Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Review - Navigating the Interior Life: Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God

By Daniel Burke with Fr. John Bartunek, released November, 2012, Emmaus Road Publishing, Steubenville, Ohio, 161 pages. Paperback. Available from Navigating the Interior Life, EWTN Religious Catalogue, Emmaus Road Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Major book stores and Catholic book stores.

Reviewed by Jean M. Heimann, M.A. in Theology, freelance writer, retired psychologist, and oblate with the Community of St. John.

The great Dominican St. Vincent Ferrer once said: “A person who has a director by whom he allows himself to be guided, whom he obeys in all actions, great and small, will more easily and quickly arrive at perfection than he ever could by himself, even were he gifted with an extraordinary degree of intelligence and supplied with books explaining the nature of all virtues and the means of acquiring them.”

As Catholics, we know that there is nothing more important in our present life than that of preparing for our future life. This is exactly what Dan Burke’s new book, Navigating the Interior Life: Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God helps us do. In Navigating the Interior Life, Burke prepares us for the next life by leading us to holiness in this life.

Navigating the Interior Life is a comprehensive guide to spiritual direction, which answers all the questions one might have on the topic in a concise manner. In a clear, candid, comprehensible style, using the teachings of the Catholic Church, the Scriptures, and the wisdom of the saints, Burke leads us on the path to holiness by explaining exactly what spiritual direction is, how to find a spiritual director, and how to get the most out of spiritual direction. Sharing from his own experiences, as well as the teachings of the spiritual masters, Father Garrigou-Lagrange and St. Louis de Montfort, Burke emphasizes the necessity of Marian devotion and consecration in developing sanctity.  Through self-evaluation charts, he helps us identify our predominant faults and root sins. Sharing the teachings of some of the Doctors of the Church, including St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and St. Catherine of Siena, and others, he defines and demonstrates the three ways of the spiritual life: the purgative way, the illuminative way, and the unitive way. He also enables us to determine where we are in our spiritual journey and then makes practical suggestions on how to progress from one level to the next. He even helps us develop a rule of life – a daily spiritual schedule – to keep us on the path to sanctity.

As someone who has had spiritual direction from three different spiritual directors in my adult life, I found Navigating the Interior Life to be an excellent book, which provided new insights and information on spiritual direction. To me, the most interesting bit of information in the book is the affirmation that lay “spiritual mentors” are equipped to provide spiritual direction and that even Pope John Paul II had a lay “spiritual mentor” prior to becoming the Bishop of Rome.

Most importantly, Burke’s book helped me to realize that, as a Catholic, if I am not progressing in the spiritual life, I may actually be immobile, stuck in a state of apathy or even worse, I may be backsliding due to spiritual or emotional blind spots, which could result in serious sin and alienation from God. On the other hand, if I am involved in spiritual direction, my spiritual guide can help me move forward by diagnosing the difficulty, interpreting it for me, and by helping me overcome the difficulty. Also, if I am going through a period of dryness, the spiritual director can recommend ways to rekindle the fire of love I have for Jesus in my heart.

In summary, I found Dan Burke’s Navigating the Interior Life to be a clear, concise, candid, and comprehensive guide to understanding the interior life. It is a must-read for every Catholic, especially during this Year of Faith. It provides step-by-step instructions on how to cultivate an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, how to nurture that relationship, and how to grow in that relationship through spiritual direction. I highly recommend it.

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