106 – Spiritual direction is a charism of the laity

A dedicated university student diligently prepares for final exams. His professional future will depend on his good results. Besides attending classes, the student will consult various sources, ask for advice from people who have already completed the same studies, and he will also seek the opinion of those who have mastered the topics at hand… but in all cases, his main attention will be focused on the lectures received from the professors. No one studies for exams depending merely on the assistance received from their companions! Security comes from following the guidance received from those who have the task of teaching.

So also, our spiritual life is a continuous preparation for the final exam which consists in the judgment on which our eternal destiny will depend. Though we have real necessity of the counsels of friends, and receive them with gladness and gratitude, it is indispensible to base oneself essentially on the direction of the authentic teachers to whom the Redeemer himself designated the mission of instructing, guiding and sanctifying his flock and to whom He gave a special charism for this task. Our eternal destiny is far too important for us to rely on the support of our older brothers and sisters alone.



Quote A

Teachings of the Magisterium

Enter in the various parts of our study

I – The Sacrament of Holy Orders confers the special mission of directing souls
II – The faithful form part of the learning Church and are not called to teach

I – The Sacrament of Holy Orders confers the special mission of directing souls

Sacred Scripture

The mission to proclaim the Gospel was given to the Apostles
‘Presbyters, tend the flock of God’
The mission conferred to the Prince of the Apostles

Benedict XVI

Priests have the munus docendi, the task of teaching – they must answer the fundamental questions about what we must do in order to do good
An essential part of the priest’s grace is the task of putting others in touch with God
Christ tends his flock through the Pastors of the Church
Every priest is called to help the penitent to walk on the demanding path of holiness
Listening to the confessor’s advice is important for the spiritual journey of the penitent

Congregation for the Clergy

The priest must practice the ministry of the formation of consciences
The priest must not fail to exercise the ministry of spiritual direction

John Paul II

The People of God have a greater need than ever for authoritative guides
The priest is called to encourage and lead the ecclesial community

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

The ministers serve their brethren so that they arrive at salvation


The direction of souls is one of the principle occupations of the priest

Pius XI

Christian formation of souls is chiefly the work of priestly activity
It is the priest’s task to guide the faithful to the safe port of faith
The mandate of teaching was bestowed by Christ on his Church

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Authentic teachers endowed with the authority of Christ

Saint Augustine of Hippo

Christ left his apostles as shepherds of his flock

II – The faithful form part of the learning Church and are not called to teach

Catechism of Saint Pius X

Christ himself established the distinction within the Church of those who teach and those who are taught

Vatican Council I (Ecumenical XX)

In the Church some teach and govern; and others do not


It is the duty of the faithful to follow the teachings of the Pastors

Benedict XVI

In the saintly priest, the Christian People recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd

John Paul II

Spiritual direction is a function fitting to the priest
The Magisterium helps Christians in the formation of conscience
Without priestly ministry there is no authentic lay apostolate

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

The faithful need pastors to teach them and must accept their teaching

Congregation for the Clergy

The laity should exercise their role so that the priest will be freer in attending to his primary commitments of spiritual direction

Sacred Scripture

A woman must receive instruction silently and under complete control
Not all have the same function

Clement I of Rome

Let each one give thanks to God in his own order – the priest as a priest, and the layman as a layman

Related studies

  • 152 – “The Catholic Church has acted again and again as a mediator in finding solutions to problems affecting peace, social harmony, the land, the defense of life, human and civil rights”

  • 150 – “Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it”

  • 140 – “Do we love the Church as we love our mothers, also taking into account her defects? All mothers have defects. The Church also has her defects”

  • 138 – “The Church is woman. Women, in the Church, are more important than bishops and priests”

  • 115 – The Council Fathers strongly perceived a need to talk about God to men and women of their time in a more accessible way. The time had come to proclaim the Gospel in a new way

  • Print Friendly, PDF & Email

    5 thoughts on “106 – Spiritual direction is a charism of the laity

    1. Of course nuns are called to be teachers, an abbess will want to lead her daughters closer to Jesus. However, the concrete point here is “spiritual director” who hears confession and gets to know the depths of a soul and only then in Persona Christi and in guidance of the Holy Spirit can he be able to instruct the soul how to proceed to follow Christ. All saints had spiritual directors. The Pope’s remarks are not surprising. At the end of the Synod of the family he proclaimed, that the church is a pyramid and that he wants to turn the pyramid up side down because the people have a conscience and the Holy Spirit. For me that borders on one of the worst heretical comments ever because it indicates the faith and truth proclaimed by the Church can be bypassed by a person’s conscientious opinion. Sacred Heart of Jesus of mercy on us.

    2. 1. ” … isn’t there a wise nun, a nun who lives the charism well, a good nun with experience? Do spiritual direction with her!’ – ‘But she’s a woman!’ – ‘But it is a charism of lay people!’ ”
      Why is the pope referring to a (presumably professed) religious sister as a ‘lay person’?
      I do believe the religious life for women is also a consecration, therefore calling a ‘nun’ a ‘lay person’ is strange.
      You should have caught that, first.
      2. My brave priests who manage this site, this particular page is leaning a little too heavy on “Women (and laymen), be silent in the Church” when we have many lay people who teach in Catholic schools, colleges and universities.
      Try to be careful about being too aggressive on your ‘priestly privilege’.

      Thank you!

      • Please be careful whose you are speaking to….and please be respectful to our brave priests. May God always bless and protect our brave priests.

      • But they only put up original texts without personal opinions. Could it be that YOU think that the Church should be different than it has always been?

    Leave a Reply