To Discern

I used the word “discern” last night and someone asked me what that meant. Discernment is one of the greatest gifts St. Ignatius gave to the Church. When he was recuperating at Loyola castle from his battle wound, he did a lot of reading and he discovered that sometimes he was left with a lot of life and excitement and that other times he felt dragged down in his spirit. He decided that he was experiencing God communicating with him and that the sign of God’s presence was all those lively and good feelings that made him look beyond. That must be what the Scripture means when it says that to find the will of God we don’t have go to a mountain top or to the bottom of the sea, but that we find it right in our own hearts. Some years ago a Jesuit who works training young Jesuits in Ignatian spirituality said that his greatest responsibility was to train these young men to recognize what was in their hearts and to trust in it. He said that the will of God is contained in our deepest desires, not in some external sign. So the biggest question is to ask ourselves “what do I really want?” When I do that I am discerning. When I can answer the question, then I know what God wants of me. It may not come immediately but if we work at it, we will know.


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