Good and bad spiritual guides

Source: Pemptousia

October 21, 2016

Many Christians are troubled by the issue of how to choose
spiritual guide. What characteristics should they look for
and what kind of relationship should develop between them?




In an address to an international conference, Elder
Elisaios, the abbot of the Holy Monastery of Simonos
Petras on the Holy Mountain, said that it’s a good
and useful thing for Christians to seek spiritual guides
who they feel comfortable with and in whose presence they
are happy. Looking for a spiritual guide with supernatural
gifts, however, is a delusion. In an exclusive interview
with Pemptousia, the same elder said that people today
want to talk more than to repent in their search for
divine Grace. In the old days, their used to be spiritual
guides who were unlettered but had the sense of serving
the sacrament [of confession] and left room for the Grace
of God to speak, depending on the receptivity of the
person confessing. Today, confessors have to have
patience, because it’s hard to shift people away
from their own will and self-image.

According to Saint Païsios the Athonite, people often
put forward the excuse that they can’t find a good
confessor. For Saint Païsios, however, every
spiritual guide who wears a stole has divine authority and
performs the sacrament, while the prayer of forgiveness he
reads has the power to expunge all the sins which are
declared aloud through genuine repentance. He explains:
‘Someone who had psychological problems came to my
kelli, in the belief that I have the gift of foresight and
would be able to help him. “What do you see for
me?”, he asked. I told him to go and find a good
confessor instead of taking pills and he’d sleep
like a log. “There aren’t any good confessors
today”, he said. “There used to be”.
These people come with the right idea- that they’ll
be helped- but then don’t accept what you tell then,
so they’ve wasted the money they spent on the

Before he went to confession, Saint Silouan the Athonite
prayed that the Holy Spirit would enlighten his elder so
that he would guide him in accordance with the will of
God. And he accepted the first thing his elder said and
implemented without the slightest reservation. He
recognized that, being human, it was likely that the man
might err. But when obedience is confidently given during
the sacrament of confession, then divine Grace with bring
the fruits of the Holy Spirit to Christians engaged in the
spiritual struggle.

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