Ignatius and Me: Discernment

August 5, 2019

This is the FINAL WEEK of the Ignatius and Me series! In honor of the feast of St Ignatius, I asked some friends to write about what Ignatian spirituality means to them in their daily lives. Each week looks at a different principle or prayer of Ignatian Spirituality, introduced with an excerpt from my book, Busy Lives and Restless Souls and then followed by a friend’s personal interpretation.

From Busy Lives & Restless Souls:Prayer and Discernment
What is the role of prayer in our discernment? First and foremost, prayer grounds us. Prayer gives us our solid footing. Prayer is how we come to know God’s presence in us and in our world, and it’s how we come to know God’s love for us and God’s gift of mercy for us. Prayer is how we come to know God’s voice through being with God and sitting with God’s Word, the Scriptures, all of which fine-tune our ear for God. Prayer is how we come to know Jesus and how Jesus models for us how to live in the reality of our situations and to walk through suffering.
Prayer, though, is also how we are sent to go outside ourselves. Prayer makes our actions holy and gives us eyes to see all people as holy. It spurs us beyond ourselves to take part in God’s mission. Jesus’ disciples discovered a taste of this as they were sent forth by Jesus in the conclusion of the Gospel of Matthew:“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19–20

The disciples spent almost three years with Jesus, working with him closely and getting to know him as an intimate friend. When Jesus died, they grieved the loss of their close friend. When Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to the disciples, he comforted them and then sent them forth to preach and make new disciples.Jesus sends us forth also. Each of us is sent forth to use our gifts to further Jesus’ mission today. The blessing of our prayer lives is that we are not sent forth on our own; rather, we are sent forth with a trusted companion at our side: Jesus. In addition, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit that Jesus asked his Father to send us. The Holy Spirit gently nudges us on to answer our call of where we are sent.

My Evolving & Deepening Discernment

This week, Maura Parda, looks at Ignatian discernment in her life. 

The concept and practice of discernment in my life is one that continues to evolve and deepen over time, much in the same way as any healthy relationship. In my beginning days of practicing discernment, it was very much used to help me make big decisions and major choices. Should I marry this person? In what geographical area should I live? Should I leave a career of 20 years to form my own business?

While it was useful in helping me make these significant decisions, I realize now that while I believed I was practicing discernment, I was actually still trying to “figure out the answers” on my own. In hindsight, it was yet another disguise of my tendency toward self- sufficiency. (Something I know I will forever be working on, and one that warrants a separate blog post!) Looking back, I was “discerning” in order to “decipher” God’s will for me. No wonder I often found it to be daunting and exhausting!

Through God’s grace, the help of gifted spiritual directors, and much practice and prayer, I have come to recognize the gift of discernment in a much richer way. It has become less of a “tool” and more of a daily practice. It is now less about “deciphering” a particular answer, and more about discovering God’s plans as they emerge. I cannot possibly know with certainty what God has in store, but I can certainly offer Him my intention to discover my “greatest YES” and take the right next step that He places on my heart. If taken faithfully, I believe each step taken leads me on my way to a path that represents the fullest expression of God’s love and dreams for me.

As an executive coach, the notion of “co-creating” with my clients is paramount. Discernment now offers me a daily practice in service of “co-creating” with God in my life. It has become an integral part of my daily prayer. In the morning, I place myself in God’s presence and ask God to help me notice Him throughout the day. I ask Him for courage and grace to face the multitude of daily choices and people that appear during the day, no matter how trivial they may be. I find that when I begin my day with that stance, God always answers. Most time it is in “whispers” – small yet powerful moments where I give myself enough time to pause and notice where I’m experiencing consolation, and where I’m experiencing desolation. Sometimes, He surprises me with “coincidences” that make it completely obvious the direction He wishes me to take.

“Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find. “ I believe the practice of discernment is actually another example of God’s unending generosity in my life. It is His way to offer me a GPS connection between my daily life and the plans He has for me. I find that when I strive to make choices alone, the chance of them working out is random. However, when I practice discernment, it leads me to a place of peace and joy, regardless of the circumstances or specific outcomes. For me, the true gift of discernment is less about receiving answers, and more about asking the questions that help me continue to grow in my trust and reliance on God for everything.

Go Deeper?

The Ignatius and Me series:

Cultivating Space for God Together:

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