Listening Gifts of Discernment of Spirits

Christ reigns in heaven and on earth. His kingdom is at hand. We face a choice as to the kingdom we make our own.  Christ told us who reigns on earth outside of His kingdom:

“Now is the judgment of the world; now will the prince of the world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself.” Now He said this signifying by what death He wants to die (Jn 12: 31-32).

“I will no longer speak much with you, for the prince of the world is coming, and in me he has nothing. But He comes that the world may know that I love the Father and that I do as the Father has commended me” (Jn 14: 30-31).

“I speak the truth to you; it is expedient for you that I depart. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go I will send Him to you and when He has come He will convict the world of sin, and of justice, and of judgment; of sin, because they do not believe in me; of justice, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; and of judgment, because the prince of this world has already been judged” (Jn 14: 8-11).

Not only is God’s kingdom at hand, Satan is at the door in sheep’s clothing.  He may even appear as an angel of light so beware, which means first of all be aware, discern the spirits.  St. Ignatius Loyola faced a world of temptation as we do.  He was a military man aside from being a man become saint.  He set down rules of engagement by observing his daily life, his temptations and the times and ways God made His Presence or His Will known to him. He wrote for our encouragement and advancement The Rules for Discernment of Spirit.

How to proceed in the battle of daily life:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, waalks about, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8)

How are we to be sober and vigilant?  Learn the rules of engagement!

St. Ignatius sets them out and in a marvelous article Brian Incigneri makes them accessable:

Revelation: Here, there is no doubt that God is speaking to you. No discernment is necessary here because of the certainty. An example would be St Paul on the Damascus road. This is a rare event (although not very rare; every person would probably experience this at one or more points in their life).

Reasoning: In this circumstance, God seems to be completely silent. Great uncertainty exists here. First, we must collect all the facts and weigh the pros and cons of our choices. We might use our imagination (What would I advise someone who came to me with this same question? What would I rather have done when I am on my deathbed remembering the choice I made?)This is not discernment either — it is only a stage (perhaps a very necessary stage) before discernment proper can occur. From this, we must go to God in prayer. Ignatius says that, after we have come to our choice by reasoning, “we must now turn with great diligence to prayer, and offer to God our choice that He may accept and confirm it if it is for His greater service and praise.”

Discernment:Ignatius says that this is a time when “much light and understanding are derived through the experience of desolations and consolations, and the discernment of diverse spirits.”

Here we have our work cut out for us. Get to know yourself, which means keeping an eye on your inner workings, that is, the workings of your mind and heart and spirit.

Enter:  our feelings

our intellect

our will

Consolation, Ignatius tells us is:

Every increase in faith, hope and love, and all interior joy that invites and attracts to what is heavenly, and to the salvation of our soul, by filling it with peace and quiet in its Creator and Lord.

Desolation, according to St. Ignatius:

What is entirely the opposite of consolation … darkness of soul, turmoil of spirit, inclination to what is low and earthly, restlessness arising from many disturbances which lead to lack of faith, lack of hope, and lack of love. The soul is wholly slothful, tepid, sad, and separated, as it were, from its Creator and Lord.

We must learn to gauge our feelings, use our intellect and exercise our wills.  The choice of the kingdoms is before us, “at hand” so to speak.

And this is my prayer: that your love for one another may grow more and more with the knowledge and complete understanding that will help you to come to true discernment, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, entirely filled with the fruits of uprightness through Jesus Christ, for the glory and praise of God (Phil 1:9-11).

Insiglari writes:

One of the best ways to do this, is to conduct what is called the Daily Consciousness Examen, which has been recommended by the Church through the ages and comes in many forms. Here is a recommended list of steps:

  1. Begin by asking the Holy Spirit to guide you.
  2. Look back on your day, and notice the gifts and blessings of God through the day, in a spirit of thankfulness.
  3. Ask Jesus to teach you, and ask that you might know his voice better. Then go back over the day in your mind, looking at it with Jesus.
  4. Ask questions like: Was I acting as the Lord would have wanted me to act? What moved me to act in that way? What were my feelings? What was the first feeling that moved me to speak or act in that way? Where did that feeling come from? Is there anything in this event that might point to my need for healing? What will help me the next time I encounter a similar situation?
  5. End your time with praise and thanksgiving, focusing on the goodness of God.

For a look at the Devil/Satan you can read Fr. John A. Hardon SJ’s, The Devil as the Prince of this World

From this all to brief glimpse at discernment, you should conclude that maturity in the spiritual life is a life long engagement with a reward that far exceed the efforts we make to grow and remain faithful to Christ. Remember that Christ is first and foremost “knocking at our hearts” and His Kingdom is not only “at hand” but, should we so desire and choose, it is being established in our heart of hearts. For, moment by moment, day by day, year after year, it is His Sacred Heart that beats with ours and speaks in us in that small still voice. Let us become apt listeners.  That desire and the hope we have is the voice of His Holy Spirit.


Photographs of St. Bernadette Soubirou

A prayer to St. Bernadette.

Saint Bernadette, little shepherdess of Lourdes, favored with eighteen apparitions of the Immaculate Virgin Mary and with the privilege of lovingly conversing with her, now that you are eternally enjoying the entrancing beauty of the Immaculate Mother of God, do not forsake me, your devoted client, who am still in this valley of tears. Intercede for me that I, too, may walk the simple path of faith. Help me to imitate your example, at our heavenly Queen’s request, by saying the Rosary daily and by doing penance for sinners.

Teach me to imitate your wonderful devotedness to God and our Lady, the Immaculate Conception, so that, like you, I may be blessed with the grace of lasting faithfulness and enjoy the happiness in heaven of the eternal vision of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

God of infinite mercy, we celebrate the feast of Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes, the sinless Mother of God. May her prayers help us to rise above our human weakness. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. Amen

Our Lady of Lourdes – “I AM THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION”

Narrated by Mariola Paini


In 1858 the virgin Mary Immaculate appeared to Bernadette Soubirous near Lourdes in France within the cave of Massabielle. Through this humble girl, Mary called sinners to conversion and enkindled within the Church a great zeal for prayer and charity, especially service to the sick and poor. From a letter by Saint Marie Bernadette Soubirous, virgin (Ep. ad P. Gondrand, a 1861: cf. A. Ravier, Les écrits de sainte Bernadette, Paris 1961, pp. 53-59) The lady spoke to me I had gone down one day with two other girls to the bank of the river Gave when suddenly I heard a kind of rustling sound. I turned my head toward the field by the side of the river but the trees seemed quite still and the noise was evidently not from them. Then I looked up and caught sight of the cave where I saw a lady wearing a lovely white dress with a bright belt. On top of each of her feet was a pale yellow rose, the same color as her rosary beads. At this I rubbed my eyes, thinking I was seeing things, and I put my hands into the fold of my dress where my rosary was. I wanted to make the sign of the cross but for the life of me I couldn’t manage it and my hand just fell down. Then the lady made the sign of the cross herself and at the second attempt I managed to do the same, though my hands were trembling. Then I began to say the rosary while the lady let her beads slip through her fingers, without moving her lips. When I stopped saying the Hail Mary, she immediately vanished. I asked my two companions if they had noticed anything, but they said no. Of course they wanted to know what I was doing and I told them that I had seen a lady wearing a nice white dress, though I didn’t know who she was. I told them not to say anything about it, and they said I was silly to have anything to do with it. I said they were wrong and I came back next Sunday, feeling myself drawn to the place…. The third time I went the lady spoke to me and asked me to come every day for fifteen days. I said I would and then she said that she wanted me to tell the priests to build a chapel there. She also told me to drink from the stream. I went to the Gave, the only stream I could see. Then she made me realize she was not speaking of the Gave and she indicated a little trickle of water close-by. When I got to it I could only find a few drops, mostly mud. I cupped my hands to catch some liquid without success and then I started to scrape the ground. I managed to find a few drops of water but only at the fourth attempt was there a sufficient amount for any kind of drink. The lady then vanished and I went back home. I went back each day for fifteen days and each time, except one Monday and one Friday, the lady appeared and told me to look for a stream and wash in it and to see that the priests build a chapel there. I must also pray, she said, for the conversion of sinners. I asked her many times what she meant by that, but she only smiled. Finally with outstretched arms and eyes looking up to heaven she told me she was the Immaculate Conception. During the fifteen days she told me three secrets but I was not to speak about them to anyone and so far I have not. This letter from St. Bernadette (linked above) is from the Office of Readings for this day. I put this letter here because the language in which she speaks of Mary’s apparitions is that of a child. Dear Bernadette was young and poor when The Blessed Mother appeared to her. She aspired only a simple life, was not overly bright, and it would seem that she was incapable of greatness by this world’s standards. Yet, the Blessed Mother appeared to her, and spoke to her kindly and gave her gentle instructions. When Bernadette first saw Our Lady, she did not immediately identify her. She saw, rather, a beautiful woman. In fact, she did not presume to admit that the lady was the Blessed Mother until she was told by the lady herself. Mary called herself the Immaculate Conception, a true expression of beauty. Mary’s message to Bernadette was simple and caring, like that of a Mother. Bernadette, although not great, was a saint of blessings and virtue. Mary chose to appear to her and laid upon her shoulders the charge of sharing Mary with others. Bernadette did not live a very long life… but it was one of patient suffering and hope for the world to come. “I cannot promise to make you happy in this world, but in the next” was the promise of the Blessed Mother to her daughter. Bernadette trusted in this promise, with that childlike faith and obedience that were so exemplary in her visits with Mary. This is an example of how Mary is a mother to us. Her apparitions to her gentle daughter Bernadette brings us a message of prayer and healing. Each time that Mary has visited us, she has come with the same tender love and caring. Let us always remember how deeply Mary loves us, how intimate she is with Jesus, and seek to follow her Motherly guidance and receive her consolation.

A Letter of Saint Marie Bernadette Soubirou

God of mercy,
we celebrate the feast of Mary,
the sinless mother of God.
May her prayers help us
to rise above our human weakness.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

– Amen.