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Finding the Ocean – A Guide for Spiritual Direction (by Sr. Marybeth Martin)

by Sr. Marybeth Martin, PHJC | November 24, 2011

You may have heard the story about a little fish who swims up to the older and wiser fish and asks, “Where is the ocean?” The wise old fish says, "You are swimming in the ocean right now; it is part of you." the little fish responded, “No this is only the water. I want the ocean.” She shakes her head in frustration and swims away, saying, "Maybe someday I will find the ocean."

Often I swim through life trying to find God. As a college student discerning about being a Sister, I asked a spiritual director, “How do I know if I am doing God’s will? How do I find it?” He responded, “You’re in it …it’s part of you…it’s all around you.” I felt like the little fish trying to find the water. Could God’s will be that easy to find? Spiritual direction helps me notice I am swimming in the ocean of God’s love; it surrounds and fills my life.

We all need help reflecting on life, noticing where and how God touches our experiences. We can easily miss it as life zooms past. Spiritual Direction helps you pause and pay attention to your own story, seeing God’s direction within it. Often that comes in taking today’s next right step. What are you called to do today? How can you receive God’s love today in your daily life and then share it in ordinary ways?
In the process of meeting regularly with a spiritual director, you discover God’s will in the invitations to new life and growth in love. You also can find the gifts hidden even in pain and struggle.

Perhaps, you have been encouraged to find a spiritual director and think it is a new idea. Actually, it has been around for a long time! In the Scriptures and throughout Church history, we have many examples of people seeking God’s direction. Many saints sought out spiritual guides. Yet, spiritual direction is not only for saints! Nor is it only for religious women and men or for those discerning religious life or priesthood.

Spiritual direction can be for you if you want help to make wise decisions or find God’s presence hidden in ordinary moments. Meeting with a spiritual director regularly (often monthly) can help you make sense of life and hear God’s nudges to life, growth, love.

Spiritual direction is not therapy, even though you may talk about some of the same situations in both. In spiritual direction, though, you and your director look together for God’s action in those situations.

I am grateful for opportunities of spiritual direction for myself. And now, as a spiritual director, I have the chance to walk with people like you. All over the world, there are trained spiritual directors who are ready to listen with you for God’s subtle movements in your life.

It is important to find a spiritual director with whom you can speak honestly about your life. To find a director, contact a retreat center, parish, campus ministry or diocesan young adult ministry office. They usually have lists of spiritual directors in the area. You can also contact a young adult minister, Sister, Brother, deacon or priest you know. They may also have resources for spiritual direction. Whenever I move to a new area, I pray for guidance to find a new director and courage to make the call! Many spiritual directors will meet with a new person a few times and then evaluate if it is a good fit.

Spiritual Directors International offers further resources about spiritual direction and finding the right spiritual director. Check out their web site: You can also download this brochure from St. Xavier University, Chicago:

If you have any questions, you can contact the Catholics on Call office or e-mail Sister Marybeth Martin at


Discover how you swim in the ocean of God’s love. You deserve to try this experience! 

Author information Sr. Marybeth Martin, PHJC

Sr. Marybeth is a member of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ from Donaldson, Indiana. After doing campus and young adult ministry, then vocation ministry for her community, she is now doing full-time ministry in spiritual direction and leading retreats. 

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