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Self-knowledge and the Spiritual Life – Part II of III

July 31, 2010 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Self Knowledge, Silence

In Part I of this series we discussed the problem of spiritual delusion and darkness as a consequence of the lack of a God-ward self-knowledge. The purpose of this awareness is simply this: To reveal the sin(s) that hinder our relationship with God and that keep us from the fullness of God's person, love, and provision for us in this life and the life to come. As well, we desire to respond to this great love by a life of devoted service to him and for him for all eternity. To do this, we need to identify the barriers to growth and pursue those things that propel us deeper into the heart of God.

In our first post, we established – through our brake light analogy – that that there are things we cannot know unless someone else reveals them to us. So then, how is it possible that we can discover these challenges within our soul on our own? Doesn't “self” knowledge imply we have that knowledge within our grasp? The answer is no… and yes. A God-illuminated self-knowledge is often beyond our reach, but we can work to acquire it with the help of the Holy Spirit and others. In fact, only with this help can we ever hope to really grow to the degree that God desires for us.

So, what are the key elements necessary for one to begin the lifelong quest to understand ourselves in the context of God and develop the ability to route out those soul-tainting defects that hold us from fully loving and being loved by him?

Silence: The noise and relentless busy-ness of modern life is a blight on our souls and a favored tool of the enemy to drown out the still small voice of God. Often we welcome this evil ambiance in order to to hide from the thoughts and feelings that cause us pain and anxiety. As with substance abuse, hiding from our thoughts and avoiding the discomfort of quiet doesn't solve anything. Similarly, ignoring the signs of a serious illness like cancer allows the disease to progress unchecked in our bodies. So too, our hidden (or not-so-hidden) faults promise the same result in our souls. Silence is one of the most basic elements necessary for us to come face-to-face with these issues, with God, to hear his voice, and see our way clear to healing and growth. In the classic Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis reveals a demonic diatribe (a senior demon on a rant to an apprentice demon) about the value of noise to the enemy of our souls. An important side note here is that when the demon is talking about music he is speaking about sacred music:

Music and silence–how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since our Father entered Hell–though longer ago than humans, reckoning in light years, could express–no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by NoiseNoise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile–noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end! We have already made great strides in this direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of heaven will be shouted down in the end!

For most in modern society the enemy's plan has worked. Between tweets, texts, telephone calls, TV, Internet, radios, computers and iPods, we wake up to noise, we are inundated with noise as we move through the day, we get in our cars and turn on the noise, we work with the noise in the background, we leave work with noise in our cars again, we return home to noise. Where in all this noise will we find God? How can we hear the voice of God when our hearts, minds, and hearing are constantly bombarded by the endless “noise” of modern life?

The truth is, we can't. There is no way around this problem. We may limit the noise to those things compatible to our faith like contemporary Christian music or great programming like EWTN; however, regardless of the degree of piety or putrification we allow to occupy our souls, there is no way we can claim to hear God if we don't first create space to listen to him in silence.

In Part III, we will explore exactly what we mean by silence and begin to identify ways we can incorporate it into our lives.

Seek Him – Find Him – Follow Him



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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Guest

    Thank you, Dan. I knew I would enjoy these Series. Before I read about noise and distractions, I had deduced, definitely not on my own – the Holy Spirit must have had a hand in it – I needed to cut out the unecessary noises and distractions that were not necessary to my pursuit of the Eucharistic Divine Mercy Devotion where Jesus led me when I prayed for a sort of Prayer Group since my age makes it a bit difficut to join the Estate Small Christian Communites. I, therefore, cut out the TV, except the news, stopped buying daily papers and cut out radio and the popular talk shows. I am now able to devote my time to quiet prayers, participation in Catholic Websites like this one of yours and study and reflection on the Divine Mercy Apostolate.

    When I cut out those distrations, I have found I am less distracted – unlike before – during the time for formal prayers, Holy Hour Adoration and daily Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass. What other steps need I take to improve and enrich my journey to a deeper Spirituality? God bless you and all on his Website

  • Cathy

    Thank you Dan!! I know that I am headed in the right direction. I don’t watch tv anymore, and do not read the newspaper. The only thing that I keep up on is the weather, as that directly affects my job and my family. I can not wait to see what the next part in the series brings, and I get something out of everything on this site. God bless you all!!!!!

    • Dear Cathy – thank you for your encouragement. It means a great deal to us that we are able to serve you and many others out there and the only way we know we are is when we get notes like these.

  • Mcconn

    Hi Dan, Everything written is so true and Father Bill’s Homily in Peterborough, Ontario pointed out the same message at Mass today about cell phones, i-pod, etc & kids today hooked on texting. It took me a while to love silence as I grew up as an only child & thought I was missing out on fun compared to big familys with so much more going on. ( my mom had me in her middle 40 & my big brother was grown when I was born). Anyway, I find perfect peace & quite when I visit “Holy Hour” & never in a hurry to leave having arrived few minuites late if I’m filling in for someone. When my grand children arrive it is not quite believe me…(Jacob 6 & Christian 3.) & I love that as well but happy when they go to bed. I am working on silence, however, I may have it harder being silent because I (WE) on pilgrimage to Medjugorje in Oct/98 all of us on Bus coming home just outside Croatia that night witnessed a miracle. I will write the rest soon if you would like to hear about it & maybe you can tell me how to manage all of this wisdom until Gospa is ready to use all of us for Her Glory.
    God Bless You

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