Thursday, February 18, 2010

Spiritual Life Dictionary


The gift of discernment helps one to ascertain whether one's motives are influenced by God, the devil, or worldly desires. This gift may be acquired or given to a soul as an infused gift from God.

We know from the lives of the saints that many of the saints possessed the gift of discernement of spirits along with the gift of reading hearts that seem to go hand-in-hand with discernement of spirits.

The great St. John Vianney, the Cure of Ars, could read the hearts of his penitents.  If one came into his confessional without true remorse (not a pure motive) but out of curiosity, the Cure of Ars would  admonish the penitent severely!

Discernement of spirits is a great help in the spiritual life.  One seeks to discern the will of God for his or her life and may turn to St. Ignatius of Loyola for his help in this area because of his teaching in the Spiritual Exercises.  This classic and timeless teaching has been a great help to many people discerning religious vocations.

Discernment of Spirits is also a great help to those who are called to contemplative prayer. For Secular Carmelites we hear throughout the writings of St. Teresa of Jesus that we must use caution when accepting every spiritual consolation that comes our way.  She advises us over and over again to test the spirits and to seek spiritual direction from a holy and intelligent director to help us discern if our consolations come from God and if we are being led by faith and not spiritual sweetness.

Many people get led astray, even from the practice of the Faith, because they did not have the humility to test the spirits-fearing they would have to leave their own ideas and opinions aside to follow God's will and not their own.  We only have to pick up a newspaper or see the evening news to hear about scandals within the church of people following their own will and desires.

True discernment of spirits is a gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps and befriends those who love Him. St. Teresa teaches us that if we are faithful to prayer, God will come to our assistance and make haste to help us-help us to discern His will and not our own.

Peace be with you!

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