August 18, 2017

Worship and Evangelization Outreach / Sr. Antoinette Purcell, O.S.B.

Spiritual directors ‘tend to the holy’

Sr. Antoinette Purcell, O.S.B.A recent issue of The Criterion featured an article, “Spiritual direction can help us move forward in life toward God.” Written by Effie Caldarola, a freelance writer and a columnist for Catholic News Service, it addressed the growing role that spiritual direction plays in the life of ordinary people since the Second Vatican Council. She also wrote about what spiritual direction is and is not.

There is a long history of spiritual direction in the Catholic tradition. Spiritual directors were recognized by their holiness of life and ability to guide others in developing more fully their relationship with God, their life of prayer and Gospel living. Priests, professed religious men and women as well as lay people sought spiritual direction and served as spiritual directors.

Many saints are recognized as having served their contemporaries as spiritual directors. More recently, other Christian traditions have tapped into our shared roots of spirituality and are training spiritual directors and offering spiritual direction to individuals.

Spiritual Directors International, an inclusive, global community of people who share a common passion and commitment to the art and contemplative practice of spiritual direction, has a mantra chant that reads, “Sacred is the Call; Awesome indeed the entrustment; Tending the Holy, Tending the Holy.”

This mantra recognizes two important points about spiritual direction. First, it is a sacred call to serve as a spiritual director. Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin wrote a letter as Archbishop of Indianapolis about spiritual direction, which can be found at He stated: “Spiritual direction is one of many ministries in the Church which supports the members of the Mystical Body of Christ in their life of discipleship.”

A spiritual director is called by the Spirit to “tend to the holy” as it is experienced in the life of the one who entrusts one’s sacred story to another. It is a sacred call, not a title that one adds to a shingle or business card.

Tending the holy is awesome work, the work of the mysterious one who loves us unconditionally and is constantly at work in our lives even when we can’t see or feel anything happening. A spiritual director helps one to tend to the holy within and without oneself.

Beginning in 1990, the Benedict Inn Retreat and Conference Center, a ministry of the Benedictine Sisters of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, has offered a four-semester certificate program to train and prepare Christian women and men who feel they might be called to serve as spiritual directors. More than 200 women and men have completed the program.

Since then, Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad has added a certificate program in spiritual direction to its offerings. In addition, there are other training programs in surrounding states.

Since its inception, the certificate program at the Benedict Inn has welcomed participants of all Christian traditions. The ecumenical setting has allowed participants to find common ground among Christians and respect for the Catholic Church’s influence on personal spiritual growth throughout history.

For the past 25 years, the Benedict Inn has assisted those seeking a spiritual director by making connections between seekers and those who hold a certificate in spiritual direction. It has also supported the ongoing formation of spiritual directors by offering and hosting programs at its facility, and by working with the central Indiana group of spiritual directors and the Catholic spiritual directors group sponsored by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

In September 2018, the Benedict Inn will open its doors to a new class of students who want to pursue the call of serving as a minister of spiritual direction. We are hoping for great interest among Catholics because there is a need for spiritual directors to serve our faith community in central and southern Indiana. Many who were trained earlier have either died, retired, moved or have a full docket and are not able to take on new seekers. Thus, the list of available Catholic spiritual directors is not as great as it once was.

If you are interested in considering a call to spiritual direction and would like to look at the program at the Benedict Inn, now is a good time to begin. One requirement to fulfill acceptance into the program is that you must be receiving spiritual direction on a regular basis for at least a year.

For more information about the internship for training spiritual directors at the Benedict Inn, you can contact me at or call 317‑787-3287, ext. 3022. If you are looking for a spiritual director, you can also call me, or e-mail

(Benedictine Sister Antoinette Purcell is a member of Our Lady of Grace Monastery where she serves as director of oblates, a spiritual director and retreat leader, and director of the Spiritual Direction Internship at Benedict Inn Retreat & Conference Center in Beech Grove.)

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