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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sp. Exx.: Further Set of Guidelines for Discernment

As we progress in our relationship with Jesus, we are often called to a generosity of heart that embraces as many of God’s people as we can hold. The hallmarks of Jesus’ mission are spiritual poverty (detachment), powerlessness, and humility.

As we move deeper into prayer, we can expect the Evil Spirit to try more strongly, more skillfully and seductively to entice us away from commitment and generosity. Ignatius inserts a prayer into his Spiritual Exercises where he indicates the powerful strategy of the Evil Spirit (Lucifer) to use riches, (attachments) reputation, (power) and pride (self-importance) to separate us from, or at least to make us lukewarm in our commitment. Notice that these are the same temptations that Jesus faced in the desert.

Ignatius responds to this strategy of the Evil Spirit:

With the Good Spirit, the inner movements go toward true gladness and spiritual joy.
With the Evil Spirit, the inner movements fight against true gladness and spiritual joy.

The Good Spirit “touches the soul gently, lightly, and smoothly, like a drop of water into a sponge.” The Evil Spirit “touches the soul sharply with a noise and disturbance like a drop of water on stone.” (Spir. Ex. #335.7)

With the Good Spirit, we are making, or begin to make, choices, great or small, which lead to greater inner joy and deeper peace. However, we need to pay attention to the beginning, middle and end of any decision made in a time of consolation because the Evil Spirit can appear as an “angel of light.” Hence, we stress the need for a Spiritual Director to discuss what is happening within us.

Times for making a Decision

These are not ordinary decisions and choices of daily life. These are decisions at a deeper level, which concern our growing love-relationship with God and our desire to express that love in service to others. How do we choose rightly?

A strong movement and attraction from God which leaves no doubt. Paul on road to Damascus.
Sufficient light and knowledge are received through experience of consolation and desolation. Pay attention to those inner movements.

A tranquil weighing of pros and cons in prayer until one is drawn to a certain conclusion.

When the decision is difficult, Ignatius gives us three suggestions.
What would you advise another person?
On your death bed, what decision would you have wanted to have made?
Imagine yourself talking to Christ after death: What choice would give you joy in presenting it to Christ?

Never make a decision in desolation.

Adapted by Fr. Ken Hughes, S.J.

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