St. Ignatius of Loyola, priest and founder of the Jesuits, has become somewhat of the go-to saint when it comes to discernment.
His Spiritual Exercises, especially his rules for “discerning the spirits,” have become especially helpful when it comes to the discernment of one’s vocation. When a discerner comes to you with a frequently-asked question, let St. Ignatius help you answer it.
Here are three commonly asked questions, answered by the great saint himself.
1. I don’t know where God is calling me. Where do I start?
Let’s ponder the St. Ignatius Prayer to Know God’s Will:
May it please the supreme and divine Goodness to give us all abundant grace ever to know his most holy will and perfectly to fulfill it.
This small prayer says it all. You can’t discern your vocation without first choosing to follow Jesus Christ. “Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul,” St. Ignatius tells us, and we should want and choose, “only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created.”
Any young person discerning his vocation should begin as a faithful disciple.
2. I think I am called to the priesthood, but won’t I be unhappy without a family?
Although the Church teaches us that there exists in all of us a natural desire for marriage, and that marriage is of course inherently good, we are also taught that celibacy is a greater good. In fact, there has been plenty of research that shows that priests are among the happiest people on earth, and that’s a good way to approach this question.
St. Ignatius, though, looks at it another way. If one is feeling a call to the priesthood and the desire marry, one should require much more clarity in discerning marriage, than in discerning priestly or religious life.
"If a person thinks of embracing a secular life,” St. Ignatius wrote, “he should ask and desire more evident signs that God calls him to a secular life, than if there were question of embracing the evangelical counsels; for Our Lord Himself has evidently exhorted us to embrace His counsels."
3. How do I know I’m following God’s will?
St. Ignatius teaches us a great deal about “discernment of the spirits,” using“consolation and desolation.”
Consolation includes feelings like joy, love and peace, and are usually the work of “good spirits”; and desolation brings feelings like doubt, sadness and disgust and are usually the work of“bad” spirits—this is true when in a state of grace and seeking God’s Will.
The inverse can be true, if, for instance, you are being tempted to sin. The “bad spirits”can cause consolation to encourage you away from God, and the “good spirits” can cause desolation to lead you away from temptation.
This method of discernment can be useful, and the website http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ is a great resource for a discerner who wants to know more about these topics, as well as those who are being asked.
No matter the question, the No. 1 piece of advice St. Ignatius (and all the saints!) would offer, is this: Seek God’s Will.
God Calls, We Respond Marriage Conference
When: April 14th
Where: Trinity Catholic School, Massena
Keynote with Dr. Gregory and Lisa Popcak
Thank you for helping promote vocations in the Diocese of Ogdensburg! Your work and prayers are greatly appreciated. ________
If you know a young man who is interested in the priesthood, please encourage him to contact us. Likewise, if you are aware of a young woman or man who is discerning religious life, please send them our way. We'll help connect them with respective religious communities. And of course, let us keep praying for each other and for all holy vocations in the Church.