Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
Over the past three weeks we have prayed daily to discern the will of God in our lives knowing that the closer we align our mind, heart, soul and strength to his divine plan for our lives, the happier and holier we will be. This week, as Disciples Together on the Way, it’s time for action.
We will be concluding this section of reflections with seven parting tips regarding discernment of spirits. Each is rooted in the spirituality and wisdom of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. So, let’s begin.
Tip 1: Be pray-ers! That is, people who pray! To be a good discerner of God’s action in our life, we need to be good pray-ers. I encourage you to have a daily time and space where you faithfully pray no matter how dry prayer feels or how busy life gets. That great saint of the Counter-Reformation, St Francis de Sales, is known for saying: “Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer each day, except when we are busy—then we need an hour.” Make time for communion with God.
Tip 2: Don’t discern alone! We all need community in life and discernment. We know this because we have a God who is a community of three persons. Make sure you bring important discernment to other people in your life who are wise Christians and don’t wait too long to do this. Sometimes we don’t want to bring something to someone because we are worried about their reaction. Trust someone to listen to you with full heart.
Tip 3: Make sure to discern things in line with the teachings of the Church, the Magisterium, Sacred Scripture, and what we know to be true by Christian tradition. We shouldn’t be discerning between a bad and a good. Why? Because we are never to choose the bad. Discernment is between two or more goods, depending on which will give the greatest glory to God.
Tip 4: Take proper time to collect enough data to make the best decision. Do you have enough facts and enough peace of heart after learning the facts?
Tip 5: Don’t be a perpetual discerner of something. Or in other words, don’t overly worry about getting to the ‘perfect decision’ for your life. Sometimes we can be paralyzed in our discernment. We want to act in faith and with as much good discernment as we can, but then we are to walk forward.
Tip 6: Know that the decision that God wants you to make should bring with it a sense of peace, joy, fulfillment, and all for the greater glory of God.
Finally, Tip 7: When you and others feel that you’ve made a good and adequate discernment about something: act on it and don’t doubt yourself. God will help you see it to completion!
There we go. Seven tips on discernment. I hope you find them useful. They are tried and tested over many centuries and have yet to be found wanting. Thank you, Saint Ignatius. One extra tip from the great man himself: Remember to examine your conscience each and every night before going to sleep. It’s a good way to do a daily check in on how we’re progressing in the spiritual life.
Finally: We thank the Lord for the good work that he is doing in you and me in these days growing as disciples together along the way. May God bless us all in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Yours in Christ,
+ Earl Boyea
Bishop of Lansing