Discerning the Will of God

Dear Reader,

 In our freedom, we face many decisions. There are several paths or theories to our praxis that seem as good as most, but few of them will make you a saint. To be a Christian in the fullest sense of the term we are called to prioritize what God wants for us instead of what we think is best. As Christians, God's existence, then His power, knowledge, and love, then this application to our lives ought to take priority in our lives. We turn from evil, then choose virtue, and then we are free to "Seek His Face". Once we are chasing after the greatest possible reality, not just avoiding the worst and not just choosing one that "will work as good as many others", we are free to discern God's will and we will seek His will over ours because He knows what is truly good from the ultimate perspective and He indeed wills it. St. Ignatius was the foremost Saint in directing the aspiring saint through this process of discernment. Begin with the video below as an introduction to this perspective and then continue for further help.

Praise God for this need and/or desire on your heart,

Vivat Agnus Dei Team 

Am I doing his will?

How can you know you are living in God’s will? This is the sign: If you are troubled about anything, that means you are not completely abandoned to God’s will. The one who lives according to God’s will is not troubled by anything. If he needs something, he surrenders it and himself to the Lord. He places it into God’s hands. If he does not get what he needs he remains calm, as though he had received it. He is not afraid, whatever happens, for he knows that it is God’s will. When he is afflicted with illness, he thinks: I need this sickness, otherwise God would not have sent it. He thus preserves peace in the body and soul. – Starets Silvan

Fr. Gregory Pine w/ an Overview

Father Timothy Gallagher w/ Discernment between Goods

Author of the Ignatian Guide to Discerning the will of God (see Reading page)

Father Dave Pivonka

Short Video from Mike Schmitz on Faulty Discernment

Preparation to Free and Receptive Disposition

The 4th Part of the Catechism is especially concerned with prayer, and it is not until we develop a mature understanding of prayer that we are able to understand what discernment looks like.

It is highly encouraged that if a decision is life-altering that a point is made to spend significant time in prayer about it and a spiritual director is sought out to help make the decision. In day-to-day decisions, there still may be a choice that God encourages over the other, and some he simply leaves to us. Through cultivating a heart of prayer i.e. of constant attention to the relationship with God we can grow to be more sensitive to the movements of the Holy Spirit. Ignatian retreats are a privileged means of discernment. The exercises are linked below but for our purposes here we will also carry over some of the text to give you a brief and practical taste, but if you go further there is also the link.

The Process Itself

First Considerations and Orientation

When: When asking what God has in mind for me and my life...

First Principle and Foundation of Discernment (St. Ignatius)

Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this mean to save his soul. The other things on the face of the earth are created for man to help him in attaining the end for which he is created. Hence, man is to make use of them as far as they help him in the attainment of his end, and he must rid himself of them as far as they prove a hindrance to him. Therefore, we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, as far as we are allowed free choice and are not under any prohibition. Consequently, as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, or long life to a short life. The same holds for all other things. Our one desire and choice should be what is more conducive to the end for which we are created.

 Discernment between Two or More Equally Opportune Goods

This process depends entirely on insights given (or not given) by God and discussed with a Spiritual Director. There are only three general possibilities here...

Find a Spiritual Director

There is a singular verse in the Catechism of the Catholic Church on spiritual direction (it's the one below). This is significant because it matters who you choose. The Carmelite took this very seriously, and rightfully so when your life at large is synonymous with your prayer life. More often than not, the diocese will keep a list of spiritual directors to choose from to help you out. In general, you will want to look for someone capable of understanding you, allowing God to be the sole advisor, and still calling you higher where needed.

CCC 2690 The Holy Spirit gives certain of the faithful the gifts of wisdom, faith, and discernment for the sake of this common good: prayer (spiritual direction). Men and women so endowed are true servants of the living tradition of prayer.

 According to St. John of the Cross, the person wishing to advance toward perfection should "take care into whose hands he entrusts himself, for as the master is, so will the disciple be, and as the father is so will be the son." And further: "In addition to being learned and discreet a director should be experienced. . . . If the spiritual director has no experience of the spiritual life, he will be incapable of leading into it the souls whom God is calling to it, and he will not even understand them."

It is also worth noting that you should first discuss your sins and troubles rather than that which is working well, but don't leave it out. Vulnerability and authenticity are key to growth.

St. Teresa of Avila Words of Wisdom

Let nothing disturb you,

Let nothing frighten you,

All things are passing away:

God never changes.

Patience obtains all things

Whoever has God lacks nothing;

God alone suffices. 

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