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Theological Formation On Your Knees

Theological Formation on Your Knees

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Anthony Lilles about his role as co-founder of the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation. He said, “I had begun to work with Dan [Burke] at Catholic Spiritual Direction when he told me his dream about starting an institute for spiritual formation.  I told him that I thought it was an important effort because many institutes dedicated to this purpose rely on other sciences like psychology instead of spiritual theology.”

After discussion, Dan and Dr. Lilles discerned that what was needed was a course of studies focusing on the mystagogical, aimed at baptized Catholics looking for and searching to find a deeper encounter with the Lord through study of Church doctrine.

“It is our dream that such a theological formation could be imparted in a manner that helped students learn to study on their knees, in a posture of prayer,” Dr. Lilles said. It’s not just about graduate studies or learning information, but about transformation and relationship with God.

Dr. Lilles had already been at work on a curriculum that had been turned down by other graduate institutions. “But when I showed the scope and sequence to Dan, his response was to launch it as soon as possible,” according to Dr. Lilles. “The next thing I know he had a whole team teaching me how to use distributive learning technology so that we could bring this curriculum of spiritual theology to the homes of anyone desiring to take up the conversation and to the mission of the Church in the most remote corners of the world.”

The School of Spiritual Formation came about because there was a need for “a more popular level of exploration of the same material” than what was covered in the Graduate Program.

As a co-founder, it’s no surprise that Dr. Lilles wholeheartedly encourages people to choose Avila for their studies. “I think it is a matter of discernment about what the Lord is asking of you and whether you are ready to make a commitment to prayer and study that will change your life.  Sacred study is an act of devotion – and these kinds of activities make space for God to do something remarkable in our hearts.”

He added, “If someone longs for God to do something remarkable in his or her heart, I recommend signing up for one of our School of Spiritual Formation courses.  These are not taught on a graduate level but they do aim at personal appropriation and spiritual growth on a practical and lived level.  If these courses are edifying but someone feels like they want to go deeper and they are ready for a more scientific engagement of questions, then I would encourage them to apply for our Graduate Level of studies.”


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About Nicole Garcia

Nicole Garcia is an Admissions Counselor for the Avila Institute. She is excited to speak with anyone who is interested in learning more about the Avila Institute. All those discerning the Avila Institute are in her prayers. Know that if you feel even a tiny pull or interest, Nicole hopes to hear from you! To learn more about the School of Spiritual Formation or the Graduate Program at the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, please contact Nicole at or 520-429-4524.

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