Category Archives: Formation

Recommended Sojourner Reading Program

Update: Dear friends, I decided to update this post to draw it to your attention for summer reading.

Question: What books do you recommend for Sojourners?

Answer: Sojourners have an informal relationship with Apostoli Viae and are thus under no obligation for any particular path of formation. However, If the Sojourner has a desire for deeper association, it makes sense that they would begin pursuing formation and commitments that would prepare them for deeper affiliation and that would allow them to grow spiritually and more effectively discern the path that God has called them to.

All Apostoli Viae formation can be understood through two diagrams or graphic representations of the charism. The first is our crest; the second is the Way of Ascent diagram here. Each reinforces the other and reveals formation priorities for all engaged with the Way. Both reveal sacramental participation as foundational to spiritual progress. Beyond this foundation, we then look to other foundational elements in prayer and ascesis. Where does this lead regarding spiritual reading for a Sojourner?

The first place to begin all reading on any topic in the Church is the Catechism. The four pillars of the Catechism correspond perfectly to our foundational emphases. Thus, the most important document to read, end to end, is the Catechism. If this feels like a bit too much to bite off, then the Compendium to the Catechism can be a great place to start. It is very brief and clear. Regardless, association beyond the Sojourner stage requires complete assent to all the teachings of the Church, and thus the Catechism is necessary reading for Disciples.

The second path of emphasis is mental prayer. Those who enter into Discipleship with Apostoli Viae will all have at least a basic commitment to daily mental prayer. Here are a few foundational texts on prayer and peace, in order of importance, and one on discernment that we recommend (along with links):

One more book that will help you understand our approach to progress in the interior life is Navigating the Interior Life – Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God. This book provides a concise overview of spiritual progress from the beginning stages to the realm of sainthood.

Beyond these texts, the journey more deeply into the Way will reveal a six-year systematic formation program that has essential reading and recommended texts along the way. The adventure into the heart of God is always rich and beautiful, and this path of formation will no doubt be a life-changing experience for those called to it.

Community and Resilience

At the conclusion of a recent conversation, one of my closest friends said to me, “Thank you for believing so strongly in me. I hope I never let you down.” My response surprised him I think. I said, “You are welcome, and you will let me down. When you do, it will be ok.” If I could have finished my thought I would have said, “I don’t want to let you down, but it is likely I will. I hope it will be ok when I do.”

Authentic community is not suspended in the bonds of unity by the perfection of its members. It is not marked by all the members avoiding offense. It is not marked by the absence of conflict, disagreement, hurt feelings, sin or betrayal. Authentic community is marked by a love that transcends these human frailties and that unites each person to the other in a heavenly bond that perseveres in spite of our human frailty. This capacity for perseverance can be best described by the term “resilience.”

A dictionary definition of resilience might provide helpful reflection:

  • the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
  • the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.

A community’s resilience then is its ability to handle difficulties and to recover from them quickly. The general resilience of a community can be measured in the collective “toughness” of its individual members to deal with challenges and remain intact and healthy.

The resilience of a relationship and relationships in a community is determined by many things. The most powerful enabler of resilience is self-sacrificing love that flows out of and is empowered by our love for God. This love recognizes the profound depths of our own frailty and God’s provision. This kind of awareness sees the injurious or otherwise irritating frailty of others through the eyes of one who has been forgiven much and thus must forgive others and must remain in relationship. This humility knows its own sin and brokenness and lives in a state of profound gratitude to God for all that has been forgiven them. A perfect expression of this humility would never nurture a wound, harbor an irritation or withhold forgiveness because of the ever-present realization of how much they themselves have been forgiven by God.

Beyond authentic charity, another potent enabler of unity is the recognition that we need one another. God the Father through St. Catherine of Sienna has revealed that He has purposefully designed us in a way that we are insufficient in and of ourselves to attain salvation. He designed us to need one another for our salvation. St. Paul reveals in scripture that the Body of Christ is made up of many interdependent parts. This interdependency is akin to the kind of need mountaineers have for one another on a treacherous trek. All have a role to play in their own survival and the survival of others on the same trek. When one fails, all suffer. When one succeeds, all benefit and rejoice. Few expeditions achieve their ascent without authentic resilience. Many people and expeditions have failed due to a lack of resilience rooted in self-centeredness rather than other centeredness. To the degree that we are all other-centered our community resilience increases. To the degree that we are self-centered and focused on our own needs and desires, our community resilience decreases.

A third enabler of resilience in community is the embrace of a common rule of life. When Godward souls are called to a common standard that exists outside of themselves, the measure of progress on the journey is external and objective. Thus a common rule militates against an isolated self-ruled narcissism that judges and governs itself and others by its own desires, perceptions, preferences and standards. In this context, as we strive to ascend to the fullness of relationship with Christ, we are actually striving toward one another. The best way to illustrate this is to envision each member at the bottom of separate corners of a triangle ascending to God at the top. As each member ascends to God, they actually move closer to one another.

Questions for your consideration and response:

  • What characteristics have you experienced thus far in Apostoli Viae that have helped you increased your resilience?
  • Where do you feel we are weak or could improve our resilience as a group?
  • What role can or should you play to increase our resiliency?
  • What can you do to improve your own resiliency?

Unum est Necessarium

Dan

Redeem the Time

Ephesians 5:15-17

See therefore, brethren, how you walk circumspectly:
not as the unwise, 
But as the wise: redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 
Wherefore, become not unwise:
but understanding what is the will of God.

A sober consideration of our stewardship of time can be quite distressing. In this kind of reflection, we consider that God has entrusted us with every minute of the time we have to spend. The practical question we might ask ourselves is, “How have I spent the time God has given me this past year?” This question in and of itself may not yield distress. More fundamental questions might be necessary to elicit an appropriate concern.

  • Have I considered that the time I have to spend is entrusted to me by God for a specific purpose and that I will be held accountable for how I have spent His time?
  • Am I clear about and daily aware of the purpose of the time God has entrusted to me?
  • Have I spent this time as best as I could to accomplish that purpose?

For a sensitive soul, pondering these questions in a way that God does not intend could lead to fear and despair at the idea of having to account for all the lost or wasted time at our judgement. Considered more appropriately at this moment, we might come to a place of guilt, but this would only be a Godward guilt if it leads us to change course.

One of the most compelling reasons for involvement in an organization like Apostoli Viae is that it invites us to powerful clarity about our purpose and thus brings clarity regarding how we are to spend our time. This clarity is powerful because it is rooted in and flows out of our baptismal promises and God’s grace as it flows in and through them to lead us to holiness. Thus our clarity is rooted in the revelation of the Son of God and the daily living within that revelation in and through the Church.

During the Sojourner phase of discernment, Apostoli Viae gently proposes and provides the means to develop foundational practices that will begin to enable us to gain clarity regarding our purpose and its unique expression in who God has designed us to be.

Beyond the Sojourner phase, for those called to it, Apostoli Viae proposes a more rigorous contemplative path. For those called to it, this narrow and difficult path of the cross will be one of liberation and healing. In particular, our healing comes from living what it means to “live and breathe and have our being” “in Christ.” Apostoli Viae proposes a specific way and means for it’s members to “redeem the time.”

Whether or not you are called to the unique expression of Apostoli Viae, be careful brothers and sisters regarding how you spend your time. Be assured that clarity regarding your purpose is available to you and God expects you to understand and pursue this path with all you are.

As you say “yes” to God in this New Year, I pray that you have been blessed by your interaction with the Apostoli Viae light on the path of God and that many, if not all of you, will engage with this light and this path as we work together to yield ourselves to God, and thus redeem the time and change the world in this New Year.

Unum est Necessarium

Dan

Who Can I Trust?

Much Beloved Friends,

I pray that your Thanksgiving was filled with gratitude and love for God and those whom you love. You were all very much on my heart and mind.

I recently caused a bit of a firestorm on Facebook when I began to publically “unfollow” “friends” who frequently spread around information sources that cause confusion in the Church. One opponent called it “The Great Dan Burke Unfollowing of 2016.” I had to admit this did make me laugh. Humor aside, I do regret the approach I took. It was not in keeping with the Lord has called me to or what He called members of Apostoli Viae to. I am grateful to suffer for my mistake – humiliation without sin is an answer to prayer.

My “great unfollowing” was aimed at pseudo-news sources, some who have a strong commitment to the traditions of the Church, some who don’t, and some from political groups on the left and the right. Regardless, my primary intent was not to draw attention to me or to harm them, but to cleanse my feed and to bring light to the reality that we should be cautious regarding what we consume and spread around.

Unfortunately, the attention turned to me and the attacks ensued – and continue. I don’t protest the attacks –  I deserve them. However, the conversations ceased to be conversations and became destructive. So, I deleted the threads.

Trustworthy voices tell the truth. Trustworthy voices are clear. Trustworthy voices don’t distort headlines to draw traffic to their sites (not even a little). Trustworthy voices are charitable and gentle and always seek to assume the best of other Christians. Trustworthy voices are slow to criticize and quick to praise what is good. Trustworthy voices strive to follow the following guidance from the Holy Spirit (emphasis mine):

Colossians 4:6
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer every one.

2 Timothy 2:25-26
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, forbearing, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Titus 3:2
…speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all men.

Hebrews 5:2
He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.

James 3:17
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity.

1 Peter 3:15
but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence

Some might be tempted to retort that Christ scourged the money changers in the temple. Of course, Jesus was right in doing so. Even so, this was a uniquely prophetic act of the Messiah and nowhere in the New Testament are we called to imitate Him in this action.

In fact, the passages above come from letters to the Church (to you and me) inspired by the Holy Spirit clearly teaching what the Blessed Trinity specifically desires of us in the way we interact with others.

All that out of the way, I have no interest in focusing on those sources which distort the truth but instead offer a top ten list of sources that are trustworthy and that I regularly reference in no particular order:

Not one of these sources is perfect. However, each strives with integrity to reveal truth and guide the faithful as they seek to live out their faith in a way that honors God. Are there solid sources outside of this list? Absolutely.

Please be careful what you consume and realize that we will be accountable for the impact of what we consume and spread around. Please heed the wisdom of the Holy Spirit through St. James chapter three and pray for me that I can do the same:

“So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell.”

Unum est Necessarium

Dan

Advent on the Way

Much Beloved Friends,

During my brief stay in Costa Rica this week I spotted my first fully decorated Christmas tree of the year! As well, not long ago the secular world began to “sell” the holidays.

Rather than allowing time along with the world to mercilessly thrust us into this season, how can we better prepare for Advent this year? How can we deepen our union with God and avoid allowing the world to stir up anxiety and distraction when we should be increasing our devotion to God?

Advent should be a time of entering into the themes of anticipation, joy and hope and allowing them to permeate our days leading up to the birth of our Savior and then lingering with Him into the New Year.

Here is a five step framework that can help us better assess our current spiritual trajectory and how we might adjust in a way in keeping with the wisdom of the Church.

The first step is to look back: How was your Advent last year? Did it catch you by surprise? Were you ready? If not and you can remember well enough, take a minute and write down the reasons why you feel Advent was far less fruitful than it should have been last year. Take a moment to ask the Lord to reveal the circumstances, the decisions you made, and maybe a glimpse into a better way.

The second step is to consider where we are now: Is drawing near to God this Advent on the top of your priority list? Is it really? What evidence is there besides your good desire? Have you already determined your path to a more complete “yes” to God in this season? If so, specifically how? What penitential practices will you pursue? What needs to be cleansed in your soul to properly prepare for the coming King? What patterns of sin or selfishness need to be broken? What commitments have you made regarding liturgical or sacramental participation? How can and will you love God and others more completely this year? What spiritual reading have you purchased and set aside? Are you, are we, really ready?

The third step is to consider how our participation in Apostoli Viae might help us in our desire to draw near to God: Many of you have a very high interest in the AV path. One helpful approach might be to review this post and maybe adopt an element that you have yet to incorporate into your life: What is Required to Associate with Apostoli Viae Beyond the Sojourner Phase?

Whatever you decide to do, one secret of spiritual progress is that of taking baby steps. After you have asked all of these questions of yourself you might begin to feel badly about your present spiritual progress or past decisions and over-react by taking on too much. This is not His will. Instead we should simply observe the less than optimal reality from a detached state and prayerfully discern what makes sense moving forward. If you discover something you need to take to confession, do so without self-condemnation. Participation in the sacrament of penance this way will give you strength to avoid the same mistakes this year.

The fourth step is to write down exactly what you want to change and how you will change it (by God’s grace): As many of you have read or are reading “Into the Deep” you might use the AV approach to a solemn commitment in a similar way regarding Advent. You can take this plan before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and make a solemn commitment to the approach He is revealing to you.

If I may suggest a priority of elements to consider, here is my own approach based upon the simple priorities provided by the endless depths of our beautiful tradition:

1.     Sacramental participation – how will I draw near to Him in a unique way this year?

2.     Prayer – how will I adjust my daily prayer to better orient my heart to Him this year?

3.     Ascesis – how will I better clean and prepare my heart through ascetical practices which may include specific acts of prayer, reflection through spiritual reading and sacramental participation that might be challenging but very beneficial? How can I better serve others in this time?

It is God’s desire to pour out His graces upon you during this holy season. Open up your heart to Him and further embrace the narrow way. You will find Him there and He will lead you ever deeper into His Advent in time and eternity.

Don’t forget… baby steps.

The fifth step is to be prepared for opposition and to remember Rules #5 and #6 of St. Ignatius first rules for discernment: Never make a change to your resolutions when in desolation and redouble your commitments tempted to abandon or reduce them.

Finally, if you have already made specific plans or have any good ideas, please share them with the group!

Be assured of my prayers.

Unum est Necessarium

Dan

What is required of me to associate with Apostoli Viae beyond the Sojourner phase?

Question: What is required of me to associate with Apostoli Viae (AV) beyond the Sojourner phase?

Answer: At the foundational level, a clear and resolute “yes” to God emanates from the hearts of all associated with AV – especially those who desire to deepen their association. This “yes” manifests itself in a strong desire to grow spiritually and in specific ways that are compatible with the AV charism. Note that this state of soul is clear in its commitment but this does not mean that there is a perfect manifestation of the various attributes of the plan of love proposed for a Sojourner. What it does mean is that there is clear progress and desire. The child of God in each stage of the AV journey is not necessarily marked by perfection, though that may be the goal, but instead by progress and commitment related to the plan of love of every new aspect of the ascent. Beyond these foundational realities, here are a few elements and/or characteristics that are important for a Sojourner to progress in association:

  • Sacraments: Mass every Sunday and confession monthly. Without these these foundational commitments, spiritual growth is not likely.
  • Daily Prayer: 10-15 minutes of daily mental prayer.
  • Spiritual Reading: 10 minutes of daily spiritual reading – complete reading of the Catechism.
  • Magisterium: Unreserved commitment to all teachings of the Church.
  • AV Formation: Those who desire deeper association must build deeper relationships and formation. These come through regular participation in formation opportunities.
  • AV Charism: A strong draw to the unique spiritual and apostolic elements of Apostoli Viae and clear evidence of the disposition of those who have had an authentic encounter with God. All AV members must be, as a norm, outwardly collaborative, positive and joyful in their life and faith. Stated negatively, AV is not the place for the dour, sour, or combative. One of the most telling signs of an authentic encounter with God is that we manifest the fruits of the spirit – love – joy – peace – patience – kindness – faithfulness – gentleness – self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Does Apostoli Viae provide regular formation for its members?

Question: Does Apostoli Viae (AV) provide regular formation for its members?

Answer: Yes! AV intends to provide a specific path of formation in keeping with both the charism and the apostolic works central to AV. Here is an initial/example list of formation paths AV envisions:

  • The Way of Participation in the Mysteries: How can I fully engage with the sacramental and liturgical rhythm of the Church, worship God more completely, and gain the benefits of all the gifts provided therein?
  • The Way of Prayer: What is the spectrum of prayer in the Church, where am I within that spectrum, and how can I grow in prayer and union with God? How can I teach others to pray?
  • The Way of Ascesis: What is the path of self-giving and how can I travel that path as I grow in union with God? This ascesis includes the practice of sacred study or study of sacred doctrine.
  • The Way of Community: What is my need for and relationship to a community of disciples in AV?
  • The Way of Discipleship and Spiritual Direction: What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ within AV and how does that relate to Spiritual Direction?
  • The Way of Discernment: What does it mean to be awake and spiritually aware and engaged in my own spiritual growth and in my service to others?
  • The Way of Spiritual Direction: How does the Way frame and provide spiritual direction that is specific to the charism and also provide an environment where each individual can grow in union with God? What is spiritual direction and how can I participate in it effectively and thereby lead others in the same way?

As of the writing of this post, some of these programs are complete or are provided through approved use of materials that exist in the Church that are complimentary to the unique elements of the AV charism. Many of the elements of these programs are already available through the Avila Institute.