Spiritual Direction

at the
Catholic Conference Center

Statuary at Catholic Conference Center

What is spiritual direction?

View from deck

“Spiritual direction has been practiced from the earliest history of the Church down to our own times. It is sometimes referred to as spiritual counseling or spiritual accompaniment. It is an ancient and tested practice which has produced fruits of holiness and evangelical readiness.” (sussidio_per_confessori, 64) In practice, spiritual direction is a three-part encounter in a safe and trusted environment – the director, the directee, and the Holy Spirit. The true spiritual director in these encounters is the Holy Spirit. People come to spiritual direction for many reasons, but the ultimate purpose is to allow the directee to see the divine in the ordinary activities of life.

Three Chairs
You are a spiritual director, I sit in my chair and you sit in yours.
I have come to see you with a longing that mystifies me.
You draw my attention to the third chair in the room.
You invite me to see with the eye of my heart to the Source of my longing.
The eternal, invisible, loving, guiding, challenging, insistent Mystery in the third chair.

Jennifer Jinks Hoffmann

Who needs spiritual direction?

Outdoor Chapel on the trails around the Center

Everyone who desires to deepen their faith or grow in their relationship with the Lord could benefit from spiritual direction. Pope Benedict XVI affirmed this need: “The Church continues to recommend the practice of spiritual direction not only to all those who wish to follow the Lord up close but to every Christian who wishes new life in Christ.” People seeking spiritual direction come from all walks of life: clergy and lay persons; married and single; young and old; Catholic and non-Catholic; people connected to a faith community and people searching for a spiritual home.

[Spiritual Directors] make present the fragrance of Christ’s closeness and his personal gaze.

Pope Francis, Evangelii Guadium, 169

What are the benefits of spiritual direction?

Some seek spiritual direction to deepen their faith, discern a decision, or receive counsel from a trained spiritual guide. Others are yearning to grow spiritually, perhaps after hitting a plateau of sorts in their life of faith and wanting to get spiritually ‘unstuck’. Some simply want to have a greater awareness of God in the hustle and bustle of their daily demands. Others might want some guidance on how to transform their faith into action or transform their action into a deeper appreciation of their faith. Benefits include a richer prayer life, a deeper sense of peace, and a better balance in life.

“We urgently need the mediation of another’s eyes to love ourselves and accept ourselves. The eyes may be those of a parent, a friend, a spiritual director; but above all they are those of God our Father.”

Jacques Philippe, Interior Freedom

What happens in a spiritual direction session?

Chapel at the Center

A session is usually an hour. Most prefer meeting every four to eight weeks. A favorite meeting place at the Catholic Conference Center is the chapel (see photo), which enhances the sacredness of the encounter. Wherever the session takes place, privacy, trust, and confidentiality are essential. During the session, the directee usually does most of the talking, sets the agenda, and the pace of the discussion, disclosing only that which he/she feels comfortable sharing. The director listens intently to what the directee is expressing and how the Holy Spirit may be speaking to the directee – affirming, deepening, and expanding what the directee shares.

The pace of accompaniment must be steady and reassuring,
reflecting our closeness and our compassionate gaze which also heals,
liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life.

Pope Francis, Evangelii Guadium, 169

What do I need to begin spiritual direction?

Directions to nearby Baker Mountain Park

Spiritual direction is best approached with an openness to how the Lord may be present in your life and a willingness to take that next step, whatever that may be. Give some thought as to what type of spiritual director you might work with the best – man/woman, clergy/lay, Catholic/non-Catholic – and how the director can help you best. Whoever and wherever a person is, spiritual direction is meant “to lead others ever closer to God, in whom we attain true freedom.” (Pope Francis)

Finding a Spiritual Director

The Catholic Conference Center is connected with several local spiritual directors, as well as spiritual directors who meet virtually. Our executive director, Deacon Scott D. Gilfillan, is also certified in spiritual direction and makes some time available for spiritual direction virtually or at the center.

About our Director, Deacon Scott Gilfillan

Deacon Scott D. Gilfillan is a father of three and a husband for over 40 years. He was ordained as a Catholic deacon in 2001. He has extensive experience in pastoral care, prison ministry, and leading retreats. He shares some of his reflections on his blog, My Morning Reflections. For many years, he was the director of deacon formation for the Diocese of Charlotte, assisting and guiding deacon candidates and their wives in discernment and formation. In 2018 he became the director of the Catholic Conference Center in Hickory, NC, and began focusing his ministry on retreats, small group workshops, and spiritual direction. He has met all of the certification requirements as a spiritual director through Divine Mercy University, an institution of higher learning specializing in educating Catholic psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, and spiritual directors. In addition to the human sciences, their training uses a contemplative-evocative model, which involves deep listening and sometimes imagery to get to the heart of where the Spirit is speaking loudest in a person’s life.

Read Deacon Scott’s article published in The Deacon Digest: Learning How to Be a Spiritual Director.