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Fr Anthony de Mello, Spiritual Direction and Discerning God’s Voice in Prayer

Questions on Fr Anthony de Mello, Spiritual Direction and Discerning God's Voice in Prayer

This week Dan and Melissa discuss a follow-up question about the writings of Father Anthony de Mello leading someone to the Catholic Church.  Also, Dan answers questions regarding the need to disclose your past during spiritual direction, as well as discerning God’s voice in prayer.

Topics/Questions covered in the show:

  • Regarding Father de Mello’s writings, the Holy Spirit will always bring us to the Truth even if by unusual means. But once he has recognized Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the individual must leave those lesser means behind and begin to use authentic Catholic teaching to bring him/her to the fullness of the Faith.DivineIntimacyRadioWithDan&Melissa
  • Because our humanity is affected by original sin, we must not be lead by emotions to make decisions about the Faith. We must use our intellect to form our consciences according to the teachings of Jesus through the Holy Spirit, in and through the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.
  • The purpose of a spiritual director is to help one advance in prayer and virtue from his or her current spiritual height. Past events in the directee’s life are not always necessary to discuss unless there is a blockage in spiritual progress based on something negative from the past.
  • When discerning whether or not one hears God’s voice in prayer, we must identify whether the  message was the work of the Holy Spirit and moved us to an increase in faith, hope and love. Also, what was said must come to pass and not produce pride or clinging to the revelation.
  • More can be found on discerning God’s voice in prayer from The Ascent of Mount Carmel by Saint John of the Cross, Book 2, Chapters 28 and 29.


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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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  • Jeanette

    A Catholic young man that I have met recently has expressed that he would go to Buddhism to get help to increase his spirituality. He’s a fairly new Catholic who is taking Alpha right now at our Church. What book would you recommend concerning meditation & contemplation?

    • LizEst

      Jeanette, Please see Dan’s answer to me above regarding Alpha. He does not recommend it but recommends the “Christlife” program instead.

      • Gladys Lopes

        First of all regarding father DeMello’s teaching, I agree with Timbuktu’s comments. If we are teaching true authentic Catholic faith, then be careful what you wright for public viewing. Explaining that the Holy Sprite will help you discern the truth, is placing the responsibility on the Holy Spirit instead of your bad judgement.
        Regarding the “Alpha” program, it is not Catholic. It is Protestant. But then again it is the way the Church is leaning towards now days. This new evangelization, we are all saved, we will all go to heaven, there is no Hell, or Purgatory, confession is not needed, Jesus paid the price for all our sins, past present & future. A total abuse of God’s Mercy. We are expecting God to come down to our human level, instead of us striving to get to God’s acceptance.
        Our human needs come first, God has to understand, we are human-beings, we are weak, we will sin, etc. Keep on committing adultery, murder, etc, break all God’s TEN COMMANDMENTS, he will forgive you without repentance and re-conciliation. This is all a bunch of rubbish. You are leading many souls to damnation, including your own.
        One does not mock God, or trample on his word.
        Another thing do not make fun of another’s opinion because it does not agree with your twisted philosophy.
        We really need to pray. The Devil is all around us, getting large and fat, ready to swing his big heavy tail to sweep down all souls to his kingdom (HELL).
        May God really have Mercy on us. Do not forget to pray the “Divine Mercy”.

        • Jeanette

          I never heard anything like you are suggesting when I recently reviewed the Alpha Program and I am a faithful Catholic who knows my faith. It’s a Christian program that proclaims the Good News of Jesus Christ. But, I would, as Dan Burke has suggested, rather have the fullness of faith (fullness being the operative word) by using the Christlife ‘Discovering Christ’ series in our churches, if at all possible.

  • Judy Silhan

    When you spoke, Dan, of spiritual blockages stemming from traumatic or abusive pasts, how one sees God, etc., I was reminded of my constant struggle with what I call biblical analogies. Studying the saints, as I have as a student at Avila, but also being in retreats such as the Consecration to Jesus through Mary, 33 Days to Merciful Love, etc., when I read of, or hear Dr. Howard and others speak of the loving arms of Mary and her protection, just as our own mothers protected us and cared for us, I still cannot embrace these analogies for Mary. Nor can I, try as I may, hearing the references daily to Jesus as the Bridegroom, and the saints speaking of Him as their spouse. And yes, as you said, God is our loving Father, and I do know that, intellectually, as with all of the other analogies, but when St. Therese of Lisieux speaks of Jesus coming down and embracing her in His arms with love, and in other reference such as this, they do not speak to my heart as I know they are intended to do. In all sincerity, when I listened to the broadcast this morning, I realized I have been walking with Christ, for two years, growing closer to Him, and yet I have these issues, again, with what I term biblical analogies. At some point, with perseverance and prayer, will my spiritual growth, especially from meditation on Scripture and the lives and experiences of the Saints, and Mary be less stunted and my thinking less distorted?
    Thank you again for your broadcasts each week. I am so glad that more people now have access to your spiritual wisdom and counsel now that EWTN is airing the broadcast. God Bless you both.

  • timbuktu

    One should not be considering De Mello at all for spiritual direction.
    His works were censured by the Vatican. See this in his history:
    In 1998, 11 years after de Mello’s death, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the leadership of its Cardinal-Prefect, Joseph Ratzinger[7] (who later became Pope Benedict XVI), conducted a review of de Mello’s work and released a lengthy comment expressing their theological concerns. In particular, notification argued that “Jesus is not recognized as the Son of God, but simply as the one who teaches us that all people are children of God”. While the group showed appreciation for many of de Mello’s writings, they determined some of his positions to be “incompatible with the Catholic faith”.

    See especially the determination that: his positions are “incompatible with the Catholic Faith”
    We had a priest that was into this. He is no longer allowed to be a priest in our Diocese due to his unorthodoxy. He was the wierdest priest I have ever known.
    I am surprised, Mr Burke, that you recommend him. His teachings fall in line with New Age, Yoga spirituality etc. This is not Catholic.
    Jeanette: I would warn your friend to stay clear of Buddhism. It is not Catholic.

    • LizEst

      Hello timbuktu– I’m afraid you may have misheard, misinterpreted and misread the information on de Mello we’ve posted here. Dan Burke is not recommending Father de Mello at all. On the contrary, he is very much against what de Mello taught and believed. The only thing Dan says is that it is possible that God may have used de Mello to lead a particular person to God. Dan wants to be sure that, once someone has found the fullness of truth in the Catholic faith, they are not to follow anything that is against what the Church believes and teaches, and that includes de Mello.

      Please go back and listen to this podcast again, as well as the one from last week (there is a link above) and everything that has been written on this site on de Mello (there are links for those posts above, as well). You will find that, in no way, does Dan Burke support de Mello.

      As to Buddhism, yes, it is not Catholic.

      Thank you…and God bless you!

      • timbuktu

        Thanks LizEst
        Yes, I misread Dan Burke’s post. I apologize to him and for misreading it. I had long heard of De Mello’s writings and it rang alarm bells to even hear him mentioned here.
        I just read about the “Alpha” program, too, which is also so misleading.
        They are teaching this, as if emotions lead you to Christ. It is the reverse. I believe it is knowledge in God’s Teachings that leads us to Faith and to Our Father in Heaven. The emotions come afterwards in the form of Love for God and His Truths and Zeal to lead our brethren to the Joy of God’s Love for Him and His Love for us.
        Like the apostles, who learned at the feet of Our Lord, drank in His every Word because as Peter said: “To whom shall we go? You have the Words of Eternal Life” John 6:69
        Zeal even unto death came later.

        I had not read the previous posts on De Mello until today, so I just jumped into the deep, feet first.

        • LizEst

          We accept your apology. As to the “Alpha” program, I don’t know it personally; but, I am happy to note that they have reputable people on their board. You can go here to see who is on their board: From what I have read in my research, it is aimed at evangelizing people.

          • Dan Burke

            I have never gone public with this but I have used the Alpha program when I was an Anglican and I have used and evaluated the program in depth. I would NEVER recommend it for Catholics regardless of the good people involved – and I know them and have talked with the two prominent priests who support it. As recently as one year ago (or so) I purchased the Alpha program because they billed it as “Alpha for Catholics.” It was clearly false advertising (which makes me question the moral judgement and/or commitment to the authentic faith of those who were fine with that billing). I called and complained firmly and for reasons other than my complaint (maybe it helped), they changed the promotion to “Alpha in a Catholic Context.” It is still false advertising though it is better than the prior billing. Did I really mean to say that? YES – it is still misleading. Regardless, the materials I received were the EXACT same as those I used when I was an Anglican. The content is clearly problematic to those who care about cleaning up the widespread confusion about the key truths of the faith. I am frankly baffled and disturbed by those good people who embrace the use of Alpha. Christlife is an authentic Catholic program that I also have direct experience with and would recommend. You can find them at

          • LizEst

            Thanks, Dan. Good to know…especially from someone who has seen both sides (or should I say the same side) of the program! God bless you and keep you!

          • Jeanette

            Thank you Dan. We are running Alpha now in our church. Do you happen to remember the problematic areas?

          • Dan Burke

            Jeanette – I don’t know why the following article mentions Christlife and Alpha as if they were the same program. Either the author was confused or there was a connection in the past. Either way, the critique is good though Christlife is not a present associated with Alpha.

          • Jeanette

            Thank you for directing me to this critique. I will make my parish priest aware of it and about am especially concerned regarding the communion reference in the critique. I plan to preview the Alpha videos before our next Parish Council meeting to better understand. Many thanks.

          • LizEst

            You are right Dan! It’s because Catholic Culture has a separate post on Christlife and indicates that, “Previously ChristLife used the Alpha course, now they use a course called Discovering Christ.”

          • Mary P

            Dan, we also had the Alpha program at our parish about 3 years ago. I wasn’t
            happy about it. It watered down the faith.
            I had enough of that in 6th, 7th and 8th grade what I call “The Kumbaya Era.” My
            older brothers, studied the Baltimore Catechism and they didn’t replace it with anything. Vatican II was a good thing, but misunderstood, I think. The new Catechism came out, thankfully in 1993-95? I am going to see if the diocese is still pushing the Alpha program. It is in the “Adult Formation”

          • Totus tuus

            Awesome reply here. Also, Cardinal Burke has asked his Marian Catechists not to have anything to do whatsoever with Alpha, full stop. God bless!

    • Jeanette

      You have misinterpreted what I wrote. I have no interest in Buddhism. I was simply asking for a recommendation for a book to lead a young man to proper meditation/contemplation. God bless.

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