Pay to Pray

A priest friend of mine recently complained about her inability to locate a new spiritual director–the former director having moved away. She said that not only were such counsellors hard to find; they also charge money for their services.

In not-so-distant times, fee-based spiritual direction would have been unheard of. It would be like a parish priest asking for money from sick people after every visit. But with the advent of academic study of this topic, and directors having to come up with tuition funds to get their training, professionalization was perhaps inevitable.

At that time, I questioned that spiritual direction could be “taught” and was told that students needed the credit and seminaries need the funds. I remain unconvinced by the commoditization of this ministry. I have never paid for direction nor charged for it. It’s not therapy. If people want to give gifts to the directors’ parishes or charities (as I do), that is fine–and a different moral and spiritual matter.

There is a huge need today for guidance of the soul, and those who can offer this are rare and cherished. But putting money into the mix is likely to be more corrupting than encouraging. Imagine what Jesus would do. —J. Douglas Ousley

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