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Intention – Navigating the Interior Life Spiritual Dictionary

INTENTION: An act of the will tending effectively to some good, proposed by the mind as desirable and attainable. It differs from simply willing, for post on Intentionwhich is the desire for an end without concern about the means. Intention means desiring not only some good but also the means of obtaining this good.

In practical use, before some good or spiritual act we can offer up that act with an intention. For instance, this morning before I prayed the Liturgy of the Hours, I offered it up for those who support this site.

This Spiritual Dictionary Term is an excerpt from Dan's book Navigating the Interior Life – Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God. To learn more, click here.


Art: Cover of “Navigating the Interior Life: Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God” by Dan Burke used with permission, all rights reserved.


What is spiritual direction and my spiritual direction? What are my “blind spots” and how can I uncover them? What keeps me from all the spiritual riches Christ has for me? How can I better understand where I am in my spiritual progress?

Daniel Burke’s Navigating the Interior Life will give you the tools you need to understand how and why we grow and die in the spiritual life and what we can do about it.

Most of us have questions about spiritual direction. What is it? Is it for me? What if I can’t find a spiritual director? These questions and more are well answered in Dan Burke’s book. The Lord is clearly calling all Catholics into a deeper union with him. This book, in a style which is both inspiring and practical, provides some of the Church’s most important wisdom about how to respond to this call.

Ralph Martin, PhD, president, Renewal Ministries
and author of ‘The Fulfillment of All Desire’
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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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  • RJ

    I now appreciate how profound the difference between intention and desire is. I thank God that my wife shared this website with me. We were travelling in the car extensively just recently and she read Fr. Hardon’s book on angels aloud so I could enjoy too. God bless her. Fr. Hardon pray for us.

  • maria

    Is it still an intention if the will tends towards or desires something by a particular means, though is not actually attainable?

    • LizEst


      St Therese of Lisieux was famous for this. She really wanted to be a missionary. That was her intention but it was unachievable because of her ill health. So, she prayed and offered up many good actions and sacrifices for the missions becoming a “missionary” in her heart. And, the church eventually named her Patroness of Catholic Missions. Her intentions were good even though they never came to fruition.

      Another illustration, this time negative, is that it’s kind of like the father asking a daughter’s date what his intentions are towards his daughter. If they are not honorable intentions, that father doesn’t want the young man anywhere near his daughter…even if the man would never get what he wanted from the daughter. The young man’s intentions were bad despite the fact that they could never be carried out.

      So, those are two examples. Hope this helps. God bless you, Maria!

      And Dan, thanks for your intention this morning!

  • abandon56

    my spiritual director once described the way God acts with intention when he works to heal and order our wounds/woundedness. That it’s not just a dredging up of memories. He’s purposeful . . .

  • Mary@42

    Mother Church teaches us the importance of offering our daily Prayers, works, joys and sufferings for particular salvific purposes and for those who have asked us for prayers, especially during our Morning Prayer. The most powerful and Divine Offering is to the suffering souls in Purgatory, the dying and hardened sinners and, of course for the Intentions of the Holy Father. It is especially efficacious when we have special Intentions to offer to Jesus during the Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.

    • LizEst

      So true! Thank you, Mary!

  • Anne

    I have a question pertaining to a project as an act of the will. This is relevent today when young people wade into a world of media and using the language of today to attract the masses and then instruct according to sound Church teachings: is the means, which may be questionable, to the end (Truth) justifiable if the means can be considered somewhat offensive? We live in a world where this kind of tactic seems almost necessary, or otherwise we may never even have a chance with secular audiences.

    • You will have to be a bit more specific about which means you are talking about.

    • LizEst

      Evil has a way of multiplying itself. Therefore, we must not do evil in order to accomplish the good. It taints the good that is done.

      Agreeing with Dan, more information is needed in order to determine if the means you refer to are bad. There’s no way to tell from the information you gave in your question.

      If the means are not morally offensive/evil, though they may be annoying to our ears or sensibilities, chances are it is OK to use these means. But, if the means are evil, then it’s not OK to use them to get sound Church teachings across.

  • Brigette Allard

    I daily look forward to reading Spiritual Direction~ it offers me practical ways to grow in my journey to the Father. Since I do not have a spiritual director, this is a valuable tool.
    Brigette Allard
    Montrose, Ca

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