Author Archive

Discernment – when unsure

November 20, 2017

Ignatius talks of three ‘times’ of discernment; the first refers to moments of great clarity; the second, to times of inner conflict between attraction to two or more good choices. The third ‘time’ that Ignatius refers to is when we don’t particularly feel drawn to one thing above another, in fact there seems to be little going on inside, and we can feel a bit lost in the decision we need to make.

Ignatius makes a number of suggestions to help move us from this state towards a decision.

The first help…advice

Consider a person you have never met before but who is trying to make this decision. What advice would you give to them? How might you talk with them about the decision.

Many of us are much better at advising others than at knowing what to do ourselves, so hearing the advice we would give can help us to move forward and follow our own advice!

 

Discernment – A reasonable consideration

November 15, 2017

pathI remember clearly as a child thinking that when people ‘found their
vocation’ it was because God had somehow sent them a clear message (like a voice speaking or a flash of light). Even when I began to realise that God didn’t always act in that way I still expected that God would really only speak to me in times of prayer.

Of course prayer is about communication with God – the communication of our desires and the interior listening to those of God – but sometimes a decision does not become so clear.

St Ignatius speaks of ‘times for making a good election’, and in the second time he reminds us that by giving careful consideration to the consolations and desolations connected with this choice we can often gain enough light to be able to a) make a choice, and b) await its confirmation.

The second, when enough light and knowledge is received by experience of consolations and desolations, and by the experience of the discernment of various spirits. (SpEx)

 

Times of Discernment – Clarity

November 11, 2017

clear pathThere are moments in our lives when we are faced with a choice and we simply KNOW what we must do. There is a great clarity about what God is asking and we are freely able to respond because regardless of the consequences our path is clear.

St Paul’s conversion is a good biblical example – in a moment of clarity he was able to understand completely that God was calling him to change direction, and he responded. Perhaps you know more ordinary examples – people who experience ‘love at first sight’ marrying and remaining faithful throughout the whole of their lives to a single moment of clarity; people who have always had a certainty about a particular vocational choice, where even in spite of opposition or discouragement they have ‘known’ it was the right choice.

Some people may say that at these times discernment isn’t necessary – simply a decision. It may be more true to say that the discernment has already taken place in opening us up to God’s grace and enabling us to have the courage to respond freely and wholeheartedly.

The grace to trust and respond to God’s clear prompting comes through the daily opening up of our lives and the growth in trust that God is with me.

Challenge:

What have been the moments of clarity in my own life?

How can I grow in my ability to trust these moments and to act on them with confidence?

Discernment and Decision making – two good choices

November 8, 2017

DiscernmentHave you ever felt paralysed by a decision? Have you ever felt so aware of more than one really good possibility that it seems impossible to choose?

Although Ignatian discernment is so much more than simply a way to make decisions, the principles or guidelines inherent in an Ignatian understanding of discernment help us to understand the motivation behind our decisions and so to choose wisely.

In a few blog posts I am going to address some aspects of discernment in the Ignatian tradition and look at some of the ways in which we can cooperate or resist the action of God in our decisions.

Two Good Things

It seems obvious. St Ignatius reminds us that discernment only takes place between two or more GOOD things. We do not discern between something good and something bad. In fact our conscience should be alert enough to prompt us not to make a choice towards something which may lead us away from God.

This seems obvious, but in my experience it is often more subtle that in might at first seem. It presupposes an alert and attentive listening to our conscience. 

So the first step in discernment is that of waking our conscience… being aware of the ways we avoid issues, fail to be informed of the consequences of our choices, accept the status quo or even maybe take on attitudes and stances of the society in which we live without ever really questioning whether they are our values and attitudes.

Today’s challenge:

Recognise one area of my life in which I should try to become better informed before making judgement.

 

 

 

Prayer as relationship

November 7, 2017

Relationships are tricky.

The deepest relationships are often the most challenging. They call us to encounter the other, and ourselves, at a level of openness and vulnerability that can be risky. But these deep relationships are also the ones which are most fulfilling, which lead us to a truer sense of ourself and lead us out of isolation and into a sense of connection.

Relationship with God is no different – it can be risky and challenging. When we encounter God in prayer we can do so on many different levels.

Speaking TO God, SAYING prayers, is often comforting and it can connect us with others as we pray for different people and situations. Often when we pray in this way we feel close to God because we sense the listening presence of God. When we have the courage to move into a greater MUTUALITY in the relationship, not only speaking but also LISTENING to God we are challenged to a greater openness.

Relationships thrive on mutuality and trust. So it is with our relationship with God… the more we are able to enter into a mode of attentive listening and real sharing of the reality of our lives – the pain or confusion we feel in the face of distress, the joy we experience when life is fulfilling and rich – the deeper we move into relationship. Empty asphalt road at idyllic foggy morning

Inconvenience

September 10, 2017

Recently I made a journey which should have been very simple but instead turned out to be really complicated and inconvenient. Not in any major way, but just in countless small ways – delayed flights, missed connections, no food or water on the journey… lots of small inconveniences.

I was lucky though – unusually I had left a lot of time for the journey and wasn’t on the last minute, so although it was inconvenient for me, it wasn’t a major problem. At more than one point during the journey I felt myself getting irritated – and then realising that there was no-one really to blame. It wasn’t actually anyone persons ‘fault’ – it was just the way things were working out!

It was quite interesting to reflect on my attitude – when I was still sure I could make my connection I was stressed out about it… and felt irritated with anyone who was ‘in my way’; but as soon as I realised this and resigned myself to finding an alternative route, I became so much calmer, was able to relax and even to see the funny side.

Later I reflected too on my attitude to inconvenience – I noticed how minor the inconveniences I was experiencing were: It was uncomfortable not to get a drink, but I knew that one would be available when I arrived; it was tiring to have to wait and wait for a connection, but in the end I was aware I had other alternatives and securities that I could call on if I really needed to. May these petty inconveniences lead me to a deep gratitude for all that I have, and enable me to live more generously towards others.

Walking the Camino

August 19, 2017

caminoOnce again a group of FCJ sisters and friends are setting off to walk part of the Camino de Santiago. We are just doing a few days of walking along the northern coast of Spain. We are hoping to take in some of the beauty of the area, the local culture, and of course, the spirit of the Camino.

We will then go by bus (so no Compostela for us this year!) to Santiago where we will offer a week of service with Camino Companions welcoming pilgrims into Santiago, giving space for them to reflect on their pilgrimage and providing a listening ear where needed.

 

Holiday time

August 14, 2017

Much gets written these days about looking after yourself, taking care of your health, living a balanced life… and yet day to day it can be really difficult to find balance. Sometimes we are working to a tight deadline, other times we are caring for someone who is sick, often there are external things which militate against balance.

I have come to realise that balance every day is impossible! In fact trying to achieve it can also be a source of stress and guilt when we cant reach our own demanding goals.

This is where holiday comes in! I think there is something very restorative about the ability to ‘switch off’. It doesnt really matter where you go, or even who with, as long as you get an opportunity to put aside the daily routine for a bit, lay down some of the responsibilities, and be yourself.

I am really looking forward to my holiday!

holiday

The gift of living from a suitcase

August 8, 2017

I spend a lot of my time travelling, and over the last few years I have had what I now consider to be a real gift of living out of a suitcase for weeks at a time.

suitcase

With practice my suitcase has got lighter each time I pack, as I hone what I need to the real essentials. No more lugging heavy suitcases around!

The gift in all of this (apart from saving my back from strain!) is that I have realised how little we can happily live with. It is always lovely to come home and have some added extras, but there is something very freeing about living with less!

Retreat

August 2, 2017

One of the great privileges of religious life is that we have an annual retreat built in to our way of life. This is a time to get away from it all and to focus on what is important – to take stock and to once again deepen our relationship with God.

Often our retreats are individually guided – where  you spend the 6 – 8 days in silence just simply praying and reflecting and with an opportunity to meet with a spiritual guide each day. This year however, in our Province, we are having an opportunity for a group retreat. It is 200 years ago since the start of the profound spiritual experiences of our foundress which eventually led to her founding our FCJ Society, and the retreat will be an opportunity to reflect on her spiritual journey and our own. There will be time for some input, sharing and silent prayer, leading us to a deeper appreciation of this wonderful story of Marie Madeleine, d’Houet, and a re-membering of our connection with her.

I have included some photos from the area where the retreat is taking place. If you haven’t already ever had an opportunity for a week of retreat you should think about it!

What a blessing!