Discernment Is a Choice of Courage

In a recent address to seminarians, Pope Francis highlighted three aspects of Ignatian style: friendship with the Lord, discernment, and cultivating the magis, or “more,” for the Kingdom of God. In speaking of discernment, the Pope said: Discernment is a choice of courage, contrary to the more comfortable and reductive ways of rigorism and of laxness, as I have repeated many times. To educate to discernment means, in fact, to flee from the temptation to […]

The Grace of Failure

This topic came up in class, and it gets better as I continue to think about it. Here’s the thumbnail: the young Ignatius went to Jerusalem to imitate St. Francis, wanting to walk in Christ’s footsteps and convert Muslims. But after he got there, the local priests sent him packing, and he was dejected. Why did God set him up for failure? One of the most difficult periods in my own life was a professional failure. It […]

Consolation and Desolation

During Lent, we reflect upon our spiritual state and on our interior movement. Are we moving toward more doubt, fear, and anger? Or are we moving toward greater faith, hope, and love? The Ignatian principles of consolation and desolation can help us. A person dwells in a state of consolation when she or he is moving toward God’s active presence in the world. We know we are moving in this way when we sense the […]

The Long Ride

I do some of my best thinking and praying while running or biking. This morning I considered how biking hills is not a bad analogy to the discernment of consolation and desolation in the spiritual life. Here’s the idea. Coming to the beginning of a long upward climb can be a daunting experience. You see it looming, and you see that it will be hard and tiring. There is a temptation to quit or turn around. This is […]

Harden Not Our Hearts

An antiphon that we often hear in Lent says, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Hebrews 3:15 and Psalm 95:8). This line teaches me a way to think about the journey of Lent: to allow our hearts to be more open and responsive to whatever the Lord has to tell us and the world. Lent is a season of conversion. The Greek term for conversion, metanoia, means “turning around.” To convert […]

God’s Project

I first encountered the term “God’s project” in an essay by Joseph Tetlow, SJ. I think it’s an idea worth considering further. Looking at the world as God’s project has some powerful implications. For example: 1. It emphasizes the radical human freedom with which God has created us, and the passion God brings to persuading us to help God create a kingdom of goodness, truth, and beauty. 2. It allows us to see human evil […]

Recalculating with the Holy Spirit

I am not the greatest driver. I am easily flustered, particularly when I am in the unfortunate position of having to drive in an area unfamiliar to me. In those flustered and confused moments, I am comforted by one word spoken all too often by my GPS: recalculating. The word reassures me that no matter how far off-course I may have gotten from my desired destination, my trusty GPS is working to get me back […]

Desires and Discernment

Sean Salai, SJ, interviewed writer, spiritual director, and Jesuit novice director Mark Thibodeaux, SJ, about discernment of spirits in the Ignatian tradition. When asked about distinctive features of the Ignatian approach, Thibodeaux replied: Probably the most surprising feature of the Ignatian approach is the premise that God’s will can often be discovered in our “great desires.” Much of Christian spirituality presumes that our desires are bad and will lead us to sinful actions. Ignatius believed […]

Consolation in Everyday Life

Consolation begins deep in the self that is grateful to God in all things. As G. K. Chesterton once explained, gratitude is happiness magnified by wonder. Jesus’ act at Cana shows how practical gratitude is: in the first place, Jesus intended his friends to be happy and have a good time. He and his mother came to this wedding party to enjoy it. When that enjoyment was threatened, Jesus felt impelled (with a little help […]

Form My Heart

At every moment of my life I have two options. If I allow it, God will form my heart more and more in the image of his Son. I will act in faith to let God lead me into an unknown place, a place that I cannot know and cannot guarantee I will fully understand or enjoy. Like the one who is brought out of a cave into the light of the sun, I may […]

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