Spiritual Warfare (Guest: Dan Burke)

When we think of Satan and demonic forces we often think of spectacular events like demonic possessions or exorcisms. Yet how do demons quietly influence and impact us in our own spiritual lives?

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Spiritual Warfare (Guest: Dan Burke)
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Guest

Dan Burke is the founder and President of the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, which offers graduate and personal enrichment studies in spiritual theology to priests, deacons, religious, and laity in 72 countries and prepares men for seminary in 14 dioceses.

Dan is the author and editor of more than 15 books on authentic Catholic spirituality and hosts the Divine Intimacy Radio show with his wife, Stephanie, which is broadcast weekly on EWTN Radio. Past episodes can be found, along with thousands of articles on the interior life, at SpiritualDirection.com.

In his deep commitment to the advancement of faithful Catholic spirituality, he is also the founder of Apostoli Viae, a world-wide, private association of the faithful dedicated to living and advancing the authentic spiritual patrimony of the Church.

Most importantly, Dan is a blessed husband, father of four, grandfather of one—and grateful to be Catholic.

Transcript

Eric Sammons:

When we think of Satan and demonic forces, we often think of spectacular events like demonic possession or exorcisms. But how do the demons quietly influence and impact us in our own spiritual lives? That’s what we’re going to talk about today on Crisis Point. Hello, I’m Eric Sammons your host, editor-in-Chief of Crisis Magazine. Before we get started, I just want to encourage people to like this video, to subscribe to the channel, wherever you might be listening to it, watching it. Don’t hit the notify button though, because you have a life outside of the internet. Also, I would like if you are on the internet though and you want to follow us on social media, we’re at Crisis Mag at all the major social media channels and platforms.

Okay, let’s go ahead and get started. So our guest today is Dan Burke. He is the founder and president of the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, which offers graduate and personal enrichment studies and spiritual theology. He’s the author and editor of more than 15 books on authentic Catholic spirituality. He hosts Divine Intimacy Radio with his wife Stephanie, which is broadcast weekly on EWTN Radio. He is most importantly a husband, father of four and grandfather of one. And his most recent book, I think it’s most recent or it’s a recent book by Dan, is The Devil in the Castle, St. Teresa of Avila, Spiritual Warfare, and the Progress of the Soul from Sophia Institute Press. It’s an awesome book. I highly recommend it. Welcome to the program, Dan.

Dan Burke:

That’s great to be with you, Eric. I just turned in another book, but I have a feeling the editor’s not going to like it. So this is my latest and I’ll have to work with Charlie on cleaning up my poor writing skills.

Eric Sammons:

Well, we all have to endure that. My wife is my primary editor before I send it off to the publisher, and that can be a brutal process. It’s very good for me though, so I don’t mind too much. So we want to talk about spiritual warfare today, specifically the impact of evil forces, evil spiritual forces on us in our prayer life. And I was saying before we got on that I really enjoyed this book because I’ve read St. Teresa myself before I try to follow her guidelines, her method, whatever you want to call it, for my own prayer life.

And I hadn’t really thought of it though, the way you present in this book about how the demonic is. Obviously they’re fighting against us, we all know that, but how they actually do that specifically and how we can counter that. So I really do appreciate this book and I highly recommend it. Let’s start off though by just talking a little bit about St. Teresa of Avila. I know the talk is, the interview is about spiritual warfare, demonic forces, but she’s our guide here and so I think we should speak about her first. Why should we listen to her and what is her method if there, for lack of a better term, for growing the spiritual life?

Dan Burke:

Yeah, I mean, of course she’s a 16th century saint who was emerged as the Council of Trent was concluding. She lived in the time around the time of Saint Ignatius Loyola. Of course Saint John of Avila, St. Peter of Alcantara as well as Saint John of the Cross were a spiritual pack in Spain that ran together to revolutionize the world with respect to understanding what it really means to come to be in union with God. And so I think that throughout modern history, and I would say from her era and beyond, she and John of the Cross are known as really or understood to be the height of mystical wisdom literature on the simple question of how is it that we know and experience God.

And they’re kind of on their own on that mountaintop and all the rest of, there’s many other brilliant saints and authors who are worthy of reading, but they tend to be the ones who, when we’re asking the deeper questions about what it means to progress up the narrow way, they’re the two… Along with other key Carmelite saints like Saint Thérèse of Lisieuxor Saint Teresa Benedict of the Cross.

Just the depth of wisdom in the Carmelite tradition in that realm is superior, just like the depth of wisdom and insight in terms of moral and dogmatic theology is really deeply rooted in Thomistic tradition or the Dominican tradition. So we have all these beautiful facets of the faith that reveal different aspects of God in their beautiful emphases. And Teresa of Avila is one who’s really probably the deepest water on prayer, she and John of the Cross, anyway together.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, I admit that she’s top five for me as far as favorite saints. I just love her and I think she’s given so much to the church, particularly when it comes to a life of prayer. Now, in your book, you organize it based upon the mansions, the mansions of the spiritual life. Why don’t you explain what Teresa meant by the mansions.

Dan Burke:

Yeah, so the interior castle is the backdrop of this book. It was written by, of course, Teresa of Avila. It was her opus. It was her final work. It was her most mature work. You can read some beautiful insights about prayer in the book of her life or in the way of perfection that you and I were talking about before the show. But this book was written about 10 years after her autobiography. And her maturity and understanding of the progress of the soul was quite dramatic. She went from four stages of prayer in the book of her life to nine different distinct stages of prayer in the interior castle. And so in the interior castle, you have the soul journeys from let’s just say lukewarm to making a shift after some kind of encounter or motivation to draw more deeply to the faith, all the way to the unitive way.

So the purgative way, the illuminative way, and the unitive way, the Dionysian framework can easily be laid over Teresa’s nine stages of prayer, the seven mansions. But she used the mansion as a way to illustrate the progress of the soul and an ever deepening relationship with God. And so each, the mansion has all these rooms. It actually has millions of rooms, but she groups them, if you will, into seven main rooms and describes how the soul enters in the first place. And then what it will discover in each of these rooms.

And what has never been written about, which I cover in this book, is that she has a unique and I think very powerful perspective on spiritual warfare that she reveals in each room. So she reveals, here’s what’s normal in this stage and then here’s how it changes in this stage. And then when you progress here, it’s going to change even more.

John of the Cross does the same thing, I think in a much more technical and difficult language than Teresa. She’s very down to earth. But that’s fundamentally the book. How does she see the battle with the enemy at each stage? What are the key strategies that the enemy uses against us? What are counter movements that we can use and how can we be encouraged? I discovered a lot of things about her in this that were really… I hadn’t seen before. At every stage she always has encouragement for the soul, which I think is a beautiful thing. So we need that when we’re in such a hard battle. So that’s the framework of the book.

Eric Sammons:

So essentially, big picture it is, when we start in a spiritual life, basically we start off and we have all these issues. We’re fallen man. I mean, yes, we’re baptized, but we have all these things we have to purge, purgative way. And ultimately though our goal is complete union with God, which will happen on the other side in heaven, God willing. But the idea is we’re trying, going that direction in our life. And so somebody like St. Teresa of Avila, Saint John of the Cross, they might reach a deep union with God while they’re here on earth, which of course even for them is extended and expanded and everything in heaven. But the idea is that’s what we’re going towards.

So if that’s what God wants for us, it goes without saying that the devil, the demons, they want the opposite for us. And so they’re trying to stop us. Now, the first question I just have when it comes to demonic influence on us and how the spiritual warfare, is there a way we distinguish between just my fallen nature that wants to keep me from prayer, wants to keep me from union with God and demons? Because I fear that sometimes might get a little bit sensational like, “Oh, I didn’t pray this morning. That was a demon fighting against me.” Maybe just you were lazy and you didn’t feel like getting up in the morning or something like that. So how do we first distinguish the differences between those two aspects?

Dan Burke:

That’s an interesting question. I think maybe you’ve been hanging out with charismatics or something. I’m not speaking against charismatics. They just have a tendency to be a lot more open to those kinds of ideas. It’s a tough question. I mean, it’s part of one of the reasons I wrote the book Is The Devil Under Every Rock, or as Father Rippiger, one of the most well known exorcists would say, “Under every other rock.” There’s this weird line that I don’t like to cross. One, I’ve been in many exorcisms myself in terms of assisting the priest. And so I’ve seen the worst kinds of experiences. And then of course I’ve written a number of books on spiritual warfare, and we as part of our community life, serve people in deliverance ministry. So I have a pretty, I don’t know, a deeper than average dip into those waters in terms of experience.

My instinct in this culture, outside of the charismatic movement, and I don’t know how we would characterize the traditionalist world, but outside of the charismatic movement, I would say people understate the activity of the enemy. And I think it’s because we’re embarrassed intellectually is probably the reason why. It’s probably why a book. This has never been written about her writings because those in academia are often embarrassed by these kind of sensational realities, which they are a reality.

But to your question, I think that there’s no easy answer. But that when you begin to practice daily mental prayer, which is what she describes as the entryway into a deeper relationship with God, where you’re going to really make serious progress, when you begin to practice that you begin to come to know yourself better, your self knowledge increases dramatically, which is what she talks about in the first few mansions.

And then you begin, if you read good literature like spiritual literature like Saint Ignatius, Father Timothy Gallagher’s probably the best in our time to speak to those things. In Ignatian spirituality though, I’ve also written a book on that, or Teresa of Avila, you begin to see how the enemy works. And you begin to be able to, but it takes time, distinguish the what I would call the voice of the enemy or the voice of God or your own voice, which are the three sources of inspiration that could essentially influence you one direction or another.

And for the most part, there are good rules of thumb like in Galatians five, it says, the fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, self-control. And an exorcist friend of ours said one time, that’s what the voice of life, what’s what the voice of God sounds like. Love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentlemen.

Those are characteristics of God. Then of course, that are imparted to us by the grace of the Holy Spirit. And the enemy is constantly trying to condemn us, discourage us from doing holy things. But of course, our own slothfulness and our own distaste for things that are difficult can also affect us against the good that God has. But fundamentally, I believe that in most cases, as we seek to do the good, we will be opposed. And so if we feel opposition, it can be a combination of us or the enemy or just the enemy or just us. But in the end, I’ll finish with this thought. To me, it doesn’t matter that much, because you know why? Because I live with life-threatening illness and I have since I was a child, and if I don’t feel good, which is most days, you know what I tell my body when it tells me, don’t get up to pray? Is say, “You can go to hell, I’m not going with you. I’m going to get up and pray.”

And you know what I say to the enemy when I sense that he’s trying to get me from praying, I can say, “In Jesus’ name, you can go to hell. I’m going to go pray.” So to me, we have to have a fundamentally ferocious kind of disposition toward the narrow way, toward fighting whatever is in us or outside of us that keeps us from virtue, from holiness, from practices and disciplines and subjugation of ourselves to God’s will that leads us to become saints. But it’s a great question, but it’s a very hard one to… There’s no black and white instant answer.

Eric Sammons:

And ultimately, like you said, what matters is your response more than anything. So anything that’s keeping you away from God, whether it’s your own fallen nature or it’s a demon, the response is the same, go to hell.

Dan Burke:

Yeah, I’m not listening to you. You’re not my body. If my body was my God, I would certainly be in hell. But my body is not my God. My God is my God. So my intellect, of course, is oriented to the Lord, which draws me to love and affection toward him. Then that allows me more easily to conform my will, and then my lower nature follows. And whenever you flip it or allow it to flip the enemies at play or your flesh is at play and that’s bad, you’ve got to fight it.

Eric Sammons:

So practically speaking, other than trying to keep us from praying, which obviously the enemy always wants to do, how does the enemy impact our actual prayer during our… So we say, “Okay, I’m going to pray, do mental prayer today. I’m spending time on it.” But I think all of us who have do that regularly know that some days you get finished, you’re like, “What just happened?” But how does the enemy work inside you, at you to keep you from a, I guess we’d call it productive mental prayer for lack of a better term?

Dan Burke:

I mean, there’s a thousand ways. I think fundamentally he works most powerfully with the ammunition we give him. So as an example, if we are allowing ourselves to fall into habitual mortal sin, you enter into prayer, what do you think is going to show up? Especially of a sexual or dopamine based in nature or gaming, which is another dopamine producing activity. Just those things that are one, are grave, separate us from God, but that can cause all kinds of disruptive images. The enemy does not have the ability to read our thoughts, but he does have access to our memory, and he does have the ability to try to induce ideas and thoughts. And so as he’s constantly watching Eric Sammons, I have no clue what your sins or weaknesses are, but he does. And there’s probably been one assigned to you since birth, just like a guardian angel.

That’s a reasonable assumption that theologians make. And since the day you were born, he’s watched you. He knows your proclivities, he knows what you click on that you shouldn’t click on, not accusing you of anything. He knows what you glance at or you shouldn’t glance at, and maybe we just shouldn’t use you as an example. Or somebody who goes to the gym a lot or somebody who, whatever it is. Then so with that ammunition, when you enter into prayer… And on a more innocuous level, what do you worry about? Your finances, your kids, your job, what your boss thinks about you, whether a crisis has enough fundraising done, whatever. Any aspect of our being that reflects any of the seven deadly sins or their daughters or any matter of concupiscence he knows about, he has many times manipulated us into.

And then so when we enter into prayer, that is the primary means that he disrupts prayer. And so as Teresa of Avila reveals, the goal is to eliminate as much of that crap as possible in your life so that as you progress, he has way fewer ways to manipulate you. I think the best illustration, you got little kids right here?

Eric Sammons:

Yeah.

Dan Burke:

How many of them?

Eric Sammons:

I have seven kids, but only three are in the house still.

Dan Burke:

Three in the house.

Eric Sammons:

My youngest is seven.

Dan Burke:

Well, okay, they’re a little too old. But do you remember those backpacks that came out for the little ones with the handles on the back?

Eric Sammons:

Oh, yeah.

Dan Burke:

You could control your kid and you jerk them around. Well, all of those things that we give the devil, all of our sins are inclinations and imperfections are all like handles. They’re either huge handles with a lot of leverage, which are mortal sins or they’re medium sized handles as venial sins or they’re tiny little handles as imperfections.

Those allow the devil to jerk us around. So the goal is outside of prayer, if you will, to get rid of as many of those handles so that the enemy has less to work with. Now, that’s early stage, that’s purgative way. Unitive or illuminative way and unitive ways there’s different strategies that he uses to deceive us and get us off track. But for most Catholics, 99% probably who are even active devout, they’re somewhere in the purgative way, and you can be very holy in the purgative way, especially in the later stages, that’s what he uses against us in prayer.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, I know for example, one of the things I did a number of years ago, very practically was, I make sure the first thing I do each morning is prayer. I don’t pick up the phone, I don’t look at the computer. None of those dopamine hits as you put it. And I realize that really made a difference just on focus, just the simple physiological, okay, my brain is actually now focused on this. And it’s like there’s no way, I don’t want to start any other way because I know myself. I know if I first look at social media or my email or something like that, that’s exactly all I’m going to think about during prayer time.

Dan Burke:

Yeah, you have hit on one of the most important strategies for those who have any success in mental prayer. Mental prayer is the hardest kind of prayer, by the way, because of these problems. And it’s also the most powerful because it reveals all the junk. But to your point, I do the same thing. I have an incredibly active mind and a very creative, naturally, I’m a very intense person. And so you get me, I get up at 4:15. If I get up any later than 5:00 or 5:30, my head is buzzing on all the stuff I have to do. But I try to take that time from 4:30 or so till we do… Here I live a quasi monastic life. So we chant the hours together three times a day in the chapel here, and our morning prayer time is 7:30.

So that early time, and I have to protect the first part of that time because I also pray other kinds of prayer, two mental prayer, just for the exact reason you said. Because vocal prayers are easy compared to mental prayer. But mental prayer, I always say, I wrote a book called Into the Deep years ago on mental prayer. And one of the illustrations I use is the monkeys in our head or all the junk in our head. And for every year of life you get another 10,000 monkeys until you get about our age, and then they start dying. But the groggy monkeys rarely cause a ruckus. So I like to be a little groggy when I’m hitting the mental prayer because not all the lights are on. I can open up the gospels, I can close my eyes, I can be with the Lord. So yeah, everyone listening if you want to know what are the top secrets of mental prayer, Eric just gave it to you. Get up early.

Eric Sammons:

I know I’ve tried a few times over the decades to incorporate a more formal prayer, like mental prayer, like at lunchtime or after work, and I just can’t do it. So I just try to make sure I do like the hours or a rosary, something like that where it’s like, okay, that can help me a little bit. But I just can’t simply, and I think I found that’s not uncommon. I’m not the only one.

Dan Burke:

Well, I would just say that the way you know need to pray, like Eric is proposing, is you take your two fore fingers from your left hand and then you hold up your right wrist and then you press the two fingers where you can feel your pulse. And if you have one… And here’s the funny part, I’ve had relatively holy people that I’ve given spiritual direction to, and I don’t ever argue with someone, but I had a guy who, really holy guys, “I pray better at night.” And I said, “Whatever, I just want you to pray. So let’s talk about that.” And so he gets moving. He wasn’t my director, he was actually an employee. But years later he calls me, he says, “Dan,” he says, “you were right.” He said, “I finally decided to shift my mental prayer to the morning. And wow, does it change everything.” It’s because if, you know you love the church, this is why you do what you do. Otherwise you’d be, I don’t know, what was the business you were in before?

Eric Sammons:

Oh, software development.

Dan Burke:

Yeah, I mean otherwise you’d be writing code and whatever, but you’re giving your life something meaningful. That means you care very deeply about everything that’s going on in the church. Man, you put your prayer time late in the day after cogitating and all the things you care about. I mean, how do you slow that down? I don’t know how to slow it down other than medication, which you shouldn’t do. So I think mourning is the best time for mental prayers. No doubt about it.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, slowing down my brain is a losing cause once it gets going in the day. So-

Dan Burke:

We need both.

Eric Sammons:

Now you mentioned about how, of course we all have guardian angels assigned to us from our conception, even before, and then it’s likely like a theologian would say, that we also have a demon that’s basically following us around trying to knock us down.

Dan Burke:

Yeah.

Eric Sammons:

Why does God allow that? Why does God let a demon follow us around? Why not just give us a guardian angel and say, “Okay.” Why does that happen?

Dan Burke:

I think there’s a number of theories. The one that I most believe in is that why were the angels created? It was how it was to serve us, to help us. And as mystical literature reveals, not infallibly or to the level of scripture, it seems that the enemy himself… One exorcist calls him old red legs, understood what that was all about and what was coming and just said, “I’m not serving them. I’m not serving you. In fact, I’m going to do everything I can to crush them.” And so I think the answer of God was, “Yeah, that’s an interesting plan, but you’re going to do what I tell you to do no matter what.”

And so in our context in the world we live in, love necessitates free will, and so you have a big mess. Just it’s sort of a big mess no matter which way you slice it. So I think that in that mess, he uses the good spirits and the bad to help us to heaven as long as we’re, and it does work that way. The bad spirits will help us to heaven as long as we’re in God’s plan and following his ways. Because he allows or causes circumstances that give us the ability to further escape concupiscence in all that binds us and all that keeps us from him. And so the enemy is an agent of that testing and trying.

So in that way, as long as you’re walking the narrow way with God, whatever they try, to the degree that you’re walking with God, will help you and benefit you to holiness. Because as you fight and resist, you become stronger. And as you fight and resist, you remove those things between you and God. You learn the strategies of the enemy and you’re actually able to help others. So that, I don’t know, I sort of lost my way in the answer, but I think I answered your question.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, I think so. Just another thing is, so we talked a little bit about how in your prayer life, some ways that you can kind of fight off the demonic, the spiritual dark forces, is just practical things like do it first thing in the morning. Obviously avoid sin. Sin is that great gateway that allows the demonic to influence us even greater. What are some other practical ways that St. Teresa of Avila would talk about that help us to advance in the spiritual life and fend off those dark forces?

Dan Burke:

Yeah, so one of the biggest arguments that happened in the 16th century and 17th was exactly what is this mental prayer thing. And I think she came to some incredibly powerful conclusions about it that answer your question. I think if you were to boil down a Teresian understanding of our activity and prayer, what would it be? It would be simply this, filling the heart and mind with God. And then it’s helpful then to compare it against non-Christian Eastern spirituality, which is emptying the mind or controlling the mind and thoughts.

So the Christian conception is filling, which is about relationship. The non-Christian Eastern conception is about blanking out controlling thoughts and coming to this… Not a state of love and the outpouring of love as we see in the Trinity, this constant flow of love from one to the other, but instead this extreme passivity, if you will. This purely human earthly naturalistic conception of I have to control my thoughts to get to this blank state.

And Teresa argued, no, that isn’t it at all Christian prayer. Christian prayer in John of the Cross says this most best in the ascent of Mount Carmel, he says if you want to grow quickly in the interior life, here’s a very fast way to do it. Read of Christ, emulate Christ. Know Christ, love Christ. That’s the ultimate summary. So of course they both agreed on that, and there was even a dispute in the day. It’s funny because St. Peter of Alcantara, a great Franciscan saint, there were some who went to Teresa and said, “Well, we talked to St. Peter and he said we should be doing all these machinations to control our thoughts.”

And she said, “Baloney. I talked to him myself. He’s my spiritual director, and he doesn’t agree with you.” So they had these battles about the very things we see today with non-Christian Eastern spirituality, which of course has very much influenced, unfortunately Catholic thinking like Richard Roar, Father Thomas Keating, all of these guys who were really off the rails when it comes to what it really means to pray.

So the next thing is get up early, sacred time, do it at the same time every day. Your body needs to become your friend. And then sacred attention, which is a deliberate filling of the heart and mind with the Lord. How do you do that? Well, I think Lectio Divina is probably the most time tested, probably affected more saints than any other form of prayer. And you can use a blend of imaginative prayer that Ignatius proposes, which is very good with Lectio Divina, but you got to get into the gospels, you got to get to know Jesus. And in doing so, you’re filling your mind with, oh, this is what he did. This is what he said. This is how he thinks. This is what he hates. This is what he likes. This is, he’s talking to me now. Oh no, how do I deal with that? Those are two of the three most important secrets to helping you grow in prayer.

Eric Sammons:

What’s the third?

Dan Burke:

The third is sacred space. And it isn’t in this book, but I wrote about these three in my book Into the Deep. Sacred space is, so architecture speaks to the soul and a sacred and traditional architecture, of course, did it much better than modern insanity. But the architecture either tells you a lie or a truth, and it affects you toward God or away from God by what it’s telling you. So we know that when we walk into a great cathedral, we’re moved to pray. I remember when I first went to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama built by Mother Angelica, and it’s of course a kind of replica of San Damiano in Italy of St. Francis of Assisi. But I walked into the side and I looked up and saw that eight foot tall monstrousness, and I went to my knees, just instinctively. And that’s never happened to me before.

But that is a perfect illustration of what architecture should do to us. So if you can do that in a church, you can do that in your house. Now people are going to think, “Well, I don’t have that much money.” But you don’t have to. I started in my basement, when I was in seminary, with an icon of Jesus and Mary, a little candle, and I just set aside the space. Nothing else happened in this space. There’s no multiuse space. And I’m going to do my best. And eventually I love the Byzantine kind of feel of hanging lamps and all that. I did all that. I used incense. But sacred time, sacred space that you enter into that helps to orient your heart and mind to God because our bodies are not our friends until we make them as such. And then sacred attention. Those are the three most important elements to success in prayer.

Eric Sammons:

You mentioned earlier Lectio Divina, which just for anybody who might not be sure what that is, divine reading. It’s basically where you read the sacred scriptures and you then meditate upon what you’re reading about. And obviously more detailed than that, but that’s the basics. I had a priest tell me one time, I had him come, this is years ago, and he gave a retreat at our parish and he talked a little about Lectio Divina. And I was talking to him afterwards, he said, “I’ve talked about this for years. Nobody does it. Nobody ever listens and nobody… It seems like this is the hardest thing. I cannot get Catholics to do this.” First of all, is that your experience? And if so, why is there a difficulty getting Catholics to actually practice Lectio Divina?

Dan Burke:

Yeah, you’re asking a tough question. I’m in a weird situation, Eric. I mean, I run the largest institution maybe in the world for forming people in spiritual theology. So we have 600 students a quarter. We have 100 guys heading into seminary, and we do formations for priests. And so I’m just surrounded by really amazing people. I mean, a lot of them. You’re one of them, right? I mean, you’re not in my world directly, but I mean people like you is what I live with every day. And then I have a community. We have about 3000 members of our community, and we’re dedicated to mental prayer. So I guess if you look at the statistics of the average Catholic in the pew, most of them are actually not Catholics. They’re doing something else. They’re technically baptized and all that, but I mean, they’re not really Christians. They’re just doing whatever because they don’t believe in the Eucharist or whatever.

Not the case in the TLM parishes, but it is in kind of the bulk of the Catholic world. So I get what he’s saying there. But why is it? Well, the catechism, the modern catechism, talks about prayer as a battle. And I think Teresa of Avila, in the book Devil and the Castle, as you begin to enter the castle, which is I’m going to begin to be an authentic disciple of Jesus, I’m going to start hanging out with him. I’m going to pray. Which will help you of course when you’re with him in Eucharist.

But I’m going to start praying, and I’m going to start being aware of what’s going on daily. St. Teresa says there’s this array of demons in the outer court that are going to do everything they can to keep you from making that progress, manipulate you to getting a new job, accepting a project that’s on top of the 30 others that you shouldn’t have done, getting you to focus on an old hobby that you grew out of because of your spiritual progress. But now they’ll bring a friend into your life that does that, and now you’re back in, and now you’re golfing for hours a day instead of praying.

So all of hell will raise itself in the earliest stages of spiritual growth. As soon as someone stops circling the drain and hanging out near the edge of the kingdom, near the cage of the lion, the door where Paul can reach in and rip us out. As soon as you start, stop circling the drain, all of hell will raise against you. But God be praised. If you would just not be a wuss and be a warrior for Christ. And I mean that for men or women. Both men and women can be effeminate in a destructive sense of that word. And I don’t mean feminine, I mean weak-willed, right? The traditional sense of a femininity. You have to be strong and you have to fight.

Look, I mean, if you claim that you love Jesus and you don’t spend time with him… Like what would happen, Eric, if our wives got to know each other and we hung out regularly, and then all of a sudden after a while you didn’t see Stephanie anymore and you said, “How’s Stephanie doing?” I said, “Ah, she’s wonderful.” “That’s a weird answer, Dan. What do you mean?” “Oh no, she’s just so wonderful.” “Well, where is she?” “I don’t know.” “Well, I haven’t seen you with her for months. What’s going on?” “She’s so wonderful, Eric.” What you would do is you’d say, “Dan, you’re a liar. You’re a liar. Are you even married? Did you guys get a divorce and you’re hiding it?”

But with Christianity, for some reason we sort of allow this mirage and we don’t hold one another accountable. We don’t love each other enough to say, “You say you love him, but I just, why don’t you give him any time?” I mean, what would happen if we were in the first century? My wife’s very holy. So I remember being at a NAPA Institute conference years ago, and somebody said, “Well, where’s Stephanie?” And I thought to myself, “Where’s Jesus?” And then I went, “Oh, she’s in adoration. The adoration chapels down there.”

Well, that’s what would happen in the first century to true followers of Jesus, right? Somebody’s looking for Eric. Where’s Eric? I don’t know. Where’s Jesus? Eric has a job or he’s with Jesus. That’s the only place Eric is. So go to his workplace or go wherever Jesus is right now. But in our time, we don’t, I don’t know what it is. We just like to, I don’t know, pretend to play.

But great saints and doctors like Teresa of Avila, another favorite of mine is Saint Alphonsus Liguor. I just released a new book, I mean republished his work, Prayer, a great means of salvation. Both of them will tell you, you’re not spending time with Jesus in prayer, you’re going to hell. You’re just not going to make it. It’s too hard. And you won’t have the strength. John of the Cross, you don’t spend time with Jesus. You will not fall in love with him, and it’s too hard. You’re just not going to make it. The narrow way is not a pathway for sissies. It’s a pathway for those who look at that crucifix and go, “Oh, dear Jesus, I have to return everything to you. Please help me.”

Eric Sammons:

I remember years ago, I think it was Way of Perfection. I was at a silent retreat, and I was reading it. I remember the thing that stuck with me the most was St. Teresa talked about, I think she says, you’ll correct me if I’m wrong, the most important virtue when it comes to a life prayer is perseverance.

Dan Burke:

Oh, yeah, huge.

Eric Sammons:

That is huge. And that’s something I think, I have to imagine, the demons, their constant attacks are a way to wear down that perseverance that we want to give up. And I think it’s something that probably all of us should hear, because I think all of us, I don’t know about this for a fact, but I would guess most of us kind of give up multiple times over the course of years. I know at my age, I’ve had times where I’ve wanted to, where I basically kind of did, and then you just eventually God smacks you upside the head and you say, okay, I got to get back up on the horse. But speak to how perseverance specifically can go strengthen us against the demonic forces.

Dan Burke:

Yeah. So Teresa, one of my favorite quotes of hers, she says, “God withholds herself from no one who perseveres.” If we go to Ephesians or Philippians, he who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. And what’s the only thing we have to do? Stay in the game. I always tell people, and this was hammered home to me in exorcisms, because the rite has never failed in the history of the church except for one reason. The only reason that the rite has not delivered anyone who’s been possessed is because they give up. And the whole purpose of the rite is to strengthen, is to weaken the demon so that the person can exercise their will to get free. The rite is about 10% of what really sets a person free. And then 90% as you going, giddy up, I’m done. This sucks. I don’t like this. God help me.

But I think the one thing I tell people all the time is just show up. As I said, I live with life threatening illness. I also have severe insomnia. I feel crappy most days. My prayer, I don’t come to my prayer space and levitate. 99% of the time I never levitate. But what I’m trying to say is I don’t come because of experiences I get. I come because he gave me everything. He gave me a reason to live. That’s why I come. And I cannot not come. And if you want to just talk about sin, traditionalists take that very seriously. St. Thomas Aquinas says, “It is a sin to not pray.” And he speaks about the necessity even of mental prayer throughout our life.

So, we have to take seriously those admonitions from Teresa, from Liguori, from Aquinas. That prayer is a necessity, which means being with Jesus. The one we claim is our God outside of mass. Mass, of course, is the central well from which we draw. But mental prayer reinforces our disposition and the graces we receive at mass and mass reinforces the disposition in graces we receive in prayer. But I don’t go to prayer because I feel good. And how I feel never dictates whether or not I go to prayer.

And you’ve got to have that kind of commitment and trust that even if you go 99 times you read the gospel, I don’t know whatever that means. But I promise you reading it, scripture itself says Hebrews, the word of God is living. So when you engage the word of God, whether you feel it or not, something is happening. And I promise you, in fact, we are kicking off a jump into prayer thing for Lent. I think we’re starting on set two adjustment Sunday. So if folks want to learn about that, if you go out to spiritualdirection.com and sign up there, you’ll get a notice to sign up for it.

But to really help people, I filmed a six part series, a high quality six part series on mental prayer and how to do it. And so those who sign up will get those videos, they’ll get… I didn’t plan to promote all this in the show, but it just seems you’re asking a lot about prayer and it will really help people. Because part of, I think, one of my strengths, Eric, is taking complex ideas and making them simple, without watering them down.

And so I think that’s what we do in that series to help people get started for the period of Lent, which wherein we have all kinds of graces for holiness and then build a habit that is something we can maintain for a lifetime. But Teresa says, perseverance, perseverance, perseverance, perseverance, never stop praying, she said. For a period of time she was convinced that she wasn’t humble, by a demon, by the way, and she stopped praying. She said, “I would’ve gone to hell if I’d have died in that period.” And so she says, “For no reason ever should you ever not pray.”

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, I know that early on in my Catholic life I was very much involved and influenced by charismatic Catholics. And like you, I’m not trying to insult them or anything like that, but I know that there was a tendency that I kind of picked up from that of saying I had a good prayer time if I had some feelings of God’s presence or something like that.

But the flip side of that was for me was I did think I had a bad prayer time if I didn’t have those feelings. And it wasn’t until I realized, I was reading something, whatever, that said, actually those two are irrelevant. If you’re praying, it’s a good prayer time and God may or may not give you certain graces, certain feelings and what have you. But ultimately it’s irrelevant, too, it’s just if you’re praying is all that makes it a good prayer time if you’re praying.

Dan Burke:

Yes. So much of good spiritual formation is disabusing people of the lie that how I feel matters. But if you want to just know where that kind of philosophy leads to, the culture is steeped in it. I feel like a girl, so I’m a girl. I feel like I’m African American, so I’m an African American. Whatever it is. It’s flipping on its head the framework that leads to holiness, which is I come to know God and to love him. I’m intellectually properly aligned. In my will then, I choose to live according to my love and to my knowledge. And then my lower nature is subjected to it. And your lower nature, I would call the affections or where our emotions would be. And they’re not bad in and of themselves unless you let them tell you what to do. If your emotions tell you what to do, ever, there’s a fundamental answer in Spanish that you can use that will always be appropriate.

[Spanish]. Shut up. I don’t care what you have to say, I’m going to do the right thing. I mean, of course, if your emotion is to love your wife and go buy flowers, do that. Obey that. If your emotions are to go worship God, obey that. But usually our emotions have to be formed in subject to our intellect and our will and God be praised. I’ve had many times in my life where the presence of God spilled over into my humanity, my flesh, if you will.

And I was deeply blessed by that. But I would say 99% of the time, I feel absolutely nothing. And not that I’m normal, by the way, I don’t think that that is normal. God has just blessed me with desert life, and that’s okay. That’s His will. That’s what I need. I’d probably be a prideful maniac if I was blessed and could point to some method I used. I’d be selling mindfulness or some of the crap like that. But no, you’re exactly right.

Eric Sammons:

Now, one, I kind of want to wrap it up here soon, but one of my questions takes from a different angle. So you’re a parent. I’m a parent. Lot of parents out there listening. Is there any way, as parents, we can help our kids? Because the idea of demons influencing our kids and trying to get them off the straight and narrow frightens us and terrifies us. Is there anything we can do from the outside, so to speak, to help our kids or loved one’s wife, whatever, husband, whatever the case may be, help them, protect them from these demonic forces?

Dan Burke:

Yeah, so every day I have non-negotiable prayers. Mental prayers first. The next is what is called perimeter prayer. You can find this in Father Rippiger’s, it’s a little black book on-

Eric Sammons:

The deliverance prayers book?

Dan Burke:

For the laity. Yeah. And then I always pray auxilium Christianorum prayers, which are most of the people pray that are priests or people involved in deliverance ministry, but everybody can pray it, which is just a general prayer that’s different every day. It’s auxilium, A-U-X-I-L-I-U-M Christianorum. You can figure that one out. But that’s Mary help of Christians of course, it’s under her title. And you can find an app for that. Takes about seven minutes a day. I think that’s super powerful. But the most important thing that a parent can do is, you Eric, I’ll just talk to you, you have the most power in your home, spiritually and authority, that will determine most significantly how much demonic activity is allowed in your home.

Now, that’s until your children are of an age where they can begin to choose to reject things or whatever. And so to the degree that you pray and you’re holy, that’s the greatest spiritual protection for your family. But then every father should know spiritual warfare prayers, and every father should understand that there are times when he needs to lay his hands on his wife and on her head and pray against whatever’s bothering her or her kids. I think probably the most practical wisdom that folks can have is Ignatian discernment of the rules.

So I wrote a book called Spiritual Warfare Discernment of Spirits, which really simplifies that. Not anywhere, it’s like a quarter of the size of Devil in the Castle, but super easy accessible to understand how the enemy works, what are his strategies, and then how you can combat the enemy. The last book I’d recommend is Kathleen Beckman’s, the Family Guide to Spiritual Warfare. All of these are published by Sophia Institute Press, and that is a great resource book.

Kathleen is a very holy woman, head of deliverance ministry for the Diocese of Orange in California, but she really knows it. So those are some good sources that’ll help a family help their kids. I think you can talk about, in the terms of Discernment of Spirits. The power of that conversation is you’re not talking about demons per se, you’re just talking about influences. You know, can talk about demons like I do, but I just haven’t found my kids ever afraid of that stuff. I mean, we’ve always talked about it, and I think it’s helpful to them to know and to know how to fight. Because everybody can fight and everyone can win because he who is in us is greater than he who was in the world.

Eric Sammons:

Amen. Okay, good stuff. Now, just to circle back, as we finish up, I want to give people these resources, the Lenton program, do they find that at spiritualdirection.com or at the-

Dan Burke:

Yeah.

Eric Sammons:

Okay. Spiritualdirection.com. Okay, great. So, the websites I know of that people can find out more spiritualdirection.com, but also the Avila Institute, in the Avila-institute.com, I think.

Dan Burke:

Yeah, Avila-institute.com. That’s where we have our courses on spiritual theology, graduate studies, and we have a school, spiritual direction school. We can keep you busy till you die being holy.

Eric Sammons:

I’ll put links into those sites and also to this book, obviously The Devil in the Castle. I think it’s great. I think it’s very helpful. I mean, I really do. I’m with you that mental prayer, I mean, that’s the ticket. I mean there’s technically no secret sauce, but that kind of seems like the secret sauce in a way. Daily mental prayer. And like you said, and in the morning, it’s funny, I’m glad you… I am from now on, I always have been one who would just say, pray. I pray in the morning. I think it’s best. But for each person, whenever you think, I’m just going to go to your thing and say, “No, pray in the morning, do it the first thing in the morning.”

Dan Burke:

So here’s the pattern, Eric, everything I teach I’ve derived from the saints. What do the saints do? What does every Carmelite do first thing in the morning? Do they do their books? Do they do their paperwork? Do they read their email? No, they don’t do any of that. Do they do laundry? No, they don’t do any of that? Every religious institution, the bulk of their prayer time is always in the morning. And the reason is because that’s what works best with humans. So if you’re a human…

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, usually they get up very early. They pray for hours before they even do anything.

Dan Burke:

Exactly.

Eric Sammons:

So yeah, I mean, as lay people, we might not be able to do that, but we definitely can model our own life after that, in the sense of getting started every day with mental prayer. And I like the idea of being a little groggy. That must be how I can focus better. My mind hasn’t really started going a hundred miles an hour yet.

Dan Burke:

So just one thing I want to say before we end the show, some of my traditionalist friends of which I’m in that camp are going, “But Dan, what about the rosary?” I know they’re saying that. You need to speak about the rosary. And I pray the rosary every day, don’t worry. But mental prayer, the rosary is to lead us to Jesus. So mental prayer is to lead us to Jesus. It’s Mary leading us to Jesus, us going directly to Jesus. It’s all necessary for us to get to heaven. And so it’s all good. Appreciate all you’re doing at Crisis, by the way. You’re doing a great job.

Eric Sammons:

Oh, thank you. And I love your stuff, and I really recommend people go to spiritualdirection.com, pick up this book, the Devil in the Castle. I just feel like this is, we all feel weighed down at times by what’s going on in the world, but more specifically in the church and obviously here at Crisis, we cover a lot of that. And we have to have, I mean, the way out, I truly believe it’s becoming holy and that’s through prayer. And the devil doesn’t want that to happen. So that’s why I appreciate the work you’re doing. Because I feel like that’s the foundation to… it’s far more important in resisting the crisis than anything we do here at Crisis. So I really appreciate the stuff you guys are doing there.

Dan Burke:

Thank you.

Eric Sammons:

Okay, Dan, well thank you very much. Like I said, I’ll put the links into all this stuff so people can follow this, find out about it, get more into a good life of prayer, and kick the butt of those demons so that they can’t do anything to you. Okay, everybody. Until next time, God love you.

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