"Big Four" Highlights


Quo Vadis?

New book on spiritual direction offers helpful guide to getting closer to God

Dan Burke works for EWTN, so we should not be surprised that he is unafraid to “set out into the deep” and swim against the tide of our times with his book “Navigating the Interior Life: Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God.” What exactly in the “interior life” to a culture that tweets every whim? And who has time for “spiritual direction” in this hurry-up society?

Yet Burke’s book hits a nerve in urging us to slow down, gather our thoughts and stop settling for fast-food faith. While admitting that spiritual direction may not be for everyone, and good spiritual directors may be difficult to find, Burke lays out the need, meaning and great benefits that can come with spiritual direction.

Executive Director of EWTN’s National Catholic Register newspaper, Burke, 47 years old, lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with his wife, Stephanie and their four children.

Fathers for Good: What’ so good about spiritual direction?

Dan Burke: The human capacity for self-delusion is infinite. Beyond this most basic challenge rooted in concupiscence, we also have the problem spiritual cataracts and limited peripheral vision. What I mean by this is that sin clouds our self-understanding and our understanding of God. With respect to the spiritual peripheral vision problems, this illustrates the blind spots that all of us have. When you add all of this up, you find that we really need others to help us accurately assess our present state and progress in the spiritual life.

FFG: How can spiritual direction help?

Burke: Spiritual direction can help us to cut through our own limited ability to understand where we are and how we can grow. It also helps us to set a course of progress and growth that is tangible and that will draw us closer to God in prayer and to a greater love of his people.

FFG: Can only a priest be a spiritual director?

Burke: No, but a good priest is the best option because they can also serve as our confessor. A regular confessor has the best vantage point from which to accurately understand the state of a soul. However, most priests are not prepared to provide spiritual direction or don’t have the time. In this case, we can look to religious and laypeople who have the training and calling to provide spiritual direction. Most people are not aware, for instance, that Blessed John Paul II once had a lay spiritual director. There are a number of good schools for spiritual direction in the country providing solid formation for spiritual mentors. One of them is the AVI School of Spiritual Direction founded by Archbishop Naumann in Kansas City, Kansas. You can find out more about this program called School of Faith.

FFG: How does one find and select one?

Burke: This issue is challenging and one that I spend a good deal of time on in my book. The best place to look is among the faithful who are taking their spiritual lives seriously. They are typically committed to local associations like the Knights of Columbus, Catholics United for the Faith, Walking with Purpose, ENDOW etc. By attending these kinds of meetings you will get to know people who are more likely to know good spiritual directors they can recommend.

With respect to selecting a good director, first he or she must be faithful to the magisterium. Second, this person should have some training or be well formed in an understanding of Catholic spirituality. Beyond that, check out my book for specific ways to determine whether or not a director is suitable for you.

“Navigating the Interior Life: Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God” is available from Emmaus Road Publishing.