In addition to this week’s prayer materials, there are new Encouragements and Wisdom for Week 31 (PDF).
1 I will visualize my week to imagine where I can find a technology-free zone to spend my 15-minutes prayer sessions.
2 I continue the life-long process of praying meditations one through five in the Sacred Story prayer. I commit to enter my prayer at least once daily as St. Ignatius suggested. This prayer will carry me for life. It will deepen my faith and my wisdom and awaken me to God’s truth and love.
3 This week I will continue to seek knowledge of spiritual discernment, by examining two benchmark rules: Spiritual Consolation and Spiritual Desolation.
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 some time this week to read and reflect on this fourth lesson in discernment. We will examine the two types of inspiration that can guide our thoughts, words and deeds. First, a brief review of the past three weeks.
God willed that human nature be a perfect unity of body and soul. The gift of this blessed unity of human nature in paradise made us immortal. The turning from God, which we call Original Sin, broke the perfect unity of human nature: body and soul. Lust for power, dominance and unbridled physical desires of our bodily nature (concupiscence) do battle with our spiritual nature. In this battle our authentic identity was distorted. Our conscience was clouded and we lost sight of right and wrong. Disease, strife, suffering and death resulted. Original Sin broke our perfect unity with God’s loving will. Also broken was the unity between male and female and their harmony with creation. Paradise was an ecstasy of harmonious relationships. Original Sin broke all relationships. Most tragically, it broke our hearts.
God Is Healing Our Broken Human Nature
Original Sin crippled our human nature. None of us will achieve perfection this side of eternity. Yet knowing that human nature was “perfect” once and will be perfect again informs the Church’s interpretation of holiness. God’s grace fosters healing in our souls, enabling us to gain a measure of mastery over the lusts and desires of our bodily nature. It also enables us to grow in forgiveness, selflessness, and charity. All of us are called to cooperate with God’s grace for this healing and holiness. We are all encouraged by Christ not to be afraid but to be patient as the process of healing takes a lifetime.
The revelation of the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel was one of the most significant gifts from God to help us re-learn “right relationship.” In the New Covenant, Christ is the ultimate revelation of God. Christ’s life and message is the most perfect expression of how each of us is called to live. This is why we call Judeo/Christianity a “revealed religion.” We did not come to the truth by our own reasoning processes. It had to be revealed to us. The teaching Church has been entrusted with interpreting, passing on and holding secure for all people the authentic message of Christ and the revealed Truths of God. It is the same Church that Ignatius served and loved. His discernment rules are spiritual guidelines that help us understand the revealed truth of “right relationship” in our own lives according to the revealed truths entrusted to the teaching Church.
Ignatius’ discernment wisdom, in his rules, is discovered when individuals begin to pay close attention to inspirations that we identify through affective feelings. We are “inspired” in thoughts, words and deeds from three sources: our own human nature (body and soul); the Divine-Inspirer; and human nature’s enemy, the counter-inspirer. These “inspirations” have one of two effects on us, they either create spiritual consolation or spiritual desolation. This week we begin looking at these two types of inspiration.
Sources of Inspiration
To help your awakening and initiation into spiritual discernment, two benchmark guidelines will be beneficial in many life situations. It is important to understand that Divine inspiration, or consolation, does not always feel good. Equally important is to realize that an unholy inspiration, or spiritual desolation, does not always feel bad. We will explore this seeming paradox in a later lesson. For now it is sufficient to absorb the two benchmark guidelines and to understand that both are intended to influence the direction of our life towards or away from God in every thought, word and deed.
Benchmark One: Authentic divine inspirations called consolations will have specific features. Consolations will:
1) Increase the heart’s love for God and others
2) Increase the virtues of docility, humility and self-generosity
3) Not run contrary to the truths and teachings of Scripture, the Tradition and the teaching Church 1
Consolation can be the consequence of the Divine Physician’s Spirit working in you. This form of consolation helps strengthen your heart and soul, encouraging you to turn to God. Consolation helps you to choose thoughts, words and deeds that express your authentic human nature made in the Divine image.
Consolation can also be the consequence of the body/spirit aspect of your Divinely-shaped human nature. God created your human nature as a gift in the Divine image and likeness. In spite of Original Sin’s impact, cooperating with God’s grace activates embedded life forces of your Divinely-shaped human nature, helping to heal biochemical, physiological and emotional imbalances; energizing you; and enabling thoughts, words and deeds that express your authentic human nature.
Benchmark Two: Authentic counter-inspirations called desolations will have specific features. Desolations will:
1) Increase narcissism, displacing God and others
2) Decrease docility and humility, and increase pride and self-satisfaction
3) Arouse hungers and desires that, although they feel good, will typically contradict the truths and teachings proposed by the Scripture, Tradition, and the teaching Church. This is because the author of counter-inspirations is opposed to Christ and will lead you away from life and truth. Counter-inspirations will produce desires that feel authentic because they are linked to fallen human nature’s physical lusts and spiritual pride. They are the familiar default drives of a broken heart and a broken human nature.
Desolation can be the consequence of the enemy of human nature working in you. This form of desolation helps weaken your heart and soul, encouraging you to turn from God. Desolation helps you choose thoughts, words and deeds that are opposed to your Divinely-shaped human nature.
Desolation can also be the consequence of your own fallen human nature. God created your human nature as a gift in the Divine image and likeness. Yet, because of Original Sin’s impact, not cooperating with God’s grace erodes embedded life forces of your Divinely-shaped human nature, helping to destroy biochemical, physiological and emotional balance; de-energizing you; and increasing thoughts, words and deeds that are in opposition to your authentic human nature.
(Ps 119: 126-28)
The following section from the Church’s Code of Canon Law describes the types of beliefs that are non-negotiable for faithful Catholics. This is not intended as a list of all those things one must adhere to in order to be considered a “faithful Catholic.” The most important aspect is the docility of spirit granted by God that enables one to approach the teachings and the authority of the Church with trust, instead of a spirit of obstinacy. The spirit of docility, trust, humility and obedience characterize God’s presence in one’s soul.
A person must believe with divine and Catholic faith all those things contained in the word of God, written or handed on, that is, in the one deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, and at the same time proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn magisterium of the Church or by its ordinary and universal magisterium which is manifested by the common adherence of the Christian faithful under the leadership of the sacred magisterium; therefore all are bound to avoid any doctrines whatsoever contrary to them. Each and every thing which is proposed definitively by the magisterium of the Church concerning the doctrine of faith and morals, that is, each and every thing which is required to safeguard reverently and to expound faithfully the same deposit of faith, is also to be firmly embraced and retained; therefore, one who rejects those propositions which are to be held definitively is opposed to the doctrine of the Catholic Church. .