions. I also like the questions “Does it glorify God?” and “Does God’s Word have anything to say about it?”

  13. Lisa V.

    Jennifer, this is awesome. Thank you so much for sharing this. I had to smile about #1. Isn’t it so silly, you’d think I would have figured out by now — prayer. And considering how it will effect your vocation really hit me. So much more now as I’ve grown as a christian, as my family has expanded, so many of my decisions have to be based on how it will effect them and our family life. I find I’m always in a better place when I’ve put my family first. So thanks again, I’m going to save this and use it.

  14. taylor

    these questions are indeed interesting… i don’t know why but these questions seem to be just simple questions, and when i ask this to myself… it’s really kinda hard to answer.. thank you so much for this one.. it really made me realize about some things

  15. Vicente Camarillo

    Hi Jennifer,

    Thanks for this posting. I just started having spiritual direction, but I haven’t been really constant to it. How often did you use to see or have sessions or meet your spiritual director?

    And another question, btw: is there any resources you can suggest about homeschooling? I want to know about that.

    Thank you for your answers.

    P.S. I don’t know if you post your response on this site. Should you need an e-mail address, please use viccam@gmail.com (for the homeschooling info, above all).

  16. Deacon Bill Olson

    Have you looked4 supplemental spiritual direction among the ranks of retired clergy, religious or otherwise savvy laypeople? They’ve been around the block a few times so to speak and may have something to offer you.

  17. Steph

    These are great, Jen. Thanks for sharing. It’s funny because number 6 is my go-to strategy when I’m trying to discern a big decision in my life. I’m not sure how it is for everyone, but for me, there always seems to be a ridiculous amount of peace with one option and a lot of prickly anxious unknowns about the other.

    I definitely agree with Kathryn about asking whether it will glorify God. That’s a huge one for me too.

  18. Lisa

    I have spent the last few months praying for help with this very topic…and here it is. Don’t you love when that happens?
    I am very grateful. The item on conflict with my primary vocation hit me right between the eyes.

  19. Trisha Niermeyer Potter

    I’m really glad that you posted this. It’s been a while since I’ve seen my spiritual director as well, and some of these questions are precisely the ones she’s asked me pretty much every time we meet. It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to forget to take care of ourselves, so we can best carry out our primary and secondary vocations. You’re thinking back over the questions she’d ask you regularly is a great idea. I could flip back through my prayer journal and do the same thing.
    Like you, I often need to be reminded of the same things over and over again, especially when it comes to maintaining a healthy balance and growing spiritually. Thanks for sharing these questions!

  20. Diane

    Great post. I stumbled across the Catholic Spiritual Direction page, and that inspired me to search for one for myself. Thanks to a couple referrals I now am meeting with a beautiful, holy Catholic Nun. She quickly identified the difficulties I have and we are working on my spiritual “health”. Thank You Lord, for her.

  21. Clara

    These questions are wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing them! The timing is just right for me to be reading this now. 🙂

  22. Lisa

    I have been praying for some time for help with direction/solving a problem. This information is actually the answer to my prayers…(don’t you love when that happens!).

    Now I only have to find the courage to do what I need to do….any hints on that?
    God bless,

  23. Denise

    Thanks for this! Wonderful summation.

  24. Lisa Maria

    All I can say is Wow! I am so glad I found your site. I am also a Catholic and recently had my eldest daughter (20) in the same place you were.. questioning where God has been in her trials. After 3 months of her summer vacation at home from college.. it is only the last 3 days that God has broken her and she went to confession and Mass with me. I praise Him.. I always say nothing happens by coincidence. I have been part of the blogging world for only the last 7 months and have met many Christians but few Catholics. I love my new friends and have seen many do your 5 Quick Takes but never really checked it out. I’m so glad I did today! I’ll be passing on your blog to my daughter.. specifically this post.

    On the subject of having a spiritual director.. I think its a wonderful thing, but my own personal experience is to sit before Him in the Blessed Sacrament and soak up His wisdom and counsel. I’ll be writing you an e-mail on my own experiences.. I just feel the need to share with you.

    Thank you so much.. I am now a new follower!

  25. LFK

    Years ago my husband bought a book entitled Grace in Every Season, which is a collection of writings by Catherine Doherty, the founder of Madonna House. Her last name is from her husband, but she was a Russian immigrant who had learned the hard way the exceeding value of priests, and she believed that spiritual directors should always be priests (though not every priest would make a good director). She recounted the first question her first spiritual director asked her (at about the age of 12 if I remember correctly!). This question has always stuck with me because it is so profound: How well do you love your enemies?

    God bless.

    • Lisa Maria

      Hey LFK! I bought my mother that book for her birthday.. maybe ten years ago. She still uses it every day. Its a great book, whenever I’m up there in her bathroom (that’s where she keeps it) I read it.

  26. Ron

    These questions are very important to review ourselves. These are for our plans and for good direction of our life. Thanks for sharing this to us. These questions are really essential to us.

  27. Misti Bridson

    Sometimes when it comes to decision making we probably think and ask ourselves “is it right?” or “is it wrong?”. One thing that is sure when you have to decide pray, meditate and talk to God sincerely seek him first before saying yes or no because every decision regrets are in common.

  28. Kayla Morton

    these questions are indeed interesting… i don’t know why but these questions seem to be just simple questions, and when i ask this to myself… it’s really kinda hard to answer.. It is a big gap in our marriage, but over the years I have learned that I have to pray for him, and continue to do what I feel I have to do to stay connected with the Lord. I’m not sure how it is for everyone, but for me, there always seems to be a ridiculous amount of peace with one option and a lot of prickly anxious unknowns about the other. Thanks for sharing these questions!

  29. Imelda

    Hi. I am glad to find your site. This post is particularly helpful.

    Anyway, I have been a cradle Catholic and I love being so. I guess for that reason, I always am happy to hear about people learning to love the Faith and the Church as well. It is like hearing the praises of someone you love over and over again. 🙂 Thank you.

  30. Jeanine Macias

    I always say nothing happens by coincidence. I am very grateful.

  31. Jeff

    Like some of the other folks in the comments, I would like to have a spiritual director and I am not sure how to go about finding one. I was fortunate recently to learn about Dan Burke’s book called Navigating the Interior life. You can navigatingtheinteriorlife dot com.

    I hope his book helps fellow Christians.


  32. NMMyers

    Jen, I have been reading your blog for years now and I cannot tell you how many times I have come back to this post when in the middle of some crisis. Thank you!

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Thanks for letting me know! How inspiring!

  33. visit here

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