Week 30 Prayer Exercises
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1 I resolve to spend no more and no less than 15-minutes in each formal prayer session. As before, I will visualize the week ahead and imagine where I can find a technology-free zone for my prayer.
2 I continue the process of praying meditations one through five in the Sacred Story prayer and, as St. Ignatius suggested, I will enter my prayer at least once daily. This prayer, like the rosary, will never grow old. It will take on more and more meaning, helping me deepen my faith and my wisdom and awaken me to God’s truth and love.
3 I will continue to open my heart to the lessons on discernment as I try to understand the three different sources of inspiration that can influence my thoughts, words and deeds.
I will awaken to the present moment.
I will awaken to my spiritual nature.
I will not make any decisions based on fear.
I will practice Sacramental Reconciliation monthly.
I will ask Jesus for help when I am troubled.
I will thank Jesus daily for life’s gifts.
I will say this affirmation aloud once daily:
Awakening to Sacred Story Discernment Guidelines
Guidelines for Fundamental Healing and Spiritual Growth
Take time, at your convenience outside of your prayer periods, to read and reflect on this third lesson in discernment. We will examine the three distinct sources of inspiration that can guide our thoughts, words and deeds.
Inspirations affecting your human nature (spirit-body) can originate from three different sources according to St. Ignatius.1
1. Inspirations can originate with yourself.
2. Inspirations can originate from a Divine source: the Divine-Inspirer.
3. Inspirations can originate from a demonic source, the enemy of human nature: the counter-inspirer.
There are three sources of spiritual inspiration, but only two spiritual states. St. Ignatius names the two states consolation and desolation. Next week we will explore these two spiritual states in more depth.
Spiritual consolation is when one experiences, to a greater or lesser degree, an increase in faith, hope and love. Spiritual desolation is when one experiences, to a greater or lesser degree, a loss of faith, hope and love.
Sources of Inspiration
Types of Inspiration
Sources of Inspiration
To affirm that our human nature can be the source of inspirations makes perfect sense. We have our own thoughts and convictions and act on them. Such thoughts originate from within our being in several ways.
First, we can let our body make decisions. We can be led by our sensual appetites and “give into them” with little or no conscious thought about the consequences. Sometimes that “giving in” is due to sickness or addictions. But it is the appetites doing our “thinking” and “inspiring” our actions.
Evil’s Work is More Hidden than Sensational
Don’t go looking for Exorcist-movie drama in your spiritual discernment. The counter-inspirer accomplished his greatest damage in the Original Sin when human nature was crippled. He knew you would be subject to disease and death, and that the anger, cynicism, sickness, war, poverty and injustice in human society would chip away at belief. The loss of faith, hope and love would result, and belief in a “God of love” would diminish. Kindness avoided, forgiveness withheld and self-centered behavior work to diminish faith, hope and love. All have conspired to create the evolution of darkness present in our history. Exorcist-movie evil does exist but serves the counter-inspirer’s work mostly by making us blind to evil’s greatest work: crushing the human spirit and making us believe that evil is more powerful than God and love. Yet, the enemy of human nature—the counter-inspirer—has already lost his battle in Christ’s victory. Be Not Afraid!
Second, we can be inspired by what we might call embedded strengths/gifts in human nature from our Creator OR from embedded diseases/weaknesses in human nature marred by Original Sin. Consolation from an embedded strength/gift in human nature from our Creator could be a bodily feeling that “life is good” after an excellent workout. It might also be a spiritual feeling of being happy to be alive, that “life is beautiful” when looking at a baby or a beautiful sunset.
Desolation from an embedded disease/weakness in human nature marred by Original Sin might be a bodily feeling that “life is miserable” when you have a cold, flu or some type of bodily injury. It might also be a spiritual feeling that “life is difficult, burdensome and not fair” if you are hurting in a relationship or suffering due to early life events.
If you are inspired spiritually by either the Divine-Inspirer or the counter-inspirer, the inspiration will be communicated to you through your higher spiritual nature which was willed by God to guide your lower spiritual nature. We will look at this reality in coming weeks.2
You may continue your reflections on these spiritual realities by reading a homily by St. Bernard of Clairvaux and a short section from Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes: The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.3
(Ps 119: 123-25)
People today often form judgments about human nature based on the experience of human nature in its fallen state. We forget that at one point human nature, as a unity of body and spirit, was undivided: Our hearts were undivided. With the Fall, our hearts are divided and we can no longer easily determine right and wrong: “Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature, inclined to the evil, gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action and morals.”
THE PRIMACY OF THE SPIRITUAL OVER THE MATERIAL:
Every year science grounded in a materialist only view of the universe confronts inexplicable phenomena, indicating the primacy of the spiritual realm as the main animator of the physical world. Mario Beauregard’s The Spiritual Brian is a work on this topic and the source of some of the ideas below. See also the classic work, The Healing Light by Agnes Sanford. Sanford’s Christian healing ministry helped launch the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement.
From a sermon by St Bernard of Clairvaux, “On the Stages of Contemplation:”
Let us take our stand on the tower, leaning with all our strength on Christ, the most solid rock, as it is written: He has set my feet on a rock, he has guided my steps. Thus firmly established, let us begin to contemplate, to see what he is saying to us and what reply we ought to make to him. The first stage of contemplation, my dear brothers, is to consider constantly what God wants, what is pleasing to him, and what is acceptable in his eyes. We all offend in many things; our strength cannot match the rightness of God’s will and cannot be joined to it or made to fit with it. So let us humble ourselves under the powerful hand of the most high God and make an effort to show ourselves unworthy before his merciful gaze, saying, “Heal me, Lord, and I shall be healed; save me and I shall be saved.” And again, “Lord, have mercy on me; heal my soul because I have sinned against you.”
Once the eye of the soul has been purified by such considerations, we no longer abide within our spirit in a sense of sorrow, but abide rather in the Spirit of God with great delight. No longer do we consider what is the will of God for us, but rather what it is in itself.
For our life is in his will. Thus we are convinced that what is according to his will is in every way better for us, and more fitting. And so, if we are concerned to preserve the life of our soul, we must be equally concerned to deviate as little as possible from his will.
Thus having made some progress in our spiritual exercise under the guidance of the Spirit who gazes into the deep things of God, let us reflect how gracious the Lord is and how good he is in himself. Let us join the Prophet in praying that we may see the Lord’s will and frequent not our own hearts but the Lord’s temple; and let us also say, My soul is humbled within me, therefore I shall be mindful of you.
These two stages sum up the whole of the spiritual life: when we contemplate ourselves we are troubled, and our sadness saves us and brings us to contemplate God; that contemplation in turn gives us the consolation of the joy of the Holy Spirit. Contemplating ourselves brings fear and humility; contemplating God brings us hope and love. (Sermo 5 de diversis, 4-5: : Opera omnia, Edit. Cisterc. 6, 1 , 103-4) Used in the Roman Catholic Office of Readings for Wednesday of the 23rd week in Ordinary Time with the accompanying biblical reading taken from Habakkuk 2:5-20).
From Gaudium et Spes
Although he was made by God in a state of holiness, from the very onset of his history man abused his liberty, at the urging of the Evil One. Man set himself against God and sought to attain his goal apart from God. Therefore man is split within himself. As a result, all of human life, whether individual or collective, shows itself to be a dramatic struggle between good and evil, between light and darkness. Indeed, man finds that by himself he is incapable of battling the assaults of evil successfully, so that everyone feels as though he is bound by chains. But the Lord Himself came to free and strengthen man, renewing him inwardly and casting out that “prince of this world” (John 12:31) who held him in the bondage of sin. For sin has diminished man, blocking his path to fulfillment.
The call to grandeur and the depths of misery, both of which are a part of human experience, find their ultimate and simultaneous explanation in the light of this revelation.
Though made of body and soul, man is one. Through his bodily composition he gathers to himself the elements of the material world; thus they reach their crown through him, and through him raise their voice in free praise of the Creator. For this reason man is not allowed to despise his bodily life, rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and honorable since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day. Nevertheless, wounded by sin, man experiences rebellious stirrings in his body. But the very dignity of man postulates that man glorify God in his body and forbid it to serve the evil inclinations of his heart.
Now, man is not wrong when he regards himself as superior to bodily concerns, and as more than a speck of nature or a nameless constituent of the city of man. For by his interior qualities he outstrips the whole sum of mere things. He plunges into the depths of reality whenever he enters into his own heart; God, Who probes the heart, awaits him there; there he discerns his proper destiny beneath the eyes of God. Thus, when he recognizes in himself a spiritual and immortal soul, he is not being mocked by a fantasy born only of physical or social influences, but is rather laying hold of the proper truth of the matter.
Man judges rightly that by his intellect he surpasses the material universe, for he shares in the light of the divine mind. By relentlessly employing his talents through the ages he has indeed made progress in the practical sciences and in technology and the liberal arts. In our times he has won superlative victories, especially in his probing of the material world and in subjecting it to himself. Still he has always searched for more penetrating truths, and finds them. For his intelligence is not confined to observable data alone, but can with genuine certitude attain to reality itself as knowable, though in consequence of sin that certitude is partly obscured and weakened.
The intellectual nature of the human person is perfected by wisdom and needs to be, for wisdom gently attracts the mind of man to a quest and a love for what is true and good. Steeped in wisdom, man passes through visible realities to those which are unseen.
Our era needs such wisdom more than bygone ages if the discoveries made by man are to be further humanized. For the future of the world stands in peril unless wiser men are forthcoming. It should also be pointed out that many nations, poorer in economic goods, are quite rich in wisdom and can offer noteworthy advantages to others.
It is, finally, through the gift of the Holy Spirit that man comes by faith to the contemplation and appreciation of the divine plan. (Vatican II—Gaudium et Spes: The Dignity of the Human Person (13-15)