Taking the Time to Discern
When we hear the word discernment, we tend to think about the discernment of vocations. You might discern the religious life; you might discern marriage; you might discern a different vocation entirely. This process is important, and it is infinitely helpful to spend time in prayer and discernment before making any big life decision.
But what about the little decisions that we face every day? Should we discern those, too?
St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, developed the Spiritual Exercises to help us discern the “motions of the soul” so that we can understand what spirits are moving us, and why. Then, we can figure out how to respond to these movements. This kind of discernment can happen every day of our lives, with each decision we make. It does not matter how big or small the decision is—every choice we make gives us the opportunity to grow closer to God.
St. Ignatius said, “It is more fitting and much better, that the Creator and Lord Himself should communicate Himself to His devout soul, inflaming it with His love and praise, and disposing it for the way in which it will be better able to serve Him in future.” When we take the time to discern before making decisions, we listen to what God has to say. Instead of seeking our own will, we begin to seek God’s will—and He knows, more than we ever could, what is best for us.
What does this mean in our everyday spiritual life? For each spiritual decision you make, identify what you are naturally inclined to do, and reflect on where that inclination comes from. Will your inclination bring you closer to God, or will it start to put up walls in your relationship? For example, think about your daily prayer and why you might feel inclined to shorten or lengthen it. Reflect on a volunteer opportunity at your parish and your motivations for taking it or not taking it. In everything that is tied to your relationship with God, listen carefully to what God is telling you.
This can be challenging in a fast-paced life where decisions are expected on the spot. It can be tempting to follow our initial inclinations without fully discerning our motivations or the motions of the soul. Pray, at Mass and in silence before the Blessed Sacrament, for the guidance and patience to discern the actions that will bring us closer to God.