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Navigating the Interior Life Wk 6 of 6

April 16, 2013 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

Navigating the Interior Life Week 6 of 6

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Exterior Piety vs. Interior Joy 

Millions stand within just a few feet of the grace necessary to ascend to the heights of heaven in this life (with limitations, of course) and to meet the smile of God face-to-face in the next. Many of these souls attend Mass the-good-portion-pictureweekly, or even daily, and they are engaged in devotions like praying the Rosary, Adoration, and regular Scripture reading. The great tragedy is that so often their religious practice is limited to an external piety, and thereby practiced in ignorance of what Jesus calls us to when He says, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). Many go through life without seeking or knowing how to find the great grace of having a loving relationship with Christ in this life that opens the soul in ways far beyond what it could ever imagine. – Navigating the Interior Life p. 121 (Conclusion, paragraph two)

Mere external piety is not only tragic for me as an individual – it is detrimental to the entire Body of Christ in ways that I will never be able to enumerate. I may attend Mass daily, meditate for an hour each morning, pray the Angelus at noon, the Divine Mercy chaplet at three and the rosary every evening.  I may even attend adoration three times a week. But if I habitually lose my temper with my husband and children, what message does that send about my Faith?

Don’t get me wrong. Attending Mass, reading Sacred Scripture and prayer are essential. Each of these activities provides my open heart with a conduit of grace to help me live my Faith. But the key word here is open. I must break those barriers that act as blood clots of sorts, keeping me from receiving all the graces My Lord intends for me.

How do I identify and break those barriers? Burke argues convincingly that good spiritual direction can be a key resource.

And I soooo want to break all those barriers! I don’t want my Faith to be a series of pious practices! I want it to encompass every nook and cranny of my life. I want to acknowledge from the depths of my soul that I am a sinner, and to completely surrender my will to my Savior’s, inhaling deeply with thanksgiving all those graces available to me through my “external” devotions. I want that grace to flow through my veins like living water, filling me with life-giving love…relieving the thirst of everyone I meet…flowing through every thought I have and refreshing those around me with every move I make! I want to live out my Faith with a Love for Christ that manifests itself in everything I do!

This kind of passionate love is what allowed the apostles to grow the Faith from a small Jewish sect in Galilee to the dominant religion in the Roman Empire within a few hundred years. It’s what allowed saints like Francis Xavier and Louis de Montfort to preach and ignite thousands to come to love and devote themselves to Our Lord and Our Lady despite great resistance from pagans and heretics.

True love is CONTAGIOUS! Not only is it good for my own soul, but it’s good for the whole world!

So often we go through the motions of external practices for years, but never see much fruit for all our labors. Our intentions may be good; but in the end, good intentions won’t amount to much.

Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen provides a wonderful example of the difference between the fruit born by true piety, and the tragic results of mere external religious practices:

In Yugoslavia some years ago a young boy was serving Mass, and he dropped the cruet. The priest slapped him and said, “Get out and never come back.” He never came back. He became the communist leader of Yugoslavia, Tito. If that priest had ever come to the good Lord in order to review what he had done, there would have been, perhaps, some remission and an altering of the effect.

I can remember when I was a boy serving at the cathedral under Bishop John L. Spalding. I was about seven years of age, and I dropped the wine cruet at the offertory. Now let me tell you that there is no atomic explosion which can equal the intensity of the sound of a cruet falling on a marble floor. I was frightened to death because we altar boys thought he was a stern man. After Mass, he said, “Come here, young man. Where are you going to school when you get big?” To a seven-year-old, big is high school. I said, “Spalding Institute.” That was the high school named after him, a much more diplomatic answer than I thought at the time.

He said, “I said when you get big. Did you ever hear of Louvain?”

I said, “No.”

“Well, you go home and tell your mother that I said that when you got big, you were to go to the University of Louvain, and some day you will be just as I am.”

So I went home and told my mother what he had said, and she said, “Yes, that’s a great university in Europe.” I never once thought of that incident until I had been ordained two years and stepped off a train in Louvain. I said, “Oh, this is where Bishop Spalding told me to go.” It was an event that in some way altered my life as it altered the life of Tito in the opposite way. (Taken from Through the Year with Fulton Sheen: Inspirational Stories for Each Day of the Year)

When people see that we are in love with Jesus Christ, and that our Faith is not not just something we “do” on Sunday, they will want to know the source of our joy. Contrast that with the Christian who attends mass on Sunday, or – even worse – every day, but is ill-tempered, selfish with his time and resources, or partakes in activities on Saturday night that negate the piety he demonstrates on Sunday morning.

Scripture warns us:

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked (Revelation 3:15-17).

Lord, may I take the advice of this book, seeking and heeding spiritual direction so that I can acquire “self-knowledge in the context of God.” Help me to access my blind spots and to take steps to repair the damage my sinful nature has caused to my relationships. Help me to know who I am and to find the shortest path whereby I can unite myself to You.

Thank you so much for participating in Navigating the Interior Life by Dan Burke – there is one more webinar scheduled to go over any additional questions from the reading.  Please see below for the link.  

CLICK HERE to REGISTER for Webinar Discussion 4/20 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM Central Time U.S.

For Discussion:

1. What does it mean to be Catholic?  Do you tend to get caught up in the external facets of your Faith to the detriment your interior life?  If so, what do you think might help you to re-focus or expand your efforts?

2. Open discussion: Feel free to comment on any topic from this past week's reading.


Reading Assignment:

CLICK HERE to REGISTER for Webinar Discussion 4/20 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM Central Time U.S.

In this webinar we will answer any remaining questions on the readings.



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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at

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