Archives for posts with tag: Discernment

Jesus did not leave us a list of truths to affirm, but a task to carry out. We must try to discern in our time and place how God wants us to live our lives in this world in tune with God’s Spirit, the one divine action at work in the universe. This is what the discernment of spirits is all about. Followers of Christ have been given a task to carry out and the means to do it. Impelled by God’s Spirit, they must try to live in this world with the conviction that with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus all the needful has been done, that God has won the victory he intends. Our task, therefore, is to follow the prompting of the Spirit, who has been poured out in our hearts, to follow the way of Jesus.

William Barry, S.J. in Spirit, Style, Story: Essays Honoring John W. Padberg.

An Ignatian Book of Days, Jim Manney, p. 322

Ever since I read this quote, it has stayed with me, prompting me to look at my life. “Love is shown more in deeds than in words,” wrote St Ignatius. And so it is. Love, and discipleship.

In the past two days, by chance, I watched two movies about the same sort of persons: Schindler’s List and Grüningers Fall. In each case, a man, one German, the other Swiss German, comes to save the lives of people who without his intervention would have died. In each case, the man dies in poverty, not celebrated until much later.

A situation like the one Oskar Schindler and Paul Grüninger faced is, fortunately, not so common. Still, each day, I am sure I have the opportunity for small acts of cowardice or courage. The choice is mine if I remain awake to what is going on around me.

Jesus did not leave us a list of truths to affirm, but a task to carry out.

As I watched Grüningers Fall last night, I watched people around him who chose not to see the consequences of their preventing Jews to come into Switzerland. For the 3,600 persons Grüninger saved, 30,000 others returned back into the darkness of the times.

These people chose not to see. What is it that I choose not to see?

On this day of All Saints, I suspect that each one of these saints, whether known or not, chose to follow his or her conscience rather than his or her need for comfort. They didn’t do it with an eye on history and fame down the road, but on what was at hand right there, right then.

I find it too easy to affirm a list of truths and more challenging to identify the task to carry out. Maybe, at the end of each day, I can look back on what I did and failed to do and sift through the small events of my life to discover where was laziness, if not cowardice, and courage.

Art: Rogier van der Weyden, The Last Judgment (detail)


When we face a serious choice, we will try not to have made our minds up before we have to. We will be alert to having deep-seated prejudices and to making implied or even overt demands on God that the Lord crown our own self-originated choice with grace and happiness. On the contrary we set ourselves to live this way: We will wait when alternatives are emerging. We will try not to favor one over the others until we are clear whether God is telling us something.

Joseph Tetlow, SJ, Choosing Christ in the World

An Ignatian Book of Days, Jim Manney, 279

Last week, I received two books from Loyola Press, the one mentioned above and Charged with Grandeur, also by Jim Manney. I started reading them and am finding them both to be great Ignatian resources. I know they will be valuable companions on my journey.

The quote given here is the entry for September 28, about the time I received this book. It brings up the topic of discernment, which often befuddles my brain, because I tend to make decisions based on instinct rather than reflection.

Discernment, however, is the reason why, twenty years ago I signed for three weekends of Ignatian Discernment at the Cenacle in Geneva, Switzerland. I was putting the cart before the horse, wanting to find out about discernment without knowing first about Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. But I was driven to those weekends out of fear toward a looming possible future which I really did not want.

I wanted to find out about discernment to know how to look at a situation, see all its angles, and hopefully understand and reign in my fears (and, undoubtedly, avoid the final outcome).

A Jesuit father and a woman collaborator led us through three weekends of discernment, taking us through the main points and steps that Ignatius had discovered and elaborated upon.

One very important point came out during a question and answer session: Godde wants us to be happy and would not expect us to elect a path that would make us feel miserable. Huge sigh of relief here. The discovery that Godde wants my happiness was an incredible revelation. It had never crossed my mind until then. This became a landmark in my journey of faith and it changed my relationship with Godde. From then on, I could trust Her. This was, and still is, truly a very big deal.

A second point has remained with me: to pray and weigh in my heart the ins and outs of a decision, to choose being the good and the better, and in the end lifting the final decision up to Godde. This has helped me over the years letting go of something I think I truly want to happen or to do. “I would like to be able to do this. If it is not possible, O Godde, give me the grace to accept whatever comes.”

I may sound like I now know how to discern. I am not sure. I do not feel this way. I certainly lift my desires, wishes, hopes up to Godde. Do I truly wait for an answer or don’t I rather take my hunch for Her will?… As I look back over my life, I see that I was led to the good things that I have done. As to the sins I have committed and still fall into: “What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.” (Rom 7:16).

Anyway, all these thoughts and memories because I have just received An Ignatian Book of Days

Art: Andy Warhol, The Scream (after Munch)


Sometimes genuine discernment is wrongly seen as a mental decision about what is good followed by an act of will to carry out that good. I would say, rather, that discernment is the awareness of centered or not-centered energy in the organism… This awareness comes from an accumulated awareness of who we fully and genuinely are. It is knowing where our center — and hence our life — resides, as well as where it does not… As life builds up more and more sense of our total selves, more and more inclusion of body, mind and emotion in our self-experience, it becomes less and less possible for us to choose against ourselves… Discernment well made — that is, experience well known — makes choice natural, even easy. Choice is that decision either to retain boundaries of judgment manifested by blocked body energies or to risk letting in everything we are… In doing so we abandon predictions of how life will turn out, judgments of what is good or bad, assessment of what does or doesn’t fit. We simply live from our center.

Benedictine Suzanne Zuercher, quoted in An Ignatian Spirituality Reader (154)


I came across this quote a couple of days back in the book mentioned above. I saw this book in the hands of several participants in the Ignatian Immersion Course last year and started reading it.

The Ignatian Immersion Course is very much like a Camino or a Cursillo: it begins once it is over. I seem to be living an on-going immersion in Ignatian Spirituality, thirsting and hungering for more. I find it a beautiful place to be and feel infinitely grateful for what I received then and have kept receiving ever since.


Photo: Camino de Santiago, Cruz de Ferro, May 2005


Honey At The Table

It fills you with the soft
essence of vanished flowers, it becomes
a trickle sharp as a hair that you follow
from the honey pot over the table

and out the door and over the ground,
and all the while it thickens,

grows deeper and wilder, edged
with pine boughs and wet boulders,
pawprints of bobcat and bear, until

deep in the forest you
shuffle up some tree, you rip the bark,

you float into and swallow the dripping combs,
bits of the tree, crushed bees – – – a taste
composed of everything lost, in which everything lost is found.

Mary Oliver


  • Where do you find the taste of honey in your life?
  • What fills you with enthusiasm and energy?
  • What makes you get up in the morning with a bounce in your step, looking forward to what’s to come?

I have been wondering how I can serve Godde. In the course of my life, I have known such moments of luminosity. It took me a while to connect the dots between my joy and Godde’s will. For instance, as a teenager I spent hours learning English; it could have been a waste of time. But in fact, I turned out to spend most of my life speaking, writing, and reading English. Thus, somewhere, the hours poured over English came in handy, or at least took me on a path to happiness.

The other morning, I abandoned my computer and started reading a book I mentioned in my latest post, La Mistagogía de los Ejercicios, a rather difficult book in Spanish. Still, reading it charges me with energy. In fact, I cannot read it at night; if I do, I get hyper and cannot fall asleep.

Why do I find it so attractive? Well, it speaks of Ignatius, his Exercises, his Autobiography, and Spiritual Diary. It explains the encounter with Godde, disordered attachments, amorous surrender, desires, loving and serving Godde: a topic which turns me on. It makes me want to do a thirty-day retreat, not so much to find out what Godde wants from me, but for me to get to know Jesus better, and live, die, and resurrect with him.

What’s the point of it? I am not sure. I just know that spending time with Godde is where lies the honey and I encounter Godde every time I read Javier Melloni’s book. I have a hunch this will take me where I am meant to go.

So, as you go through your day, as you feel alive or bored, look for the honey or the bubbles of champagne or the laughter. See when your day is filled to your heart’s content. I do believe Godde meets us there and then. Godde speaks to us through what gives us life, more life in fact.

Happy looking!

Photo: Why everything is better with honey


[Martha] said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” Jn 11:19-27

Many years ago, my friend Vivienne introduced me to St Martha’s Novena, to be said every Tuesday, while lighting a candle. I am attaching it here in case you have an urgent problem you would like to lift up in prayer to Martha tomorrow:

Saint Martha,
I resort to your aid and protection.
As proof of my affection and faith,
I offer you this light,
which I shall burn every Tuesday.
Comfort me in all my difficulties
and through the great favors you did enjoy
when the Savior was lodged in your house,
intercede for my family,
that we be provided for in our necessities.
I ask of you, Saint Martha,
to overcome all difficulties
as you did overcome the dragon
which you had at your feet.
In the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

This novena may well have been the start of my relationship with Martha. I learned then that she tamed a dragon terrifying the town of Tarascon in southern France. Some time before, she had landed in Les Saintes Maries de la Mer, a small town on the Mediterranean not far from Arles, France. She got there in company of Mary Magdalen (sometimes said to be her sister), Mary Salome (mother of James and John), Mary Jacobe, and her brother Lazarus, who ended up being the first bishop of Marseille — so goes the legend.

I see Martha as the patron saint of hospitality. Maybe I should write Hospitality with a capital H. Her house in Bethany is where Jesus liked to stop on his way to and from Jerusalem. Martha, did you ever wash his dusty feet as he reached your home?

I’m asking this question because once on the Camino, as we reached the refuge next to the Templar church of Eunate, one of the two hospitaleras washed our feet, recognizing Christ in the pilgrims that we were. Nothing is more moving than having one’s feet washed after a long day’s walk, the gentle touch of two hands wiping away the day’s fatigue.

How I would like to visit your house in Bethany, Martha! Does my own house bears some resemblance with yours — in a village in the countryside, with a large garden, and a silence that quietly hums in your ears? How wonderful it would be to have the sort of a home where Jesus would love to come and stay to rest and pray and talk over a glass of wine and some bread and cheese!

For many years now, I have dreamed of having a house, a Bethany, for someone needing a break from everyday struggles, a safe place, of silence and peace. Not long ago, as a matter of fact, a young friend going through trying times asked if she could come and stay with us for a weekend. Was this a sign from You, O great Godde, that this dream was to come true? She did come and stay and we had a quiet time together, time when we each did our own thing, as well as ate together, prayed together, and talked together.

One comes across homes where one feels one could stay for a while to catch up with one’s thoughts and prayers and dreams, to forget the sharp angles of life and rediscover instead its gentle and soft sides. This is what Martha and Mary offered to Jesus. This is what some of us dream to do, can do, are invited to do. Today, Jesus comes in many guises; this is our true challenge. He can show up as a bruised friend, or as the Other, more difficult to like, to appreciate, to welcome. Sent by Him, as Him.

I pray St Martha today to help me discern with this dream of offering our home as an oasis to those passing through on their way to their own Jerusalem.

One with you in Him, the Risen One.

Art: St Martha, Sara Drescher Braswell, Everyday Saint’s Series