Embracing Our Greater Yeses: Am I Being Invited to Discern?

St.Ignatius was a prolific writer about discerning greater goods.  He offers us the second set of rules of discernment.  He also offers us three modes of discernment.  One of the things I feel is missing from his vast body of work on discernment is the “pre-work” that happens prior to understanding the goods to actually choose between.  It is the pre-work that involves: 

  • How do we become aware of the invitation to greater good discernment? 
  • How do we name the goods? 

With my directees, I distinguish two distinct phases of discernment.  A passive phase of discernment which is the “pre-work” and an active phase of discernment where we can lean on Ignatius’ steps and rules of discernment.  This week, I will focus on the passive phase.  Next week, I will focus on the active phase.  

Notice What You Are Noticing: 

The invitation in the passive phase of discernment is to “notice what you are noticing”.  In this phase, we are invited to notice four things:  our holy desires, who has our attention, what has our attention and the movementmens of consolation and desolation.  Let’s take a closer look at each.  

Our holy desires:  

God speaks to us through the desires in our hearts.  In the passive phase of discernment, we might find ourselves noticing desires that illuminate an invitation to discern.  What I listen for in spiritual direction are things such as: 

  • A welling to respond to God’s gifts and love 
  • A search for meaning 
  • A rising longing or restlessness with a sense God is asking more from us 
  • A desire to share what one received from God with others 
  • A draw towards Magis, even greater service for God

When I begin to hear this in spiritual direction, I invite my directees to take an intentional stance of paying attention and noticing the desires of the heart.  In prayer, the desires of the heart are brought to God asking for clarity of what these desires are telling us.  

Who has our attention

As an invitation begins to well for us to discern, we are invited to pay attention to who God has on our heart.  The concrete fruit of discernment typically involves people or an area of the world and a concrete way to respond to who we see. I invite people to pay attention to what people or what area of the world is on their mind and heart.  We are invited to notice the needs of people and of the world.  God is awakening us to the people who need the gifts we can offer.  

Along with the holy desires, I invite people to bring the people they are feeling called to serve to prayer. 

What has our attention

Part of this passive phase of discernment includes noticing what has our attention as well.  This might be an invitation to notice our gifts.  It might be a naming of a gap.  It might be something breaking our heart or the awareness of what brings us joy.  We are invited to reflect on the circumstances of our lives as well.  Within the concrete circumstances of our lives, what has our attention? What dreams are we pondering?  What ideas come to mind?  

Along with holy desires and the people, we add what we are noticing to our conversations in prayer.  

The movements of consolation and desolation

As we continue to pay attention and notice, I invite people to notice the movements of consolation and desolation.  Which holy desires bring consolation and move us towards God?  Which desires may not be from God but potentially from the false spirit?  We are invited to notice and follow where consolation continues to appear and to pay close attention to where desolation rears its head. 

The Puzzle Pieces of Passive Discernment: 

These four noticings become like puzzle pieces to an unknown picture we are being invited to discern.  We bring what we notice to God offering all that is being made known to us.  We ask God continually to show us what else we need to see, to hear, or to feel. We invite God to share with us what God sees.  

At the heart of the passive phase of discernment is taking all we notice to God and asking God, “what are you inviting me to do with what I see?”.  

Your Invitation this Week: 

I invite you to pay attention this week.  Are you in a passive phase of discernment?  If so, I invite you to take the intentional posture of paying attention.  Notice what you are noticing.  Bring it to God, and invite God to show you what you need to see and how you are being called to respond.  

Know of my prayers for you, and I hope you will continue to pray for our team as God moved us out of a passive phase of discernment and into an active phase of discernment this month.



Go Deeper:


Photo by Ashlyn Ciara on unsplash.com

Becky is an Ignatian-trained spiritual director, retreat facilitator, and writer. She is the author of the Busy Lives and Restless Souls (March 2017, Loyola Press) and The Inner Chapel (April 2020, Loyola Press). She helps others create space to connect faith and everyday life through facilitating retreats and days of reflection, through writing, and through spiritual direction. With nearly twenty years of ministry experience within the Catholic Church, Becky seeks to help others discover God at work in the every day moments of people’s lives by utilizing St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises and the many gifts that our Catholic faith and Ignatian Spirituality provide.

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