Week 39 Prayer Exercises
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1 I resolve to spend no more and no less than 15-minutes in each formal prayer period.
2 I ask God’s grace to help me commit to a life-long habit of praying the five meditations of Sacred Story prayer. With God’s grace, I will be able to enter my prayer at least once daily as St. Ignatius suggested. God’s grace will also help me to commit to my simple journal exercises and a monthly practice of Sacramental Reconciliation.
3 I am invited to continue reflecting on spiritual discernment by concluding the series of St. Ignatius’ rules on integrated healing. This second series of rules takes into account temptations of a more subtle nature. Here the enemy of my human nature manipulates undetected narcissism to interfere with my spiritual growth.
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 Integrated Healing and Spiritual Growth
Take some time on the weekend or during the week to read and reflect on this twelfth lesson in discernment. Last week our study of St. Ignatius’ second set of rules on discernment examined five guidelines to utilize with temptations of a more subtle form. This week we examine the sixth and seventh guidelines. Remember these rules apply to those distracted from the spiritual journey by the enemy of human nature with attacks targeting their reasoning processes with illusions of truth, but not truth itself. We call these integrated rules because they facilitate healing of our human nature as a unity of body and spirit.
Review the introductory narrative from Week 38. These Guidelines for Integrated Healing and Spiritual Growth are essential for discerning counter inspirations of a more subtle nature. They are applicable to those who have matured to the point where vices, sinful habits, addictions, and extravagant appetites are no longer effective in to luring one away from God.
Sixth, develop the habit of tracing the trajectory of the thoughts and desires that have led you away from God and away from your authentic self. Do not become discouraged. This discipline takes practice. You will fall for the bait countless times. When you do, examine the initial inspiration and follow it through the whole course of your deliberations. Notice how you were initially inspired, but then gradually, step by step, lost your peace of soul.
Notice how your former holy commitments and resolutions were undermined. From this objective vantage point, reflection will enable you to identify the particular strategy the counter-inspirer uses in your life story. This vigilance will help you develop spiritual radar for these deceptive tactics. You will also learn to identify your personal vulnerabilities that the enemy of your authentic human nature manipulates.
At this level of conversion, the enemy’s tactics work on your concealed pride, vanity, and narcissism—the Original Sin of the human family. When you think or feel: “I do not need God”; or “I will control my own life”; “I will set my own rules”; or “I will be my own savior” and you feel proud about it, rest assured, the enemy of human nature is at work!
Seventh, when you are progressing towards authenticity, innocence and genuine human freedom, the effects of the Divine-Inspirer are gentle and produce delight. A sense of electrical energy, anxious excitement, or a restless need to make hasty decisions is totally absent. Instead, a calm patience and tranquility abides. When making progress towards authenticity, you can detect the effects of the counter-inspirer by the rush of electrical energy, anxious excitement, or restlessness to make hasty decisions.
But, you need to awaken to both the feelings (anxious or calm) and the trajectory (towards or away from authenticity) to accurately interpret what the feelings are signaling.
So, if you are moving toward God, the enemy of your human nature will inspire “black noise,” creating anxious thoughts and urgent feelings. The enemy wants to discourage you from turning to God.
And, if you are moving away from God, God will inspire with alarm bells that you are entering dangerous territory. It can feel like the same anxiety and urgent feelings described above, but this time, it is your awakened conscience that God uses to alert you of an inauthentic trajectory.
If you are moving away from God, the enemy of your human nature will inspire with thoughts that are appeasing, reassuring your complacency and attempting to conceal your movement away from God, and your authentic human nature.
When the inspiration produced in your heart and soul comes directly from the Divine-Inspirer, you cannot be deceived or led astray. You will come to know the inspirations of the Divine-Inspirer because of the effects on your heart and soul. These inspirations produce an intense sense of devotion and love of God and of innocence. They produce a sense of selflessness and willing surrender of your life to God’s control. The inspirations help you understand and trust received Tradition, the Commandments, and the precepts of Christ as proclaimed by the Church.
However, you can be led astray in the after-glow of such inspiration and grace. You can be led astray by your own ideas or by the influence of the counter-inspirer. Be highly attentive during the time following Divine inspirations. Be cautious and make no revisions, commitments, or plans during this time unless you are clear as to the source of the inspiration.
The Divine-Inspirer will lead you further along the path of love, innocence, humility, and self-surrender. The counter-inspirer will work toward disintegration and a weakening of your previous commitments and holy resolutions. The counter-inspirer will pull you further down the path of pride, and encourage you to justify your angers. The enemy of human nature will inspire you to cling to whatever difficulties you have with Gospel values as proposed by the Church.
Understand now, how St. Ignatius’ Divine inspiration to reform his life was corrupted into a damaging habit of confessing old sins. The counter-inspirer accomplished this by manipulating Ignatius’ narcissistic nature and long-standing vulnerabilities. If Ignatius had been deceived into walking away from his conversion journey, the Church would have been deprived of the gifts of his spirituality and the many saints who achieved holiness through it.
This was the counter-inspirer’s hope for Ignatius. It will be the counter-inspirer’s hope for you as well. The counter-inspirer understands the great good that you can accomplish for the Kingdom of Christ, and will work to sabotage it at all costs. While we are incapable of matching the subtleties of the enemy of human nature, we can rest in the assurance that God is capable of battling our ancient enemy.
The Divine-Inspirer will always offer the graces and insights to lead you home. God’s victory is assured for you in Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection. Have hope in Him. He will help you just as He helped St. Ignatius. You will achieve the goal of love, the goal of forgiveness, and through your life’s Sacred Story, the goal of service to the Great Work of Reconciliation that Christ has invited you to share with Him.
As you work with God’s grace to let your life be transformed into Sacred Story, never be discouraged by your failings, sins and weaknesses. The Divine Physician will never tire of forgiving you. Never tire of coming to Him for forgiveness. In this radical, loving trust, you encounter the unfathomable and unbounded mercy of God.
Put no trust in princes,
in children of Adam powerless to save.
Who breathing his last, returns to the earth;
that day all his planning comes to nothing.
Blessed the one whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord, his God,
The maker of heaven and earth, the seas and all that is in them,
Who keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed,
who gives bread to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free; the Lord gives sight to the blind.
The Lord raises up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord protects the resident alien,
comes to the aid of the orphan and the widow,
but thwarts the way of the wicked.
The Lord shall reign forever,
your God, Zion, through all generations!