Friday, July 31, 2009
"I seek to do God's will in my life and to surrender to it especially in the realms of relationships. My question, how does one truly discern that a particular relationship or even the choice of a career path is what God wants for us? How can I truly differentiate between my desire and how 'it all appears to be working as if it were God's desire' and it truly being God's desire for me?"
~ First of all, if one honestly and sincerely desires to grow in holiness and do God's will, there is no substitute for spiritual direction. A good and holy spiritual director can help you cut through the deceptions that arise from self and from the deceptions of the evil spirits. It is very, very easy to deceive ourselves and there have been countless saints, Doctors of the Church, and Popes who continually encourage souls to seek this means of growth in holiness.
If you cannot find a good and holy spiritual director, we need to turn to the rules for discernment of spirits. First of all, you can know a tree by its fruits. Does this decision help you to grow in holiness, closer to God, help you to grow in virtue and will it hinder you soul at all from these?
Here are three occasions when a wise and good choice can be made (by St. Ignatius of Loyola):
The FIRST OCCASION is when God Our Lord moves and attracts the will so that the devout soul, without question and without desire to question, follows what has been manifested to it. St. Paul and St. Matthew did this when they followed Christ our Lord.
The SECOND OCCASION is present when one has developed a clear understanding and knowledge through the experience of consolations and desolations of diverse spirits (evil vs. good spirits, self, the world).
The THIRD OCCASION is in a time of tranquility. Here one considers first for what purpose man is born, which is to praise God our Lord and to save his soul. Since he desires to attain this end, he chooses some life or state within the bounds of the church that will help him in the service of God our Lord and the salvation of his soul. I said "a time of tranquility," when the soul is not agitated by diverse spirits, and is freely and calmly making use of its natural powers.
~ If a choice has not been made on the First or Second Occasion, below are given two methods of making it during the Third Occasion:
THE FIRST METHOD OF MAKING A WISE AND GOOD CHOICE CONTAINS SIX POINTS:
1) To place before my mind's eye the thing on which I wish to make a choice. It may be an office or an benefice to be accepted or refused, or anything else that is the object of a mutable choice.
2) I must have as my aim the end for which I am created, which is the praise of God our Lord and the salvation of my soul. At the same time I must remain indifferent and free from any inordinate attachments so that I am not more inclined or disposed to take the thing proposed than to reject it, nor to relinquish it rather than to accept it. I must rather be like the equalized scales of balance, ready to follow the course which I feel is more for the glory of praise of God our Lord and the salvation of my soul.
3) I must ask God our Lord to deign to move my will and to reveal to my spirit what I should do to best promote His praise and glory in the matter of choice. After examining the matter thoroughly and faithfully with my understanding, I should make my choice in conformity with His good pleasure and His most Holy Will.
4) I will use my reason to weigh the many advantages and benefits that would accrue to me if I held the proposed office or benefice solely for the praise of God our Lord and the salvation of my soul. I will likewise consider and weigh the disadvantages and dangers that there are in holding it. I will proceed in like manner with the other alternative, that is, examine and consider the advantages and benefits as well as the disadvantages and dangers in not holding the proposed office or benefice.
5) After having thus weighed the matter and carefully examined it from every side, I will consider which alternative appears more reasonable. Acting upon the stronger judgment of reason and not on any inclination of the senses, I must come to a decision in the matter that I am considering.
6) After such a choice or decision has been reached I should turn with great diligence to prayer in the presence of God our Lord and offer Him this choice that His Divine Majesty may deign to accept and confirm it, if it be to His greater service and praise.
THE SECOND METHOD OF MAKING A WISE AND GOOD CHOICE CONTAINS FOUR RULES AND A NOTE:
THE FIRST RULE is that the love which moves me and causes me to make this choice should come from above, that is from the love of God, so that before I make my choice I will feel that the greater or lesser love that I have for the thing chosen is solely for the sake of my Creator and Lord.
THE SECOND RULE is to consider some man that I have never seen or known, and in whom i wish to see complete perfection. Now I should consider what I would tell him to do and choose for the greater glory of God our Lord and the greater perfection of his soul. I will act in like manner myself, keeping the rule that I have proposed for another.
THE THIRD RULE is to consider that if I were at the point of death, what form and procedure I would wish to have observed in making this present choice. Guiding myself by this consideration, I will make my decision on the whole matter.
THE FOURTH RULE is to examine and consider who I shall be on the day of judgment, to think how I shall then wish to have made my decision in the present matter. The rule which I should then wish to have followed, I will now follow, that I may on that day be filled with joy and delight.
NOTE: Taking the above mentioned rules as my guide for eternal salvation and peace, I will make my choice and offer myself to God our Lord, following the sixth point of the first method of making a choice.