Finding the right FoC

edited December 1969 in Personal Issues
I recently switched my FoC. My previous FoC was an old man who would not give me a chance to really confess my sins. However, I still keep him as a spiritual guide because he is surely a blessed man.

I am now realizing that the FoC that I am now visiting is being too easy on me. Telling me "ma3lish" for every sin I confess. I want a FoC to be harsh with me and rebuke me for my sin. He might be treating me this way because he can tell I am still young in my spiritual life, but I don't feel it is helpful for me.

Should I stick it out with this priest? Does it really matter who I am confessing to? Is it wrong if I switch my FoC again?

Thank you for your advice.


  • Your FOC is easy on you!? Want to switch with me?

  • hey guys, this may sound ignorant but what is an FoC?
  • Father of Confession :)

    The only acronym I know..
  • What area is your church in?
  • Maybe this is just me, but I'm somewhat of a believer that you don't choose your Foc, God chooses him for you. At least this was the case with me. In your situation, I feel like you might be better off with your original Foc. Maybe try confessing a little differently so he will hear you out? I'm sure he lets you confess during "confession" though.

    God guide you.
  • My church is in the Los Angeles, CA area.

    Maybe I did not pray about it enough, user00. Pray that God guides my decisions.

    Thank you.
  • It can take a long while to find a very good FOC as opposed to one who is offering the sacrament as best he is able. I say this as a priest. But we should receive the blessing of the sacrament, and the good will of the priest, even if he is not able to provide the advice that we believe we need.

    The sacrament is one thing, and the relationship of spiritual guidance is another. Often the Lord will see that we are not ready, nor willing, to receive guidance, whatever we might think ourselves. Often He will ask us to wait and show our desire by obedience to that which we already know we should do.

    But as in all things, at the right time the Lord will provide all that we need to do His will, in His way, and in His time.

    Father Peter
  • Fr. Peter, although I have just switched my FoC I don't think I can remain with the new one. I was willing to stick it out although I felt he was being to easy on me. However, in my last confession the priest text messaged twice and answered his cell phone while I was confessing. He did apologize and say it was an emergency but it made me uneasy. I felt as if he wasn't paying attention. I was also feeling rushed as a person came in and the priest said he will finish with me in 5 minutes and take them next.

    Is it wrong to seek another FoC even though I just recently switched?
  • I don't see a problem with switching FOCs if you don't have a relationship with them. There is a need to be able to test a relationship, and beyond the sacrament itself it is proper to have a spiritual father or mother with whom a person feels comfortable and confident.

    It is the case that Orthodoxy appreciates that there is a difference between one who gives spiritual counsel, and the one who conducts the sacrament. (Not that this normally or often is the case). But there are priests who perform the sacrament and are not very good at spiritual counsel. While there are spiritual guides who are not a person's FOC.  What I am trying to say is that while it is possible to receive the sacrament of confession at the hand of any priest, the aspect of spiritual counsel is related to the particular relationship with a trusted guide.

    There are times in our lives when we can only confess and do not get very inspiring guidance. But to confess is good and necessary in itself. If we do not have great spiritual guidance then we are positively led to reflect on our own lives and seek to become mature and adult through the practice of the Orthodox spirituality which is offered to us all. There is a time for us ourselves to consider how we live as Christians, and a time for us to rely on the guidance of others. I believe that God sends us the guidance we need at the time we need it. Not always within the sacrament of confession either.

    I would encourage your prayers for a spiritual guide, but I would not allow yourself to become obsessed in the search, or to consider that you could become holy if only you had a proper guide. (I am not suggesting this is your attitude). It is one that converts can easily develop. I have found that there are many sources of spiritual guidance that were written for those in the common situation of not having a wonderful spiritual guide, even if they have a loving priest and confessor.

    The sayings of the Desert Fathers were written down to encourage and teach others. Books like Unseen Warfare, are guides to the spiritual life. Many of the Fathers have left collections of spiritual letters which were sent to their spiritual children, who they did not absolve, but to whom they provided guidance. And of course the Scriptures themselves, and the prayers and practices of the Church are filled with guidance.

    I wonder if it is a little bit like the parable of the talents. We do not have a spiritual guide perhaps. But what have we done with what we have already received? Have we worked at it, or have we buried it as if we had no responsibility for our spiritual life because we did not have a guide? What increase will the Lord find when he DOES send a capable spiritual guide into our lives? I am glad to have a relationship with my own spiritual father, but I have not been so fortunate for most of my Orthodox life. It seemed to me that much of what was required of me was quite clear, and there were many trusted sources of spiritual guidance that helped me understand a little more of my own state. We should not seek to become our own spiritual guides, which is why confession is necessary, and a humble and constant desire for a true guide. But the Lord does not leave us without guidance even if we do not have a gifted spiritual father. He will send one when we most need one, or will send some other guidance so that we do not lose the way.

    Father Peter
  • Thank you, father.

    Although you were not suggesting that I was waiting for the right spiritual father to make me holy, I think I was. That is my problem, but I cannot help but feel that a FoC that does not only perform the sacrament but also gives good advice would benefit me much more as a beginner in the spiritual path.

    Pray for me.
  • Yes, it is a problem. It is easy to think that if only someone would be sent to us, or us to them, then their holiness would rub off onto us. I am sure that it is a feeling that very many people have experienced.

    But I think the Lord says to us, well what do you know that you should be doing? What sound and balanced advice have you read and heard from others which you are confident is not excessive in your situation? Have you applied it to your own life yet? If not, then why do you want some more advice?

    In my Orthodox journey I have had to travel many years without personal guidance, and I have relied on general conversations with trusted Christian brothers (I don't mean like confession, but conversation about the spiritual life), and on reading some of the best spiritual books. Some years ago I developed a simple rule of prayer for myself (because I was very, very much a beginner, and still am). I decided that it was not excessive and prideful to pray at least one complete hour from the Agpeya each day (since I did not even have that habit). It did not matter which one, so if I was unable to pray the morning hour, I could pray at lunch time, and if not at lunch time then in the evening, and if not in the evening then before sleep. And that became and has become a valuable habit for me. I used to drive to work and so the 30 minutes was in fact ideal to pray the morning hour, and I would usually pray the evening one on the way home. I did not change the little rule I had set myself. Sometimes I would be able to pray 5 hours, other times 2 or 3, and many times only 1. If I prayed more then it was a blessing, not a sign that I was now an expert. If I had changed my rule the first time I prayed 5 hours then I would have failed the next day, and almost every other day, and would have given up.

    So my rule was very small indeed because I was and am only a beginner. But I took the view that as an Orthodox Christian I did not need to wait for a spiritual guide to tell me I should pray one hour from the Agpeya. It was about the smallest rule possible for the weakest of Christians. But as a Christian I believed and believe that it was right to take some responsibility for myself. It made a difference. I love the Agpeya very much now, and I learned the Prime Hour by heart so that I could pray it wherever I was.

    It is the same with other aspects of the spiritual life. If we do not have personal guidance then we are not excused from acting humbly in faith. It would not be wise for a beginner to say without guidance, I will fast entirely vegan until sunset on each fasting day. But someone who does not have a habit of fasting could consider that it might be a good start to fast until 1pm or 1:30pm in this fast, and pray earnestly that they might learn to offer this sacrifice to God. And then fast until 1:15pm or 1:45pm in the next fast, and so on, until the Lord does send them a spiritual guide who may or may not offer some other advice. But it is better to consider our abilities to be much less than we might think, and to seek to build a habit that can be developed, than to either do nothing because we have no guide, or to fast like a hermit for one day and then abandon fasting as beyond us on the next. It is also better to follow the advice of our confession father when he offers it, even if he is not able to offer a comprehensive spiritual programme.

    If we think less highly of our spiritual abilities, and set ourselves very simple goals, offering them to God and based on the universal spiritual Tradition, and try to gain the advice of our confession father, then God will guide us, even while we desire and pray for a spiritual father. A spiritual guide is most unlikely to say very much different to that which would be clear to us if we were truly reflective on our spiritual condition. The value is in the spiritual guide being able to speak through aspects of our life which we are self-deceived about, or which we require assistance in gaining insight, and in helping us to become obedient.

    But if you are seeking to be faithful then God will always, and in a variety of means, provide you with all the guidance you need.

    May the Lord bless and guide all those seeking to become more faithful Orthodox Christians.

    Father Peter
  • I know it's a bit late, but I have EXACTLY the same problem!
    5 minutes ago I was thinking about it.

    Pray for me,

  • Then my advice would be the same to you, and may the Lord bless you and preserve you.
  • [quote author=Father Peter link=topic=11199.msg138847#msg138847 date=1306958282]
    Then my advice would be the same to you, and may the Lord bless you and preserve you.

    thank u Father, God bless you forever.

    For those who are going to confess, here is a VERY useful guideline: HOW TO CONFESS?
  • I would simply tell my foc that he needs to be harsher with me...I've done it before and it worked.
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