The distinction between a spiritual director and a spiritual mentor is that a director must have a master’s degree in a field related to theology. A mentor must be certified to serve as guide and companion to others on their journey to holiness. In both cases, the director and mentor must be loyal to the teachings of the Catholic Church because sound doctrine is essential. One who disobeys the teachings of Christ is a dangerous and unreliable guide. As Jesus taught, “When the blind lead the blind, they both fall into a pit” (Mt 15:14).
In the Gospels, large numbers of people gathered to hear Jesus. Many sought to be healed, but all wanted to listen to Jesus. The people wanted to hear sound doctrine. Matthew comments, “He taught them as one with authority, unlike the scribes and Pharisees” (Mt 7:29).
An understanding of the following church doctrine is essential for all spiritual directors and spiritual mentors who accompany souls on their journey:
- The basic role of each person of the Blessed Trinity.
- The necessity of grace.
- Familiarity with the Scriptures, especially the Gospels.
- Knowledge of and commitment to the moral precepts of the church: The Ten Commandments, teachings on pre-marital and marital chastity, the effects of concupiscence, etc.
- Knowledge of the virtues and how they strengthen the will.
- Familiarity with Christ’s teachings on the Beatitudes.
- Sound Christian anthropology (how intellect, will, and passions relate to each other both after the fall, and now how Christ restores their integrity).
- Understanding of the four last things: death, judgment, heaven, and hell.
If the spiritual director and spiritual mentor expect to give sound advice they must practice an active life of mental prayer, frequent the sacraments, exhibit virtue and balance. They also should seek regular personal spiritual direction as well. Directors and mentors need to exhibit discretion and have the ability to discern and understand the human heart. St. Frances de Sales was fond of saying, “A little bit of honey is more attractive than a lot of vinegar.” In other words, the director and mentor should have a compassionate heart, show kindness, consideration and be able to communicate well with others.
Next Issue — Dispositions for those seeking advice and the fruits obtained