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Navigating the New Year

December 26, 2012 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Root Sin, Rule of Life/Program of Life

Lay people often overlook a source of deep spirituality and safety. One of the spiritual secrets of those ChristCalmsTheTempestRaymondBalze for post on navigating the new yearin the religious life is a kind of spiritual guardrail system that helps them to know the path of peace on a moment to moment basis. This wisdom-born approach has aided thousands of ordinary people to become saints and to experience the heights of union with the Lord in this life. One part of this system is called a “rule of life.”

A “rule” could sound restrictive or negative but it is more akin to a guardrail on a nature trail footbridge than it is to any kind of restrictive, constraining force. I have had the opportunity to walk over many footbridges in dangerous and beautiful situations. When the guardrails were in place I was much more able to enjoy the beauty of my surroundings because I didn’t have to worry about getting off course and accidentally falling off the path into a deep valley or a hot pool of boiling mud. In the same way, a rule of life provides spiritual guardrails that allow us to rest squarely within God’s plan and to rest in His presence and grace.

Every year during this season many take time to reassess their life progress (or lack thereof) and to establish New Year’s resolutions. These resolutions are famous for being worth as much as the paper they are written on. One of the many reasons is that they are rarely tied to the most important source of life and living – they are disconnected from the life of grace. However, those that seek the Lord always find Him and in the seeking find far more grace and strength to overcome personal challenges in spite of challenging circumstances and limitations.

Instead of the traditional New Year’s resolution, why not take up a new approach that promises far more to the faithful pilgrim. In my book, Navigating the Interior Life, I offer a number key activities that can help you develop a rule of life.

One of the most powerful is what we call a predominant fault or root sin analysis. In this work we evaluate the sin patterns of our lives and try to identify the central hindering force of our desired soul-progress. We look at those things that we regularly take to confession, those struggles that constantly recur in our relationships or hinder our spiritual progress. One of the most clarifying lenses through which we can evaluate these challenges is through the seven capital sins. If we can look back and identify one particular capital sin that seems to hold the category we most often visit as we wander off the path, this is the starting point for a more positive analysis.

Once we gain clarity on our root sin, we can embark on a more positive reflection regarding virtues that stand in precise opposition to the vices we have embraced. A plan begins to emerge as we, on one simple page, identify the central things we must resist and how we will resist them, and the central things we desire to embrace and how we will embrace them.

Now you have a rule of life that is worth far more than the paper it is written on and next year you will likely find that your trek has yielded far more than you may have ever imagined.


Art for this post on navigating the new year: Le Christ apaisant la tempête (La Tempête Apaisée) (Christ Calms The Tempest), Raymond Balze, ca 19th century, meets public domain criteria.

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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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  • Becky Ward

    This is really GOOD advice!! Best suggestion for a New year’s resolution I have heard!

    AND, I simply cannot ignore the opportunity to say that developing one’s own personal ‘Plan of Life’, as given to us by God, is the first step of the Disciples of Jesus and Mary faith formation program.

    I am really liking Tiny Tim’s prayer from ‘A Christmas Carol’ these days…God Bless Us Everyone!!

  • LizEst

    So true! Looking forward to your book!

    • Have you not received your copy yet?

      • LizEst

        Not to date. No doubt it will be here shortly!

        • You win the patience award. I will check and see what is up. It may have been caught in our wonderful dance with the USPS

          • LizEst

            Ah…the permissive will of God!

          • LizEst

            Hey Dan – The book just arrived this afternoon 12/29. Thanks so much. It looks great. God bless you for your kindness.

  • $1650412

    Really like this! Very timely- I am thinking about this right now, first things first before beginning the year in review and where to go from here! Thanks Dan!

    • You are welcome Jo – somehow though, I suspect you are accomplished at this.

  • Dan, I have yet to reach the Rule of Life from Page 115.  You scared the daylights out of my heart with Root Sins Questionnaire on  Pages 70-73.  I am still trying to recover my bearings after the shock of seeing myself appearing in all the Three Sections in varying degrees of seriousness. I shall then be able to sit before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament during our Holy Hour Date with the Check-List, study it well and zero in on exactly where I fail really frequently and listen to His Advice on how to begin the attack with the Ammunition He shall give to me.

    This Post is truly timely for me.  My First Resolution is to learn how to talk less and listen more. And that is needed Yesterday – not from New Year.  But  mercifully, Jesus has already found a way to make me talk less impulsively about myself and, instead, He pushes me where I find myself talking passionately about His Message of Divine Mercy.  He sure knows how to shut me up…….and it is working……..most of times – that is……

    Prayers I beg from all of you, our beloved “Family Members” for this Grandma. She needs all the  help she can get – slips and falls are becoming more frequent as my Merciful God continues to add days to my life.  Even though my Confessor continues to exhort me to permit God to be God and re-create me at His Own Time in His Own Way, I still fret – like every other old lady……so silly really, when Jesus Himself has advised me personally in His Tribunal of Mercy.

    • I get impatient too… This is what helps me…

      “Little souls who are in the elevator (St. Therese of Lisieux  look no different than other souls. They have vices and struggles and imperfections just like everyone one else, but that’s actually part of the Lord’s strategy as He works in little souls: He like to keep them little. He knows if they were to see themselves bounding with great strides up the steep stairway of perfection, they suddenly wouldn’t be so little, and so they won’t move His Heart as deeply…Yes, Jesus likes to keep little souls little so He can give them the biggest gifts, and though it may seem like they don’t make any progress, they actually do. Jesus just hides this fact from them.”

      – “Consoling the Heart of Jesus” by Michael Gaitley MIC 

      Hope it will help you too! 🙂

      • LizEst

        Still praying for you, too, Mary. 

        • Thank you! I certainly need them! Praying for you too!

          • LizEst

            God bless you Mary…and thank you for the prayers, Mary. I need lots of the them.

      • Jeanette

        Two years ago, I read “Consoling the Heart of Jesus” by Michael Gaitley MIC. His book made such a wonderful impression upon me…it’s all about loving God and humility. From this, love of neighbour increases. I most heartily recommend this book – it changed my spiritual life dramatically! Thanks Mary.

        • I am about 1/3 through the book… I’m loving it so far! 🙂 Thank you for the encouragement! God Bless!

      • How can I thank you, Mary, for your  so kind words….Yes what Michel says in “Consoling the Heat of Jesus” is so reassuring.  I at times, feel like I am getting further and further away from Him – though I strive daily to observe my Prayer Life Schedule faithfully and stay in His Presence at all times.  The Hours I spend before Him in the Blessed Sacrament as the most precious……and yes, I agree with those words….He wants me to remain little, permitting my frequent slips and falls to help me learn Humility.  This is one Virtue I pray for unceasingly. And I have Faith in Him that He will grant it to me.  He is already preparing me and  He will open opportunities for me to begin to practice it.  Pray for me that when this happens, I will be strong enough to seize these opportunities when they come my way and attain this crucial Virtue.

        • I will pray for you. I also add you and everyone here in my daily Chaplet. 
          I also need to learn humility…I’m not always to seize the opportunities He gives me…please pray for me too!

    • LizEst

      Still praying for you Mary!

      • God bless you, LizEst for your unceasing prayers for me.

      • Just to remind you, LizEst, the RCSD “Family” have a Special Place, after my Children and Grand-Children, in my daily Prayers during the Hour of Great Mercy before the Blessed Sacrament.

        • LizEst

          Thank you so much Mary.

  • judeen

     some times our bad habits and sin come from things we do not realize we do…. our enemys will tell us ,,, if you can read between the lines of anger… this is in new testement. and one can improve them selves easly …if one is prudent….  controling our thoughts, feelings, emotions, body reactions.. so on will end the control of the tempter… the slavery stops… then ask the Holy spirit to come and bring virtues and graces …. praising the Lord for His goodness… we forget everything is spiritual… Jesus talks about this… and our priests have forgotten this..
      we are studing the bible and are in samuel 1 now .. it talks about how the prophets would fast and pray for the people after sin… this was taught to me in catholic school – preists did this after confession for the people who went.. also the spirit of God came upon the women and david…. and the danced and praised God.. this too we need to reconize in our own life… when we wake and are praising God… or suddenly pray . that the spirit of God is upon us… reconize God in our daily life… and the devil and his temptations.. life becomes so easy….

    • judeen

      i do not know if i made any sense…. coming from just waking and praying… excited with prayer…. so if you did not follow me ,,, I will try again ,, just had to share what I got out of prayer…. God bless

      • Judeen, you make a lot of good sense to me; thank you for sharing the fruit of your prayer life: “some times our bad habits and sin come from things we do not realize we do…. our enemys will tell us”. This is so true…our enemies best show us the very areas where Christ can help to perfect us as we turn everything over to Him. Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me, Bless His Holy Name!

        • judeen

          praise His Holy Name of Jesus ….. thanks amen…

  • MaryofSharon

    I just read this in my National Catholic Register e-mail. Dan, the combination of the delivery of Catholic news and encouragement to grow in in our relationship with Christ and in virtue is extraordinary and so right.  An assessment of what’s going on in the world and in the Church without a call to personal conversion would be an omission of the proper response to the news.

  • Patti Day

    I’m ready to do this. I have been reading The Better Part and yesterday started Navigating the Interior Life. From previous RCSD blogs, I am aware of the root sins and think I’ve identified the one that is my most difficult. I look forward to reaching the Spiritual Evaluation and pages on root sin. What an exciting spiritual journey we are about to embark upon, we companions of like mind. Please pray for me and I will for thee.

    • LizEst

      Praying for you. God bless you Patti.

  • Guest

    Got your book for Christmas! Friends, add it to your list of gifts to buy!

  • Patti Day

    Previous RCSD blogs have been hepful in understanding what root sin is, and I’m reading Navigating the Interior Life, looking forward to the chapter on Spiritual Self-examination. This will be an exciting journey with like-minded companions looking for spiritual growth. I’m ready to begin. I will pray for all of you, and please pray for me.

  • Tracee Portka

    It is always such a huge blessing when you are open to God and His Word…..He is answering my prayers and this is where I have been lead, to the “rule of life”. I will order your book. Thank God and thank you Mr. Burke. God’s choices blessings to you and yours.

  • CeciliaMarks

    Dan, for years I have been attempting to implement a “rule of life” for myself as a lay person. This is something we as a church need to be taught or introduced to doing. For, I believe, the spiritual life of the laity has been poorly focus upon. I’ve actually had folks tell me there was no need for this in their life for they weren’t “monks or nuns”. I am going to forward this teaching on to those in the ministries I lead. Thank you for addressing this great need within our Church especially at this time when Pope Benedict has declared this as the “Year of Faith.”

    • judeen

      I agree… layity are talked to like they are just dumb.. so they dont think they need it or deserve prayer or have Gods presence… why go to church if it is just for the religous?  but there are those who are layity powerful in God…  and there is ways to bring the HOly Spirit to your church…. “Life in the Spirit ”  talks that are every night for a week I think.. teaching people to listen to God and how to praise God..” Healing Masses.”… preist with the gift of Healing say mass , then after laying on of hands for healing people… while the people sing and Praise God and pray for the Spirit of God to come. Charsmatic groups… to use the gifts of God and pray for others and study the scripture.. your faith comes alive… it took years to just say I might be Charsmatic… no way was I going to admit that… then once received the Holy Spirit one prayes different. it is all from the heart. . everywhere you go you bring God into the sittuation…. ask , look , seek these groups .. watch for God to lead you . to oeople . places and groups.. every person you meet are there because God wanted you to meet them.. maybe for you , or for them

    • Connie Rossini

       Vatican II taught that holiness is for everyone. This is one of the many teachings of the council that hasn’t gotten out to the people. God made us all for union with Him. That doesn’t mean we have to live exactly like monks and nuns of course. Thankfully, Dan and others are doing their part to evangelize the laity.

  • LisaB101

    Painting information: He Calms a Storm on the Sea of Galilee 
    by Raymond Balze(I know you don’t normally post websites, but I offer this one so you
    can confirm.

  • sequax

    Until I had several discussions with my spiritual director, I had no idea that scruples, self-loathing and worry all stemmed from Pride! Further, I find a tangle where I don’t feel like I put enough of what I do day to day is devoted to God. This concern, and the limitations of my situation (which I keep thinking I use as an excuse) combine to a fountain of a morass of bad feeling which often prompts me to acting too rashly, working self-destructively, or being swamped in a million contradicting commands that may or may not be from God.

    The simplest advice (which my poor spiritual director has to sound like a broken record to sink in to my thick skull) “Let it go to God,” he says. “Yes, but don’t I have to get up in the morning?” I ask. “Don’t I have to do housework? Don’t i have to make a living? How do I know that what I choose to do is pleasing to him? I can’t feed all the people who beg me for money every day. [I live in a large city where street begging is common] I can’t strip naked to give them my garments.  What the heck do I do?!?”  “Pray to God and ask, and you will know what to do.” my spiritual director says. “But how do I know which commands are from Him?” I ask.

    “Pray to God and He will tell you.” my spiritual director says…”you will recognize His voice, when the time comes.”

    I think that patience is a bigger virtue for spiritual directors than even wisdom, because God is generous with wisdom.  But… wisdom at the right moment is more important than always having wisdom on demand.  You don’t recognize the wisdom you have unless you have it at the right moment. 

    • I think knowing how to “listen” to God is probably one of the most difficult things to do.  I think the more we are “in tune” with Him, the more we will hear Him.  Being “in tune” means to be close to Him through prayer, as in praying without ceasing, and that is not to say constantly praying Hail Mary’s, the Lord’s prayer or so forth but having one’s mind and heart reflecting on Him throughout the day.  I had a wise priest tell me one time when I wanted an answer to a decision I had to make to go before the Blessed Sacrament and ask God to either give me a peace about the answer I looking for and if all I kept getting was roadblocks concerning that decision then that was my answer.  I think this could work for many aspects of our talking to God.  I have heard the “let go and let God” for years but only through this avenue was I finally able to actually hear Him speak to me.

    • judeen

       listening to God… 1 samual.. talks about Gods spirit coming down on the women….. and david….  ( women was mad from a man who had the breath of God in Him and was holy… then God breathed again into the Holy rib… it was women… )  the spirit of God came down and song of praise and glorifing God and dancing….  Gods spirit will bring praises, songs of love .. even sobs of sorrow of sin or pain….  scripture talks about listening to God….   alot of the times I ask God if it is from you let 3 people who do not know each other tell me… I should do this…  other times scripture of the day will comferm it.. prayers , small signes all around. will show you … ask…   and it shall be given you…    Gods voice comes from the heart alot…  not from out side the head.. (if it is not auitable.)   also God will put the message over and over to do something and it will not go away. until you do it… He wants you to do it…  giving people money some times is really important.   but one must deserne . paul and peter said I have no money but I wil give you what I have. prayer… so powerful- you can change this persons prayer..and it is not a 1 time thing.

      • CeciliaMarks

        Judeen, one of the ways to hear God’s voice is simply to know it & to wait for it in peaceful surrender. This takes time and practice! You wrote below of being baptized in the Holy Spirit so you are aware of the power and the change of that experience. Now understanding the voice when you hear it is very like trying to explain “love”. As a child we ask our moms “how will we know we are in love?” The answer: “when it happens you will know.” Let me give you an example of an experience I had this Christmas. As I sat before the Lord in Adoration, I went thru my list of gifts for my grandchildren. I thought, “I really don’t know what to get him (one of my grandchildren).” As I was sitting there thinking, I “hear”/”experience” the words “teddy bear” Well, Judeen, I really didn’t think I was going to get an answer so quickly & was overwhelmed by Our Lord’s graciousness! Later I walked into the store I had been in many times the previous few weeks. There in the newest & largest display I have ever seen were huge, soft, fluffy teddy bears holding hearts that said “I love You”! Wasn’t it Elias or Elija who went to the mountain top to wait for God’s voice & it came not in the storm but in the “wee small voice within?”

        • judeen

          you know, you understand… and yes it was Eija who was seeking God on the mt. top ….. people must know that God talks to us all , if we are right with God and seek Him

  • Connie Rossini

    Great insight, Dan. I asked for your book for Christmas and am hoping I get it at our extended-family gathering this weekend. If not, I’ll be ordering a copy for myself. I’m resolving to work on trusting God more in the coming year, with both little and big things.

  • judeen

    finally I am realizing some of my sins… over years of great depressions. lonelyness, worthless feelings…. so on …   alot has to do with child hood and lies I have told myself… the devil had a foot hold to walk all over me…   now as I progress in my spiritual life.. I now realize how many there are that attack me . as I feel sorry for my self… down feelings are from the devils.  and when 1 fights them they will get mad… and do everything to keep that foot hold to your heart… deside to stay positive, stay happy. stay loving . stay kind…  it can be a fight if 1 is put down , deeply hurt ,    or trying to become HOly … the gosples talk about being attacked for your faith.. it is a sign that the Spirit of God is upon you…   I am sure this sight gets attacked.. and is filtered .. it is a sign God Spirit is here with us….. so Trust in God with every situation . knowing and giving God that moment….  and ask Him , talk to Him , like He is right there before you…

  • Scott Kallal

    Dan, I’ve been devouring the book I just got as a Christmas present after arriving back here in the states, and I love it. I think you’re right on target when you say that we can be helped in our New Year’s resolution by focusing on the opposite virtue and the habits needed to acquire that virtue. Thanks for keeping it simple and keeping it real.

    God bless,

    Fr. Scott, AVI

    • Thank you for the encouragement Father. It is a high compliment coming from you considering your training and charism.

  • Frances O’Donovan

    If the spiritual guardrail system is not in place “evil” can literally come into you know. I know it from my own experiences. The above information is most helpful on my journey. Thank you

  • judeen

    long ago.. God took me down south , then abandend I would be alone,and taken to a fransican 3rd order house. and watch tapes on healing of personalitys… and fast… the tapes were of twin preists in the 60tys I think .. taked abou a person wounded.. even in the womb ..and this wound causes us to act a certain way.. and to stop and correct our person ality we need to go back to this point and forgive.  and this will stop our doing things over and over.. our sins are connected to a point in our lives.. we need to find the source of it.. reconize how it made us feel and our hurt and then say out loud we forgive them… I have seen person aitiys change. even sickness healed , allergiys healed.. so forgiving. a deep wound from the past. we need to look at our sins , and ask our self . when did I first start to do this. why am I repeating it. what is it connected to. we need to do something to stop the sin..

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