Spiritual Directors Who Direct

Joseph Tetlow, SJ, is one of the of the most respected and knowledgeable Ignatian spiritual directors.   For years he guided the 250 Jesuit retreat houses around the world in his capacity as head of the Jesuit General’s Secretariat for Ignatian Spirituality. So when Fr. Tetlow says something unusual about spiritual direction, it’s a good idea to listen.

What he says is that spiritual directors sometimes direct. You don’t hear that very often.  Many spiritual directors don’t like to be called “directors.”  The usual description of the job emphasizes listening and accompanying people on their spiritual journeys.  That’s surely important, probably the most important part of the job.  And Ignatius himself insisted that spiritual directors not get in the way of God dealing directly with people.  Nevertheless, says Fr. Tetlow, spiritual directors do direct.

You tell a desolate woman to change her prayer as it’s mainly self-absorption. You instruct a young Jesuit not to change his current way of praying. You challenge a married woman, telling her that she would be wise to break off a relationship that is disturbing her marriage. You do none of this easily or without reflecting, and never harshly or judgmentally.  But you do it.

In fact, he says, this is one thing that distinguished Ignatian spiritual direction from other kinds.

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Jim Manney
Jim Manney is the author of highly praised popular books on Ignatian spirituality, including A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer (about the Daily Examen) and God Finds Us (about the Spiritual Exercises). He is the compiler/editor of An Ignatian Book of Days. His latest book is What Matters Most and Why. He and his wife live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


  1. I am pleased to be part of tis jesuits family by venture of being a member of the jesuits collaborators network in Zambia .Malawi province iin Africa:-) thru workshops I have come to learn a lot about the Jesuits:-) I even congregate at a Jesuit Parish making it so interesting:-) l am really a ploud catholic

  2. I went out for a walk this morning, not exactly knowing where I was going geographically, with no particular intention to pray. In fact, I knew I’d be doing the pray as you go web site after I got through with my walk. I just started breathing in the pine-scented, earthy forest air, and smiling at the sun, the sky, the lake view, and leaves gently sighing in the trees, and before I knew it I was saying thank you to our Lord, who had given me a heart full of love and gratitude for my dear mother and the time we were able to spend together, and for the beautiful morning. I was praying as Father Tetlow said – “Prayer is as natural to us as breathing is.” without even thinking about it, the heart turns to God- another gift!


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