I was touched by this anonymous comment: I had gone to Reconciliation and had been feeling somewhat disconsolate afterwards. I wished I had a spiritual director.
The spiritual life isn't easy. Prayer, as is said, is an 'uninteresting wilderness.'
A spiritual director is a good thing, but only a help. Not everyone who thinks he needs a spiritual director really does, and not every who tries to engage in directing souls is competent to do so.
In the early years of my baptism I was often preoccupied with a certain interior struggle that was made much worse by my inability to really understand it or articulate it well. A significant part of my journals from those years is taken up with my struggle to find an understanding of this trouble. I remember trying to explain it in confession without much success. One time a priest just admitted that he didn't know what I was trying to explain. It was very frustrating because I felt like my spiritual progress was being impeded by something, but I couldn't quite describe what it was; I couldn't name the demon, as it were. I was also scandalized to find that priests were little help; I had presumed (in my innocence) that one of the ordinary works of priests was the diagnosis of spiritual maladies and prescription of appropriate remedies.
I began to arrive at some resolution in this issue when I read John Cassian. I realized that I was struggling with a subtle form of kenodoxia or vainglory. Cassian taught me how to recognize and name the particular thoughts and interior movements that were at the root of the affliction.
This is why I say that in the pursuit of a spiritual life, the best thing that someone can do is read. Through the ages, the life of prayer and the call to holiness have been lived by all kinds of different people with all sort of personalities, gifts, and faults. The Holy Spirit arranged for many of them to write about their experiences and what they had learned, so that their wisdom might be available to us.
For any individual soul, personality, and temperament, there is some spiritual writer out there who will speak to you from the communion of saints. Pay attention to cues you receive in prayer or through spiritual friends, and God will lead you to someone with whom you resonate. Find the spiritual writers who speak to your particular condition, and you will find that your own spiritual life begins to enter into the communion of saints. The saints will give you language and conceptual frameworks to understand your own experience, and you will also find your own sense of your journey comes to be informed by those who have gone before you. This is what I mean by the communion of saints in this regard. For example, my sense of my own prayer has ben strongly patterned by John of the Cross and John Cassian. My understanding of the narrative of my own conversion has received much from Augustine, Francis, and Thomas Merton.
To anyone who would live a spiritual life, make such friends. It is for you that God made them write.