008: Finding God Through Meditation with Dan Burke

catholic_FINAL_150Lots of saints make strong statements about prayer. St. Alphonsus Ligouri is probably the scariest. Referencing St. Teresa of Avila, he once stated that “He who neglects mental prayer needs no devil to carry him to hell. He brings himself there with his own hands.” Yikes!

Lucky for you (and me), we’re not talking prayer with him today. Instead, Mr. Dan Burke is the featured guest in this episode of The Art of Catholic podcast.

While not a saint (yet), Dan is definitely a sage when it comesimgres to the spiritual life and loves to quote Teresa of Avila, too. In fact, he’s the founder and president of The Avila Institute, as well as the Executive Director of EWTN’s National Catholic Register. He also blogs and podcasts over at SpiritualDirection.com.

Dan has written a wonderful series of books under the heading of “Navigating the Spiritual Life” through Emmaus Road Publishing. And in this episode we’re discussing some of the contents of one of those books titled, “Finding God Through Meditation.” It’s all about St. Peter Alcantara. Who is he? None other than the spiritual director for Teresa of Avila. Prepare to grow!

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When Joy Is Wrong – According to St. John of the Cross

It sounds a bit crazy when you first hear it. According to St. John of the Cross, there is actually a time when we shouldn’t be rejoicing in beautiful things like marriage and children. What in the world does he mean?St-John-of-the-Cross-219x300

We’re all aware we shouldn’t take inordinate pleasure in earthly/temporal goods (which remains a problem for most of us).

Affected by the Original Sin of Adam and Eve, we tend to focus too much on the things of this world. The cliché’s of women craving shoes and men drooling over cars is rooted in reality. We like stuff.

Again, it’s not that any of these things are intrinsically evil. When God created the world he called it “good”. The problem is that these earthly things can easily distract us from heavenly matters. We know that.

But what is John talking about with regard to other, less “worldly” goods? Isn’t marriage always good? Aren’t we always to be proud of our children (except, of course, when they start screaming at the top of their lungs after you’ve settled into the front row of a packed Mass).

In one sense, the answer is yes. Marriage is good. Children are good. They’re amazing gifts from God.

But John makes a very important distinction in his masterpiece The Ascent of Mt. Carmel: “One should rejoice in them if they are serving God…It would be vanity,” for example, “for a husband and wife to rejoice in their marriage when they are uncertain whether God is being better served by it.”

Earlier in this passage he says there is no reason to rejoice in children “because they are rich, or endowed with natural talents and gifts, or because they are wealthy.” True joy in them comes only when they are serving God.

In other words, whatever isn’t giving glory to God needs to be worked on or helped along until it does, because that’s what life is all about. How do we do that? The basics. Prayer, fasting, instruction, etc… St. John is basically encouraging us to take a hard look at ourselves, our family, and our relationships, so that all areas of our lives bring more joy to ourselves and Christ.

Like all the saints, he desires nothing less than the best for all of us.

God bless!

Matt

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007: The Joys (& Challenges) of Family Life w/ Brandon McGinely

Everybody comes from some kind of family. Some are good. Some are bad. Most are crazy in some way or another. Regardless, family is the building block of all society because our families image the family of God.

And as we all know, families are under attack.

In fact, one of the biggest problems men face in today’s society is that we’re constantly being fed this ludicrous idea that men are idiots. Family life, particularly the role of father, needs to be reclaimed.

Join Matthew this week on The Art of Catholic podcast as he interviews activist and author Brandon McGinely about the importance of family life, particularly from the perspective of fatherhood.

Brandon’s work has appeared in print in National Review, Fare Forward, and the Pittsburgh Catholic and online at First Things, The Federalist, Public Discourse, and Acculturated.

He’s also the editor of a new book from Our Sunday Visitor titled The Joys and Challenges of Family Life: Catholic Husbands and Fathers Speak Out a book to which I contributed a chapter.

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