EWTN’s President shares secrets of the saints with Windthorst parish
WINDTHORST — Dan Burke, EWTN’s President and Chief Operating Officer and an award-winning author of books on Catholic spirituality, told 150 people at St. Mary Parish in Windthorst about patterns or secrets of the saints they can imitate to become saints themselves.
“What are the secrets we’ve learned today? Saying ‘yes,’ [that] the journey [of growing closer to God] never ends, [that] we really need to understand prayer, and [that] prayer is necessary for our salvation,” Burke said. “These are all the secrets the saints know and that we can copy.”
Burke presented a mini-retreat on mental prayer called Into the Deep: Finding Peace Through Prayer on Sept. 7 at the St. Mary Parish Hall.
Burke said the first secret of the saints was what it means to be a child of God and that people need to live their Baptism in order to be converted.
“I’m a convert to the faith, but when I say we all need to be converted, it’s because of the reality revealed to us by the teaching of the Church and the saints that we should constantly be converting to Christ ever more deeply every day,” he said.
Burke gave an emotional testimony about the different people who taught him about Christ, beginning with a recovering drug addict he worked with at Pizza Hut who introduced him to Christ, and a Southern Baptist pastor who taught him the books of the Bible and theology, as well as a Catholic co-worker who thanked him for challenging her faith by washing his feet.
“When you say ‘yes’ to God, then you really begin to be converted,” Burke explained. “In that process of conversion, not only does it change you, it begins to affect the world around you. You understand? It’s not possible for you to be fully engaged with Jesus and not affect the people around you.”
Burke challenged listeners to live their faith in a way that encourages and inspires those who are close to them.
“If you’re not affecting the people around you, you have a serious question to ask yourself,” he said. “If people aren’t becoming holier around you, if they’re not coming to know Christ around you, if they are not becoming better people around you, how big is your ‘yes?’ Maybe it’s a small one. That’s OK. But it’s only OK if you don’t stay there.”
Burke said receiving the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist are the best way for people to support that “yes” after they have been baptized and confirmed.
“If you want to go deeper in Christ, if you’re not doing those two things frequently, you won’t. There are no saints I know who don’t go to reconciliation once every other week or once a month, minimum,” he said.
Burke said the next secret of the saints is building a relationship with God through the proper understanding and practice of prayer.
He explained that mental prayer means talking and being with Jesus, the King of Kings and the source of all grace.
“Proximity to Jesus is distance from sin. Proximity to Jesus is nearness to salvation,” Burke said.
“A person without mental prayer soon becomes a brute or a devil. If you do not practice mental prayer, you don’t need any devil to throw you into hell. You’re throwing yourself there of your own accord,” he said, paraphrasing St. Teresa of Avila.
Drawing from his book Into the Deep, Burke shared other concepts he has learned from the saints that have strengthened his prayer life and spiritual growth.
During the conclusion of his talk, Burke described the necessary elements for success in prayer, which includes having a sacred space, sacred time, and sacred attention. He recommended creating a sacred space that is only used for prayer and includes an altar with religious artwork and candles, creating sacred time by scheduling prayer time first, and giving prayer time sacred attention by filling your mind with God. He suggested reading the Liturgy of the Hours every day or at least reading the daily Mass readings every day.
Burke recommended not to trying to do everything he talked about but instead, just trying to take the next step in the spiritual life — the one step that’s different than yesterday. He encouraged that audience to take that step for 30 days, get strong at it, get well balanced, and ensure it’s a firm habit before deciding what’s next after that.
“The devil wants you to go further than you reasonably can because you’re kind of riled up; it’s enjoyable and you want to go. Then he’s going to knock you over and then kick you in the head and berate you in your failure,” said Burke, who is also the president of the Avila Institute.
Father Michael Moloney, pastor of St. Mary of Windthorst and St. Boniface Parish of Scotland, said the retreat was a great success.
“We had 150 people, many of them from our parishes,” Fr. Moloney said. “We invited this man to help people to boost their prayer life. Dan Burke and the Avila Institute help people learn mental prayer, the methods of St. Teresa of Avila. This is known to help make saints of people, which is our goal. ‘Be holy as I am holy, says the Lord.’”