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Old Wisdom From St. Ignatius Offers A New Perspective on Discernment
1. To begin, we must focus on the issue which we are discerning. This may be discerning a call to religious life, or choosing a specific religious order to join.
2. St. Ignatius advises us to pray that we can "try to be like a balance at equilibrium, without leaning to either side." This means we should ask for the grace to desire God's will, while setting aside our own prejudices and opinions.
3. Through continued prayer, we must ask for clarity to see God's will. The end goal must be God's service and praise.
4. St. Ignatius suggests looking at things from a new angle! Imagine a person we have never met before who comes to us asking advice. He or she faces the same decision that you do, and wants your advice in responding to God's call. What would you tell this person? It is often easier to see clearly when we are giving other people advice, and through this method, we can make use of our own advice.
5. Imagine yet another perspective:
6. The Church teaches the use of faith and reason. If we still do not experience inner clarity in discernment, we must turn to reason to make our decision. First, will the decision allow us to live out God's will through our lives? Secondly, list out the "pros and cons" of the decision. Do any pros or cons really stand out? Do they have spiritual merit? Finally - keeping in mind the end goal of glorifying God - how do the possible alternatives compare with the decision.
7. We finally make a decision... but discernment is not quite over yet! St. Ignatius teaches that we must then ask for a sign of God's confirmation that our choice is the right one. Most often, this "sign" comes in the form of peacefulness. We experience inner joy and peace, and the feeling of God's presence and blessing. Contrary signs would include anxiety, darkness, or sadness.
Taken from Warren Sazama, S.J.'s article "Some Ignatian principles for making prayerful decisions." http://www.marquette.edu/
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Sr. Jeanette Marie, Vocations Director