Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, many saints over the centuries have heard the voice of the Lord. In the 13th century, St. Francis of Assisi sensed the Lord say to him in his mind: “Francis, you see that my house if falling down; go and repair it for me.” At first Francis thought the Lord meant literally rebuild a church structure. So, he did rebuild it. However, he would later come to realize that God meant something much broader: “rebuild my church.” Mother Teresa of Calcutta heard the Lord ask her in an inspiration on a train ride to establish a religious order that would serve the poorest of the poor, which became the Missionaries of Charity.
There are many examples of God speaking to us. These men and women heard the voice of the Lord because they were in a life of communion with the Lord. So, when he acted in their lives, they sensed his true peace and joy. This led them to embrace the mission he gave.
Now, I know what you may be thinking. “Bishop, these were the great saints. What about me?” Well, we are all called to be saints. So, let’s learn from those saints of the past so that we can become the saints of the present, and do so as Disciples Together on the Way.
As we grow in our relationship with the Lord, we may wonder how and when God will speak to us. This can vary and is probably different for each of us. Sometimes we may have a “Mother Teresa moment.” Here, we may sense an undeniable clarity. With little or no doubt, we will experience an accompanying peace and joy even if the word to us is a great challenge. We know that what is asked of us will lead us to heavenly things. Thus, we are convinced that God is leading us toward a decision and an action.
Other times, this call may be more subtle. We may experience a God-given attraction of the heart over a period of time. It may not come as an Aha moment of clarity. Rather, it is accompanied by a pattern of peace and joy about a certain decision that we are seeking to make.
This peace and joy in either case is the spiritual consolation of which St. Ignatius writes. This not the same as the kind of happiness of eating a good meal or having a good vacation. There’s a deeper quality to this spiritual peace and tranquility such that we know we are on the right path.
If we have attained this conviction of God’s will, we may soon find the temptings of the evil one which are usually moments of doubt, anxiety, and fear. This can be a time of spiritual desolation as St. Ignatius calls it.
He would encourage us in such a down experience not to change our decision but to persevere. We will find that as tranquility returns, we will be reassured in the word we have previously heard from the Lord. For example, if you sense a pattern that whenever you are in consolation you feel called to seek further education and then whenever desolation afflicts you with doubt and anxiety and fear, then the wisdom of St. Ignatius would suggest that you go for it! That you seek to pursue further education.
Now, sometimes we struggle to find a sense of clarity or a consistent peaceful and consoling pattern regarding making one decision over another. In this circumstance, St. Ignatius encourages us to use our reason and logic in a context of prayer to find an answer. He suggests that we write out a pro and con list for the decision we seek to make, being as honest as we can be, again in a context of prayer.
Listing the various factors helps us to clear our minds and obtain a certain objectivity. For example, maybe the decision to go for further studies involves lack of funds or family responsibilities. Or perhaps it is an issue of timing. These are logical factors that should go on a pro and con list. Then, sharing this list with a friend or family member and hearing their advice and comments may be exactly what you need to come to a healthy and holy decision.
Using our heads and our hearts are both important in making good decisions. And to do so in the context of prayer and our relationship with the Lord will make them holy decisions.
We are now in our third week of our 30-day retreat. Let us continue to engage the meditations each day this week. And may God bless you, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Yours in Christ,
+ Earl Boyea
Bishop of Lansing