HomedotMagisDiscernmentHooked by a Choice

Hooked by a Choice

fish and hook cartoonI’ve played a video game where you get points for hooking all kinds of fish. Accidentally catch the old shoe or tin can and points count against you.

I love the metaphor of Jesus as the living water. I want to be immersed in God’s great love, swimming like a fish with the flow of God’s direction, and I use my imagination to contemplate being a fish in the immense ocean of God.

Lately I’ve suffered from scruples. Was it wrong to take that plastic bowl from the parish hall because nobody claimed it and staff were tossing all the excess from the kitchen? The rest would go to St. Vincent de Paul. Should I keep it? Scruples disturbed me: “You’ve taken that bowl from the poor.” Just seeing that bowl on the sink was nagging me, burning up useless energy.

I was hooked on a time-wasting, distracting thought that was draining away my energy. It was drawing me away from the sea of love where I focus outside of myself. It wasn’t about the cheap bowl. It was the way that I let myself worry about it for days. What would Ignatius advise me to do? To recommit to prayer and to recognize this as a temptation from the enemy.

That fishing game came into my mind during prayer. There I was, swimming along, and I saw a delicious-looking worm. It appeared pretty good. But when I bit, I suddenly was flipped up and over that clever demon’s head into the back of a boat, gasping for air. I’d made a choice that was killing a part of me.

Oh, Jesus! Rescue me! What have I chosen? I’m hooked. I’m afraid!It’s silly to be afraid.

Jesus, I know you’re sleeping in the stern, and I am safe when I call. You are always waiting. Scoop me back into the water, and help me remember how I got hooked, so I can avoid it in the future.Ignatius teaches me to pay attention. To pray harder when I notice that I’m stuck. To do that unpopular “p” word: penance. To learn from the attractions of a false angel of light, so that next time, I can see through the illusion. Otherwise I’ll be yanked out of the immersion in God’s love by self-centered inclinations. Let the devil get a tin can next time. Let me keep living in love, being aware of those worms that seek to pull me off course.

The nice thing about the video game is it’s quickly over. The counter resets to zero, and within a few seconds the fish are swimming along freely again. All their past mistakes of getting hooked are forgotten. It reminds me that Jesus forgives me and lets me start all over again too.

Loretta Pehanich
Loretta Pehanich
Loretta Pehanich is a Catholic freelance writer and the author of 2022: A Book of Grace-Filled Days, Women in Conversation: Stand Up!, and Fleeting Moments: Praying When You Are Too Busy. A spiritual director since 2012, Loretta is trained in giving the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Her involvement in ministry and parish life includes 20 years in small faith-sharing groups and Christian Life Community. Loretta gives retreats and presentations on prayer and women’s spirituality and is commissioned as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist. She and her husband Steve have four children and 10 grandchildren.


  1. I am always grateful for the practical and inspired reflections that Loretta shares with her readers. This particular text evoked the practice of mindfulness for me during this sacred season of Lent. Thank You!

  2. Not long ago a friend shared with me his painful struggle with scruples. The personal example you gave and the clear description of the Ignatian principles that are relevant helped me to understand the core issues involved. Thanks, Loretta!

  3. This brings new meaning to “catch and release.” Once we let the divine Fisherman catch us, He can release us from drifting toward the current of the evil one.

  4. To me, the heart of this post is these three sentences: “It wasn’t about the cheap bowl. It was the way that I let myself worry about it for days. What would Ignatius advise me to do? To recommit to prayer and to recognize this as a temptation from the enemy.” Being mindful of the true nature of your thoughts seems to me to be the first step towards penance and forgiveness.

  5. Love the story and analogy, the thought of once we get snagged, through the Grace of God we can recieve forgiveness and start over.

  6. This was so helpful and describes exactly what was happening to me this week! How easily I got hooked by scruples or trivial distractions. The enemy knows just how to catch me which is a sobering thought. I am grateful for the reminder to use Ignatius’ teaching to pray harder when I am stuck and to learn to recognise and avoid the hooks which try to pull me away from focusing on God’s love and to throw me off course

  7. Your story is filled with truth and your insight about scruples is so very insightful. How often we get hooked as you described by a comment or a perceived slight and yet it is your insight about a loving Christ being in the back of the boat ‘to reassure’ us is also so very insightful. It helps. Thank you.

  8. Yes! And we need to leave our past mistakes in the past. When God forgives us our sins, he puts them on the ocean floor and then posts a sign that says, “no fishing. “

  9. I’ve been reading 2 Samuel this week as part of my daily Bible reading. How many times did David get hooked on something wrong? And how many times did he seek our Lord’s forgiveness? David’s life was one of following God, even making many mistakes, and seeking God’s advice and strength. A good role model.

  10. This article hit home big time…I did reach the same conclusions. We waste a great deal of energy thinking about what is right or wrong in our thoughts and actions. This is the part that is wrong for me. Live with the decision right or wrong. If wrong ask for forgiveness and reset with God! His love always lets us begin again. ALWAYS! Thank you for your insight. God bless you.

  11. …”to recognize this (for me, it was fear of loss) as a temptation from the the enemy.” Is the beginning of understanding my ongoing need, quest for AWARENESS of His PRESENCE in my OWN DAILYNESS. “I can’t do it alone, Lord” – and He NEVER asked or expected me to….”! Despite daily Mass, I don’t always “see”….”hear”…


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Loretta Pehanich
Marina Berzins McCoy
Tim Muldoon