Father John Burns Discusses Spiritual ‘Guide’ to ‘Rest with God’ | National Catholic Register

In the midst of shopping, baking, school plays and concerts, parties and Secret Santas, it’s all too easy to lose sight of Advent and see Christmas Day as a sort of finish line where we can finally catch our breath and relax for a moment. It’s a far cry from the true purpose of the season – and the reason for Love, a new book from Ave Maria Press.

Written by Father John Burnspromoter of vocations and promoter of women’s religious life for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Love is designed to help readers reclaim this sacred season of preparation, step away from the hectic activity of the “holiday season,” and focus on our relationship with the Lord.

Father Burns recently spoke to the Register about his “guide” to Advent and how to make a spiritual adjustment now that can last all year.

why did you write Love?

It’s our new year; the liturgical year begins with Advent. You can’t just wake up at Christmas and expect to step into faith. You have to have a season of preparation. [But] people are more and more encumbered by the rhythm of the temporal and secular season, the hustle and bustle of shopping and parties. They feel this drift. We miss that really subtle, sweet, powerful invitation from the Church to really prepare for Christ – and not just at Christmas, but at the end of time.

Advent is such an opportunity, but it’s so easy to miss it, because there are 100 other demands falling on us. We need a daily excuse to pick up the pace, to say, “What is the deeper story here that, in its wisdom, guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church has asked me to ponder?”

Why does your book include journaling opportunities?

As a priest, preacher, teacher, I give a lot of talks and people often say, “That was a very good homily, Father. And I’ll be like, “What made it so good?” It is often difficult for them to articulate what was there and how to put it into practice. When we keep a journal, we need to take ownership of what we have heard, what we have read, replicate the thought, and articulate it outside of ourselves. Through the process of writing something down, even if it’s just a quick thought, we have already taken a step towards weaving the thought of the word with our own thought process. It changes the ability to take that into our own daily lives, to apply the truths in reflection. And that’s something I can go back to over the years, “That’s what I prayed with last week, last year.” I can see growth over time, measure holiness.

In today’s society, is it really possible to step back from the material demands of the “holiday season” and experience Advent on a deeper spiritual level?

It is possible, but it requires a choice on our part. We must withdraw from the demands of the world and offer ourselves the opportunity to rest with God for a little prayer, a little fasting. we can’t leave [fully] the rhythm of the world and especially of the holidays, but we can make a choice: “I choose to live more deeply, to live my interior life, the supernatural life that God has placed in me; I choose to follow that inward and upward, toward God.

Christ said, “I came that you might have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10). God wouldn’t make a promise, wouldn’t make an offer to us if it weren’t possible to live it. We have to determine if we are going to do something about it. God is a perfect gentleman; he does not demand that we stop and turn to him, but invite us to do it constantly. The culture isn’t going to give us much room for that, but that doesn’t mean we have to stay in that flow.

How to get out of this flow?

I’m thinking of St. Francis de Sales, who said everyone should pray 30 minutes a day — and when you’re busy you should pray for an hour. You must have a prayer life, and the busier you are, the more important your prayer life becomes. You cannot sacrifice your inner life when you are busy; one must be oriented towards the authentic, the true good.

When you feel that nudge in your heart that you should pray for, take it seriously! Go to your room and kneel down for a few minutes. Close your eyes for a few minutes in the laundry room. Wherever you are, pray, “God, help me. God I love you. Thank God. God, I repent.

When we choose to take the time, even briefly, to calm down and turn to the Lord each day, we have the confidence that we are giving the Lord the opportunity to speak. Without it, we are unmoored, and we drift. With this, we give God room to affirm his goodness.

Your book gives a particular theme to each week of Advent. How did you find these themes?

The themes are “Vigilance” — developing mindfulness; “Prepare” – notice that what we are looking for becomes concrete; “Closeness” — it’s not just close: it’s God; “Immanuel” – God with us.

These come in particular from the Collections, the opening prayers of the masses of Advent. The movement of the liturgical cycle really lies beneath this book. The hope really is that as you pray throughout this season with this book, you will let the liturgy flow more freely in your life.

With a sacramental worldview, we always have an easy answer to the question, “What should I do next?” What should be the goal today? It is a way of looking through the veil of the flesh and seeing God at work.


Love is available from Ave Maria Press. With the purchase of the book, you also get access to the accompanying video series. More information:

This book is part of a series: Sister Miriam James Heidland will have a similar book for Lent 2022, then the two authors will switch themes: Sister Miriam will write an Advent book for next year, and Father Burns will publish a book on Lent the year after.