Prayer and the Reality of Distraction

Guest post by Deacon Dominic Cerrato, Ph.D. Director of the Pastoral Solutions Institute Spiritual Direction services

If you’re anything like me, you’re easily distracted in prayer. I don’t think a day goes by when, praying the Divine Office, my mind doesn’t wander somewhere between the psalms and the reading. At times like these it’s not uncommon to become frustrated feeling that we’ve cheated God out of some essential prayer time. As a result, we can strongly identify with Hamlet’s King Claudius who, while attempting to repent of his brother’s murder says, “My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go.”

While there is some truth to Claudius’ words, we ought not take them too literally. This is because God hears distracted prayers more intently than loving parents hear the words of their distracted children. Attentiveness in prayer is not for God’s sake, but for our own. Focus helps us to concentrate on the goal of all prayer which, if it’s from the heart, is intimate communion with Jesus Christ.

Virtually every saint dealt with distractions in some form or another. In our fallen yet redeemed state, coupled with our human frailties, it’s almost impossible to eliminate distractions completely. The best we can do is minimize those we can, and constructively accommodate those we can’t. The great Carmelite mystic, St. Teresa of Avila, understood this well. Writing in the 16th century, she observed.

I was more anxious for the hour of prayer to be over than I was to remain there. I don’t know what heavy penance I would not have gladly undertaken rather than practice prayer….the intellect is so wild that it doesn’t seem to be anything else than a frantic madman no one can tie down….All the trials we endure cannot be compared to these interior battles…[Yet,] do not imagine that the important thing is never to be thinking of anything else and that if your mind becomes slightly distracted all is lost…think of distractions as mere clouds passing in the sky, momentarily taking your gaze from the Sun of Righteousness…

Properly understood, distractions are anything that prevent us from giving our full attention to God. They are more noticeable when we acquire the habit of prayer as opposed to praying occasionally. Distractions sneak into our interiority, capturing the imagination and diminishing the encounter with God. They arise out of a great many factors typically categorized as the world, the flesh, and the devil. That acknowledged, there are a few things we can do to minimize the number of distractions and their negative impact.

To start with, it’s quite helpful to begin prayer by finding the right place to pray. It should be quiet with just the right amount of light to allow you to see – assuming you are using a devotional, Scripture or even a holy object like a crucifix. Posture likewise is important. For instance, too comfortable a position, like a nice overstuffed chair, may lead to drowsiness. Conversely, too uncomfortable a position, like a hard-wooden chair, may lead to further distractions. Settling down is helpful as well. To the extent possible, we should spend a few minutes before prayer in calming silence, placing ourselves in the presence of God. This disposes us to recognize His voice in prayer so that we may better accomplish His will.

With place and posture set, and the calming accomplished, you may wish to begin prayer by asking our Lord for the grace to stay focused. This is less a challenge with vocal prayer as opposed to mental prayer since the simultaneous “saying” and “hearing” can help keep us focused longer. Timing our prayer may also be quite helpful. If you find you’re too tired to pray night prayer before bed, then do it an hour before bedtime. I can assure you that God doesn’t have a specific time frame when your prayer is heard.

Beyond these practical suggestions, there are a couple of other ways to deal with distractions. The first and most effective of these is just to ignore them as, “mere clouds passing in the sky.” If, while praying, we become aware of a distraction, we should simply let it go and return to prayer. According to St. Francis DeSales, “If all you do is return to God after distraction, then this is a very good prayer. Your persistence shows how much you want to be with God.” This persistence means that, despite the distractions, we are intent on seeking God. If we get distracted 15 times and we return to God 15 times, God is pleased with our steadfastness.

Sometimes, a distraction is not really a distraction. This is particularly true when we’re dealing with a major struggle that dominates our thought process. In this situation, we find it almost impossible to escape the struggle as it continually encroaches on our prayer time. Depending on the nature of the struggle, this could be the prompting of the Holy Spirit calling us to redirect our prayers to that difficulty. This differs significantly from other kinds of interruptions. Where distractions lead us away from prayer into our drifting imagination, dealing with a struggle simply redirects the focus of prayer such that we are still praying. The fact that we’re still praying ought to confirm for us the influence of the Holy Spirit and therefore not a distraction in a strict sense.

Looked at positively, distractions, far from impeding the spiritual life, can provide a means to draw closer to Christ. Though they remain an interior battle throughout life, by cooperating with grace, they become less an irritant and more a routine spiritual exercise.

For spiritual direction, contact us at 740.266.6461 or visit us online at

Healing Us through Our Woundedness

Guest post by Deacon Dominic Cerrato, Ph.D., Director of the Pastoral Solutions Spiritual Direction Services

It’s quite common in spiritual direction to hear someone say, “If God would just take away this cross, I would be a much better Christian.” Suffering impacts all of us to a greater or lesser degree such that, to live is to suffer. This is not to suggest that life can be reduced to suffering, but that suffering is a significant aspect of life. Hence, the real question is not so much “that” we suffer, but “how” we suffer. Our faith teaches us that suffering can simply be the endurance of pain or, united with the crucified and risen Christ, truly redemptive. In this respect, it’s a divine gift.

The gift of redemptive suffering, which exists for the good of our souls, doesn’t imply we shouldn’t try to alleviate suffering beginning with prayer. Recall how Jesus, before entering into his Passion, prayed: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will (Mt 26:39).”

Our Lord’s prayer in the garden expressed a twofold desire – one rooted in the reality of the present and the other trusting in a promise of the future. Jesus knew what lay before him and, being fully human and fully divine, understood the suffering he would endure.  At the very same time and in the very same prayer, he surrendered his will to the Father, recognizing that, despite the reality of the moment, despite his sufferings, there was something bigger at stake, the salvation of the world.

For us, the acceptance of this kind of suffering is nothing less than an exercise of discipleship which requires us to pick up our cross and follow Jesus daily (Lk 9:23).  Accomplished with the aid of grace, it enables us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling(Phil 2:12), bearing witness to the One who bore witness to us.

When we intentionally unite our sufferings with Jesus, when we consciously offer up our imperfect sacrifice with his perfect sacrifice, suffering moves beyond the mere endurance of pain. If we allow it, it can become a true path to holiness enabling God to heal us through our woundedness. More a process than an event, we begin to see, perhaps ever-so-slowly at first, that our suffering isn’t a curse, but a gift. It’s not an impediment to intimate union with our Lord, but a means to draw so close to us that, in our suffering, his loving presence brings about the deepest kind of healing.

For spiritual direction, contact us at 740-266-6461 or visit us at

5 Key Ways to Prepare for Spiritual Direction


Guest post by Deacon Dominic Cerrato, Ph.D.

Spiritual direction is a great way to grow closer to Jesus Christ and His Church. This is particularly true when there is a good “fit” between the director and directee. That said, simply going to spiritual direction for its own sake is not enough.  Spiritual direction is not an end-in-itself, but a means to an end; intimate communion with our Lord through growth in the interior life.

To better appreciate this important distinction, consider this analogy. When we’re sick we typically visit our primary care provider to seek relief.  If our provider prescribes a particular procedure, drug or therapy and if we don’t follow this counsel, we shouldn’t expect to get better. Simply put, we need to actively participate in the therapeutic process if we are to be healed.

The same is true for spiritual direction. For spiritual direction to be effective, for the directee to draw closer to Jesus, he or she must actively participate in the process. There is nothing more challenging as a spiritual director than to have a directee come to direction unprepared hoping that the director, by his intercession and counsel, will fix the problem. Authentic spiritual direction requires work on the part of the directee. This is not at all to suggest that grace is not operative.  In fact, it assumes grace to be in effect such that the “work” represents the directee’s response to a divine initiative already begun in his or her life.

Here are five key ways to better prepare and participate in spiritual direction.

Approach the Session in a State of Grace Spiritual direction helps the directee to hear God more clearly and follow Him more faithfully.  These essential aspects of the interior life are significantly diminished if we are not in a state of grace. The state of grace is the condition of a person who is free from mortal sin and living in an ever-deepening friendship with Jesus Christ. If the director is not a priest, then the directee should seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation prior to the session. If the director is a priest, then Reconciliation can take place during the session.

Keep a Journal or Notebook We can tend to think of our encounters with God as separate and disconnected events. Like occasionally bumping into someone we know while out shopping, the relationship lacks a sense of continuity and intimacy. Nothing is further from the truth when it comes to God.  He is ever-present and always communicating His love to us. By keeping a journal or small notebook and recording these events, we begin to see that they are not fragmented messages, but parts of a larger conversation. Writing them down enables us to see patterns and these patterns can be brought into spiritual direction to discover, in a deeper sense, God’s plan for our lives.

Prioritize What You Want to Talk About Spiritual direction occurs in sessions that are, by their very nature, limited. If it has been a while between sessions, the directee may want to discuss several things.  By prayerfully prioritizing the list, he or she can ensure that the most important things are addressed making the session fruitful and effective.

This prioritization can also have another effect. It can help us to distinguish the more important aspects of spiritual growth from the less important aspects. Too often we are distracted and confused by the many spiritual challenges we face. Prioritizing our talking points within the context of prayer and meditation refocuses our spiritual life so that the secondary aspects don’t diminish the primary enabling us to make real progress in the spiritual life.

Recognize that Spiritual Direction Is Not Pastoral Counseling Properly understood, the primary focus of spiritual direction is the directees’ relationship with God and concerns the promptings of the Holy Spirit. In this respect, it is aimed at the salvation of the directees’ soul through a response to our Lord’s personal initiative to follow Him. Consequently, direction always takes place within the framework of prayer and spiritual intimacy.

Pastoral Counseling, on the other hand, seeks to address, struggle through, and resolve problems in our lives and relationships within a Christian context. Where spiritual direction tends to look forward toward growth in intimacy with Jesus Christ, pastoral counseling tends to look backward toward healing past hurts. That said, both must bring the directee/client into the present.

Because the interior life must, by its very nature, express itself in the exterior life, the life of our choices and actions; spiritual direction also includes pastoral guidance. This involves sound, practical, and prudent counsel by the spiritual director to the directee regarding their choices and actions. This insures integrity and consistency between the faith we believe and the moral life we live.

While there is some overlap between spiritual direction and pastoral counseling, the focus, emphasis and gifts of the spiritual director and counselor are different and address different concerns. The person should understand these differences and not seek pastoral counseling in spiritual direction and vice versa. However, in some cases, a person may benefit from both provided they are consistent in their Christian approach as with the Pastoral Solutions Institute.

Work on the “Take Aways” Effective spiritual direction should always leave the directee with spiritual and practical “take aways.” This is to say that during the course of direction the directees discover something about their relationship with God or themselves and, through prayerful discussion with their director arrive at certain remedies.  These remedies are suggestions made by the director to aid in the cultivation of the directees’ interior and moral life. In all cases, this counsel simply represents suggestions made by the director to the directee to prayerfully and prudently apply to his or her life. In the Catholic tradition, the director may never bind the directee under spiritual obedience, only offer good counsel. These “take aways” are the directees’ homework and represent the basis of conversation for the next session.

For moral information on spiritual direction or pastoral counseling, visit the Pastoral Solutions institute at

Deacon Dominic Cerrato is the director of Pastoral Solutions Spiritual Direction Services

5 Reasons Why Spiritual Direction Might Be Right for You


Guest post by Deacon Dominic Cerrato, Ph.D.

A life lived in faith has only one final goal, intimate communion with Jesus Christ. Without Him, life is empty and stripped of its ultimate meaning. With Him, we gain a sense of fulfillment and purpose. While perfect communion only exists when, at the end of our lives, we see God in the face; the nature of the Christian life is to grow in ever-deepening intimacy with Him during our earthly walk.

Over the centuries, the Church has used several terms and phrases to describe this dynamic such as conversion, divinization, growth in holiness, and cultivation of the interior life. All of these are meant to convey a sense that God, who is Love, desires us more than we can possibly desire Him. Because of this, and in spite of our sinfulness, He draws us to Himself through the passion, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. Beyond this, He established the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, through which the fullness of truth and sanctification subsists.

This said, we live in a pluralistic society that can easily distract us from our final goal and the experience of intimate communion during this life. God, who knows all things, knows this and so provides us with the grace to refocus and reorder our lives. This grace is experienced through such things as: prayer, meditating on the sacred Scriptures, frequenting the Sacraments, active parish life, and ongoing adult formation.

Despite the many ways to encounter our Lord through these pious activities and thus grow in intimate communion with Him, all can benefit from spiritual direction. Here are five basic reasons why spiritual direction might be right for you. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but represents key elements in the discernment of spiritual direction:

  1. Cultivating a Richer Prayer Life We often forget that prayer, as important as it is, is not an end in itself, but a means to an end.  We simply don’t pray for the sake of prayer, but to encounter the God who saves us. As we progress in the spiritual life, we can experience dryness or constant distractions. Good spiritual direction helps directees to enter into prayer in a more profound way, to see it as a kind of dialogue in which we are called to listen first and, only after we listen, speak.   
  2. Greater Awareness of God It’s very easy, amid the hustle and bustle of life, to compartmentalize our experiences of God. We are aware of His presence in religious activities, but God is all around us constantly communicating to us through the often-mundane aspects of our lives. Spiritual direction helps directees to better attune themselves to the nudgings of the Holy Spirit in all areas of their life.
  3. Transform Faith into Action The interior life does not exist in a vacuum. As St. James reminds us, “Faith without works is dead (Jas 2:17).” The interior life finds it’s expression and realization in the exterior life, the life of choices and actions. The more we are aware of the presence of God throughout the day the more likely we are to order our choices to Him. These not only impact the world outside of us by witnessing to others, it also has an inward transformative effect. Spiritual direction helps directees to consider their actions in light of their faith revealing Christ in often subtle, but nonetheless profound ways.
  4. Help Make Major Decisions Life this side of heaven often brings us to crossroads; places where we must make major decisions in the course of our lives. These decisions can be about relationships, career opportunities or even the level of participation in the life of the parish. To a greater or lesser degree, these test our faith and the core values that flow from that faith. Good spiritual direction helps to refocus faith, tap into the grace we received at Baptism, and reaffirm our Christian values so that we are better equipped to make these decisions.
  5. Get Spiritually Unstuck Because the spiritual life is about growing in a deeper more intimate communion with Jesus Christ, it is, by its very nature, dynamic. At times and for different reasons, we may find our relationship with Him as rather static.  At it’s worse, we can experience what seems like an abandonment from God resulting in a kind of spiritual paralysis. This paralysis will negatively impact our prayer life, our reception of the sacraments and the way we see Christ in others.  Sound spiritual direction can help identify the reasons for this paralysis and provide spiritual and pastoral guidance.

Though spiritual direction is not a requirement of the Christian life, everyone seeking a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ can benefit from it.  If you would like to pursue spiritual direction, consult your pastor to recommend a solid spiritual director in your area or contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute about spiritual direction over the phone.


Deacon Dominic Cerrato is the director of Pastoral Solutions Spiritual Direction Services

What Faith Stage Are You? The 6 Stages of Seeking Meaning, Significance, and Transcendence.


The following article is adapted from Discovering God Together:  The Catholic Guide to Raising Faithful Kids

Most people think that faith is something you either have or you don’t.  But research by Emory University’s Dr. James Fowler revealed that faith evolves in discernible stages throughout our lifespan.  At each stage, a person’s faith needs to be nourished in different ways if it is to grow and mature into the next stage. If we don’t receive the right kind of support, faith development can stall or even wither.  Because Fowler viewed faith as a natural and essential part of every human person’s search for meaning, significance, and transcendence, Fowler’s Stages of Faith track with other developmental stages you might remember from your Psych 101 class, such as Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development and Lawrence Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development.

What Stage of Faith are you at?  And what do you need to do to more effectively continue your search for meaning, significance, and transcendence?

STAGE 0: Primal Faith (Infancy)–  People might be surprised to realize that babies have faith.  It’s true that they don’t have a conscious experience of faith and can’t articulate specific beliefs,  but this stage is tremendously important because it sets the stage for baby’s view of God and the world.  If parents respond to baby’s needs promptly, generously, and consistently, baby learns the basic, gut-level sense of trust that is necessary to believe that when I call out, God will answer. If parents delay responding to baby’s cries, baby develops gut-level insecurity that anyone will respond when I cry out or that there is anyone to bother crying out to in the first place.

Stage 1: Intuitive Projective Faith (Early Childhood)–This is the “feeling stage” of faith.  Children of this age are not capable of abstract thinking.  They understand everything in terms of “does it feel good or does it feel bad?”  Parents do well to make the child’s experience of faith at this stage as warm, loving, pleasant, and even “cuddly” as possible.  Whether or not a parent does this determines whether the child envisions the idea that “God is watching over you” as a positive, loving, and safe thing (“How wonderful, a loving God is looking out for me!”) or a judging, condemning, scary thing (“I always feel like somebody’s watching me!“).  Everyone eventually outgrows Stage 0 and Stage 1 but the gut-level lessons they take from these stages often stay with them throughout their lives, making faith development a joy or a constant struggle depending upon the experiences they have had up to this point.

Stage 2: Mythic-Literal Faith (Primary School Age to Adulthood)– This is the “story stage.”  The stage of fables and bible stories and rules.  These stories and rules form the basic structures of a child’s faith system.  At this stage, God is a “person” in the same sense that Superman or Santa Claus is a person.  A “larger than life” being with superpowers to help him maintain order in the universe.  Again, depending on how parents present their own faith story (i.e., how they live and explain their own faith life to their kids), God could either be perceived as a benevolent ruler of the universe or a tyrant.  Either way, for the person at this stage, following the rules, doing things “just so” and working hard not to upset God are the prime motivators and primary ways faith is expressed. Generous amounts of parental affirmation allow the person to move through this to the next stage.  By contrast, adults who become stuck at this stage tend to be fairly scrupulous in their approach to faith and overly concerned with liturgical rules, moral rules, and proving themselves to be “good enough”.  For these individuals, faith can become an exhausting trial of constantly trying to prove themselves to God or the people they imagine to be the “official judges of goodness.”

Stage 3: Synthetic Conventional Faith (Adolescence to Adulthood)— This is the “relationship stage” of faith.  A person at this stage tends to decide that something is “true” if it makes their relationships easier and makes people feel affirmed.  By contrast, it is “false” if it makes relationships more complicated or makes people feel challenged or guilty in some way. The hard and fast rules of the mythic-literal stage are now revisioned in light of one’s relationships and the need to affirm others where they are at in their present struggles. Many adults remain at this stage for their entire lives.  Community is very important at this stage.  The down side of this is that faith can be a bit tribalistic (i.e., us v. them), even within a particular denomination.  A faithful, supportive community will enable people to sustain their faith at this stage, the absence of such a community,or the presence of an angry, judgmental community could cause the loss of faith.  Regardless, a person will tend to be faithful to the degree that the people around them are faithful and affirming of their efforts.  They have a harder time feeling confident in their faith and values without a cheering section.

Stage 4: Individuative-Reflective Faith (Early-Middle Adulthood)–This is the “Questioning and Seeking” stage of faith.  The person at this stage owns their faith, is not worried about whether people approve of them or not, and begins questioning many basic assumptions they had previously accepted as gospel.  The person at this stage is “kicking the tires” of their faith, asking hard questions to see what will stand and what may fall away.  Often the people around this individual consider them to be backsliding and are threatened by this individual’s willingness to question the structures of rules and relationships that people at the lower stages of faith need to hold onto for security. At this stage, the person is much more concerned with internal conversion than with outward expressions of piety and righteousness. They tend to withdraw a bit from others, both needing less affirmation and more time to reflect and consider where they are in their journey and who God is asking them to be moving forward. The downside is that they can be a bit smug, looking down their noses at those who they consider to be less evolved. The other danger is that many people at this stage come to believe that the act of questioning is an end in itself and that actually finding actual answers is somehow beneath them.  The process of “seeking and questioning” though imminently valuable and necessary, can become its own idol.  In classic terms, this stage marks the end of the Purgative Way and the beginning of the Illuminative Way.

Stage 5: Conjunctive Faith (Middle-Later Adulthood)–This is the “wisdom stage” of faith.  The person at this stage has achieved what seems to others to be an almost effortless integration of their faith and life.  Things seem, somehow, genuinely less messy for them than for other’s lives.  Others may be tempted to write this off as “luck” but in reality, this is the result of decades of struggle and effort.  The person at this stage has achieved a true, authentic, integration between what they profess and how they live.  This is essence of wisdom; the practiced knowledge of how to live their beliefs–authentically, honestly, and effectively–in the real world.  People at this stage aren’t interested in proving anything.  They also experience a “willed naivety” which allows them to revisit beliefs and practices that they formerly rejected as somehow beneath them.  Also, unlike people at the answer-phobic individuative-reflective stage, people at the conjunctive stage accept that although there may not be perfect answers to the “Big Questions” there are often “very good answers” that are almost universally applicable.  In classic terms, the person at this stage is squarely in the Illuminative Stage of the spiritual walk and perhaps the beginning of the Unitive Stage.

Stage 6: Universalizing Faith (Later Adulthood)–For want of a better way to describe it, this is the “saintly stage.”  Without any attempt on their part to put on a show,  people at this stage are acknowledged by those around them for being living, breathing, examples of faith and virtue and an inspiration to others. People at this stage can still be polarizing and challenging to others, but there is a compassion that comes with these challenges that tempers any sense of condemnation others may feel. There is a simplicity to outward expressions of this person’s faith that belies the depth of belief and wisdom that lies beneath the surface. This person is in at least the beginning stages of the Unitive Way.

So, what stage are you?  Where would you like to be? Negotiating the challenges of these stages can be difficult on our own.  That’s where a spiritual director can be a great help.  If you’d like to learn more about how spiritual direction can help you navigate the challenges of these stages and achieve greater confidence in your spiritual walk, contact us at  And, for a more in-depth look at each of these stages and how you, as a parent, can help your kids grow up to have a healthy, mature faith, check out, Discovering God Together:  The Catholic Guide to Raising Faithful Kids


5 Ways Spiritual Direction Can Change YOUR Life


A guest blog by Deacon Dominic Cerrato, Ph.D., Director of the Pastoral Solutions Institute’s Spiritual Direction Program.

Traditionally, spiritual direction was most closely associated with clergy and religious as part of growth in the interior life. Throughout the history of the Church, few lay people received formal spiritual direction relying instead on the confessional and private devotions. As a result of the Second Vatican Council with its emphasis on the vocation of the laity, spiritual direction is no longer primarily reserved for the clergy, but available for all.

In its most basic sense, spiritual direction is primarily concerned with the directee’s relationship with God.  It is the assistance given by the director to help the directee to pay attention to God’s personal communication to him or her and to respond to this personal communication in concrete ways. Spiritual direction is a means to grow in holiness through the development of the interior life.

Here are five ways spiritual direction can change your life.

  1. Ongoing Spiritual Direction Reminds Us that We Do Not Journey Alone
    While the Christian life has a deeply personal component, it’s never meant to be private – just me and Jesus in my prayer closet. To be Christian is to belong to a faith community and one aspect of that community is mutual support. Ongoing spiritual direction reminds us that we are not alone. Instead, it provides us with someone we can trust who can guide us to growth in the interior life.
  2. Ongoing Spiritual Direction Keeps Us Attentive to the Presence of God
    It’s far too easy, in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, to forget that we are always in God’s presence. Ongoing spiritual direction helps us to be more attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as He speaks to us in prayer and through our experiences with one another.
  3. Ongoing Spiritual Direction Calls Us to Participate More Fully in the Life of the Parish
    The parish is our primary faith community. It is the place where we encounter Jesus in His Word and Sacraments, most fully in the Eucharist. And yet, it’s easy to treat the parish as a kind of weekly stop for spiritual fuel with little else to offer in our busy schedule.  Ongoing spiritual direction reorients our lives to be more active in the community, more giving in our hearts.
  4. Ongoing Spiritual Direction Draws us into a More Intimate Communion with Jesus Christ
    The goal of the Christian life is intimate communion with Jesus Christ. While this is accomplished fully when we receive His eternal embrace at the end of this life, our Lord offers us a bit of heaven here on earth.  Ongoing spiritual direction fosters a deeper experience of God’s love on a personal level. It is a life-long process in which our relationship with Him is cultivated and enriched. In this, we gain a sense of self-confidence and fulfillment. Spiritual direction disposes us to anticipate and even yearn for eternal life without losing sight of the here and now.
  5. Ongoing Spiritual Direction Transforms Our Lives
    Authentic growth in the spiritual life is gauged by growth in the exterior life; that is, in our everyday choices.  Jesus tells us that we shall know a tree by its fruits. If, in spiritual direction we seek to somehow leave this world to find Christ, we will simply pass Him on the way.  Jesus Christ is here. He is present in those around us and particularly in those that suffer.  Ongoing spiritual direction has the potential to transform our lives allowing the love of God we experience to change and inspire us to become more loving to others.

For most of us, the challenge with spiritual direction is finding a director whose time is flexible enough to accommodate our busy schedules.  Recognizing this deeply felt need, the Pastoral Solutions Institute offers spiritual direction by phone at the convenience of the directee.  Whether you’re an at-home or working mom, a busy dad or just someone who can’t find a good director close by, spiritual direction by the Pastoral Solutions Institute may be just what you’re seeking.

For more information, contact us at


Deacon Dom

Deacon Dominic Cerrato is the director of the Pastoral Solutions Institute’s Spiritual Direction Program and is Founder of Diaconal Ministries. Formerly, he served in full-time pastoral ministry specializing in adult formation. He has also taught theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville and Duquesne University of the Holy Ghost along with ethics at Thomas Nelson Community College. While at Franciscan University, Deacon Dominic also established and developed the Distance Learning Masters in Theology Program. He has nearly 30 years of experience in catechetical and pastoral ministry on both the diocesan and parish levels.

Deacon Dominic possesses a BA in Theology from Franciscan University, a MA in Theology from Duquesne University where he also completed his Ph.D. course work with a concentration in healthcare ethics. In 2009, he was awarded a Ph.D in Theology from the Graduate Theological Foundation. Ordained in 1995 as the first permanent deacon of the Diocese of Steubenville, Deacon Dominic has developed a number of formation/catechetical programs included a highly successful program for returning Catholics that was featured in USA Today and Our Sunday Visitor. He is a national speaker and author. He and his wife Judith have been married for 34 years and they have seven children and six grandchildren.

Got Spiritual Direction? New Resource Helps YOU Get the Most from Your Spiritual Life!

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

You don’t have to be a saint to want to draw closer to God or have more confidence in what he wants for your life.

Spiritual direction is an important ministry that helps people at every stage of the spiritual walk draw closer to God and have more confidence in his will for their lives.  In fact, the Church acknowledges the incredible value of spiritual direction and encourages anyone who is serious about their spiritual walk to seek a competent, qualified director (Catechism #2690). The problem is finding a person who is both qualified to be a spiritual director (in training and spiritual maturity) and who has the time to see you. There simply  aren’t enough clergy to go around  in the first place, and of those who are, many either don’t have the time or training to do ongoing spiritual direction.

What’s a sincere Christian to do?

A New Service for YOU

In addition to our well-respected Catholic Tele-Counseling practice, the Pastoral Solutions Institute now offers telephone based Catholic Spiritual Direction Services.  Now, whatever your state in life, whatever your place in your spiritual walk, and wherever you are in the world, faithful, competent, compassionate spiritual direction is as accessible as your smartphone.

Deacon Dominic Cerrato, Ph.D.

Deacon Dominic Cerrato, Ph.D.

Deacon Dominic Cerrato, Ph.D. heads up the Pastoral Solutions Institute’s Spiritual Direction Program.  Deacon Dominic combines nearly 30 years of experience in pastoral and catechetical ministry with a Ph.D in theology and a graduate certificate in bioethics. Ordained in 1995 as the first permanent deacon of the Diocese of Steubenville, he is the founder of Diaconal Ministries. In these roles,  Deacon Dominic has served for many years as a popular speaker, trainer, and spiritual director for priests, and deacons, and seminarians throughout the country. In addition to his scholarly writing, he is the author of, In the Person of Christ the Servant, a book that explores the nature of the diaconate and is used in many diaconal training programs across the country. He has also been a popular guest on many Catholic radio and television programs (Please see his full bio below).

For more information on the Pastoral Solutions Institute’s Spiritual Direction Services, including rates and availability,  I invite you to send a message to and/or review both the FAQ and Deacon Dominic Cerrito’s full bio below.


What is spiritual direction?

The purpose of spiritual direction is to enable you to listen and respond more effectively to God’s personal communication in your life. This, in turn, cultivates the interior spiritual life where you meet the Holy Spirit one-on-one and true transformation takes place. The ultimate goal of spiritual direction is to deepen your intimacy with Jesus Christ and to help you live the Christian life more effectively. It is about helping you place your life more fully under the dominion of the Holy Spirit who is the primary spiritual director.

What does a spiritual director do?

The Pastoral Solutions Institute’s spiritual direction program exists to assist you in your conversation with God. Your spiritual director will help you be more attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and encourage your progress in the spiritual life,  A good spiritual director is careful not to come between you and God.  Instead, the director plays a supportive role in your relationship with God by encouraging you to engage in a process of ongoing spiritual growth that is grounded in an active parish life, supported by a commitment to prayer in its many forms, enlivened by the reading and study of Scripture, deepened through ongoing catechetical formation, and nourished through frequent use of the sacraments—especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist.

Can spiritual direction work over the phone?

Absolutely. In fact, telephone-based spiritual direction helps facilitate a major goal of spiritual direction; namely, that the spiritual director should be as little a distraction as possible so that you can become more aware of the presence of God in your session rather than the presence of the director in the session.

What should I expect from spiritual direction through Pastoral Solutions?

The Church has long recognized that living the faith is not a “one size fits all” proposition. Just as there are a number of schools of spirituality within the Catholic tradition, there are a number of valid approaches to spiritual direction. The key is choosing one that best empowers you to discover the unique relationship God desires with you.

In your sessions, your spiritual director will adopt a contemplative posture; listening to both you and God.  As your director prayerfully attends to your time together, he will help you be attentive to and “stay with” the movements of God within the depths of your soul. In this experience, you will discover a safe harbor from which to explore and develop more particular spiritualties such as Marian, Ignatian, Carmelite, Dominican and Franciscan. As you progress in your work, your spiritual director will help you discover the spiritual model that is best suited to the work God is doing in your life.

Do I have to be “spiritually advanced”  to benefit from spiritual direction?

Absolutely not. All you need is a desire to take your spiritual life more seriously.  To this end, in addition to facilitating your ongoing conversation with God and looking at ways to deepen your spiritual life, your spiritual director will help you get more out of basic spiritual practices such as regular church attendance, participation in the sacraments, and a day-to-day prayer life.  Beyond these things, to get the full benefit of spiritual direction, the only other things you’ll need is a willingness to meet regularly with your director, and a sincere desire both for greater union with God and openness to the movement of the Holy Spirit.

Does the director tell the directee what to do?

Your relationship with God is sacred and personal.  As such you will always have the right to make the final decision about how that relationship should unfold.  Your spiritual director will certainly offer suggestions he prayerfully feels would be helpful for deepening your relationship with God but he will never tell you what to do. It is your spiritual director’s job to ask you questions that help him understand where you are at in your spiritual journey and give you the tools to discover the best way forward. Good spiritual direction respects your free will just as God does.

How often is spiritual direction necessary?

There is no strict timetable for spiritual direction though it should be regular. After the initial spiritual assessment period, where your director helps you take stock of your spiritual journey thus far, you and your director will decide on the frequency that best serves you and your goals. However often you decide to meet (monthly at minimum), it will be important to be faithful to your time together.  Your commitment builds a relationship of trust between you and your spiritual director so that,together, you may be more responsive to ways God is working in both of you.

How is spiritual direction different from counseling?

Spiritual direction can certainly be a healing process.  But though spiritual direction can be a helpful part of recovery from emotional problems or relational conflict, the primary goal of spiritual direction is not recovery from problems so much as it is deepening your relationship with God, attending to God’s will more effectively, and being more confident in the ways God is working in and through you in your present circumstances.

Beyond this, where counseling is more directive, focused on teaching techniques, building skills and concentrated on resolving problems, spiritual direction is most interested in helping you develop the quiet place in your heart where you can encounter God more personally and receive whatever blessings, graces, and wisdom he wishes to share with you.

Is it ever advisable to undergo counseling and spiritual direction at the same time?

Depending on their particular circumstances and needs, a directee/client will often choose either spiritual direction or counseling.  Even so, there is nothing that would prevent you from experiencing the benefits of both as they are intended to be complementary to each other.

Along these lines, it may also be the case that, in the course of spiritual direction, a director may make a referral to counseling or, in the course of counseling, a counselor may make a referral to spiritual direction.  In such an event, you would be free to work with a director or counselor of your choosing—whether or not they were associated with the Pastoral Solutions Institute.  That said, Pastoral Solutions Institute therapists and spiritual directors are part of the same team.  We learn from each other, value each other’s input, and work together closely to help our clients achieve their goals in the most efficient way possible.

Are the sessions confidential?

Yes. Any disclosure that a directee makes during the sessions is strictly confidential. The director may never reveal it or use it. The only possible exception to this standard of confidentiality would be the case of grave, immediate, or mortal danger involving the directee or another person.

Do I have to be Catholic to have spiritual direction?

No. All Christians are welcome. While the Pastoral Solutions Institute spiritual direction program is deeply rooted within the Catholic tradition, the directee need not be Catholic. Accommodation can be made to direct the directee from a more general Christian approach.

Is there a charge for spiritual direction?

Yes.  Spiritual direction is a demanding profession that requires many years of  academic and personal preparation to do well.  That said,  we have set the cost of our service so that almost anyone could afford to take advantage of these services.  For rates and availability, please send a request for additional information to .



Deacon Dom

Deacon Dominic Cerrato offers spiritual direction under the Pastoral Solutions Institute and is Director of Diaconal Ministries. Formerly, he served in full-time pastoral ministry specializing in adult formation. He has also taught theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville and Duquesne University of the Holy Ghost along with ethics at Thomas Nelson Community College. While at Franciscan University, Deacon Dominic also established and developed the Distance Learning Masters in Theology Program. He has nearly 30 years of experience in catechetical and pastoral ministry on both the diocesan and parish levels.

Deacon Dominic possesses a BA in Theology from Franciscan University, a MA in Theology from Duquesne University where he also completed his Ph.D. course work with a concentration in healthcare ethics. In 2009, he was awarded a Ph.D in Theology from the Graduate Theological Foundation. Ordained in 1995 as the first permanent deacon of the Diocese of Steubenville, Deacon Dominic has developed a number of formation/catechetical programs included a highly successful program for returning Catholics that was featured in USA Today and Our Sunday Visitor. He is a national speaker and author. He and his wife Judith have been married for 34 years and they have seven children and six grandchildren.