Listening Gifts of Discernment of Spirits

Christ reigns in heaven and on earth. His kingdom is at hand. We face a choice as to the kingdom we make our own.  Christ told us who reigns on earth outside of His kingdom:

“Now is the judgment of the world; now will the prince of the world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself.” Now He said this signifying by what death He wants to die (Jn 12: 31-32).

“I will no longer speak much with you, for the prince of the world is coming, and in me he has nothing. But He comes that the world may know that I love the Father and that I do as the Father has commended me” (Jn 14: 30-31).

“I speak the truth to you; it is expedient for you that I depart. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go I will send Him to you and when He has come He will convict the world of sin, and of justice, and of judgment; of sin, because they do not believe in me; of justice, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; and of judgment, because the prince of this world has already been judged” (Jn 14: 8-11).

Not only is God’s kingdom at hand, Satan is at the door in sheep’s clothing.  He may even appear as an angel of light so beware, which means first of all be aware, discern the spirits.  St. Ignatius Loyola faced a world of temptation as we do.  He was a military man aside from being a man become saint.  He set down rules of engagement by observing his daily life, his temptations and the times and ways God made His Presence or His Will known to him. He wrote for our encouragement and advancement The Rules for Discernment of Spirit.

How to proceed in the battle of daily life:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, waalks about, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8)

How are we to be sober and vigilant?  Learn the rules of engagement!

St. Ignatius sets them out and in a marvelous article Brian Incigneri makes them accessable:

Revelation: Here, there is no doubt that God is speaking to you. No discernment is necessary here because of the certainty. An example would be St Paul on the Damascus road. This is a rare event (although not very rare; every person would probably experience this at one or more points in their life).

Reasoning: In this circumstance, God seems to be completely silent. Great uncertainty exists here. First, we must collect all the facts and weigh the pros and cons of our choices. We might use our imagination (What would I advise someone who came to me with this same question? What would I rather have done when I am on my deathbed remembering the choice I made?)This is not discernment either — it is only a stage (perhaps a very necessary stage) before discernment proper can occur. From this, we must go to God in prayer. Ignatius says that, after we have come to our choice by reasoning, “we must now turn with great diligence to prayer, and offer to God our choice that He may accept and confirm it if it is for His greater service and praise.”

Discernment:Ignatius says that this is a time when “much light and understanding are derived through the experience of desolations and consolations, and the discernment of diverse spirits.”

Here we have our work cut out for us. Get to know yourself, which means keeping an eye on your inner workings, that is, the workings of your mind and heart and spirit.

Enter:  our feelings

our intellect

our will

Consolation, Ignatius tells us is:

Every increase in faith, hope and love, and all interior joy that invites and attracts to what is heavenly, and to the salvation of our soul, by filling it with peace and quiet in its Creator and Lord.

Desolation, according to St. Ignatius:

What is entirely the opposite of consolation … darkness of soul, turmoil of spirit, inclination to what is low and earthly, restlessness arising from many disturbances which lead to lack of faith, lack of hope, and lack of love. The soul is wholly slothful, tepid, sad, and separated, as it were, from its Creator and Lord.

We must learn to gauge our feelings, use our intellect and exercise our wills.  The choice of the kingdoms is before us, “at hand” so to speak.

And this is my prayer: that your love for one another may grow more and more with the knowledge and complete understanding that will help you to come to true discernment, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, entirely filled with the fruits of uprightness through Jesus Christ, for the glory and praise of God (Phil 1:9-11).

Insiglari writes:

One of the best ways to do this, is to conduct what is called the Daily Consciousness Examen, which has been recommended by the Church through the ages and comes in many forms. Here is a recommended list of steps:

  1. Begin by asking the Holy Spirit to guide you.
  2. Look back on your day, and notice the gifts and blessings of God through the day, in a spirit of thankfulness.
  3. Ask Jesus to teach you, and ask that you might know his voice better. Then go back over the day in your mind, looking at it with Jesus.
  4. Ask questions like: Was I acting as the Lord would have wanted me to act? What moved me to act in that way? What were my feelings? What was the first feeling that moved me to speak or act in that way? Where did that feeling come from? Is there anything in this event that might point to my need for healing? What will help me the next time I encounter a similar situation?
  5. End your time with praise and thanksgiving, focusing on the goodness of God.

For a look at the Devil/Satan you can read Fr. John A. Hardon SJ’s, The Devil as the Prince of this World

From this all to brief glimpse at discernment, you should conclude that maturity in the spiritual life is a life long engagement with a reward that far exceed the efforts we make to grow and remain faithful to Christ. Remember that Christ is first and foremost “knocking at our hearts” and His Kingdom is not only “at hand” but, should we so desire and choose, it is being established in our heart of hearts. For, moment by moment, day by day, year after year, it is His Sacred Heart that beats with ours and speaks in us in that small still voice. Let us become apt listeners.  That desire and the hope we have is the voice of His Holy Spirit.