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Discerning the Will of God with St. Ignatius of Loyola

avila-logo-feature-imageNeed a last minute Christmas gift for a loved one? Consider giving them a gift
that could change their life forever by giving them a gift of enrollment in the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation. We have extended the application deadline to December 28th for the Winter Session. Apply here.


Discerning the Will of God: St. Ignatius of Loyola and the Discernment of Spirits


Every Christian at some point in his or her journey of faith ends up asking the question: How do I know when the thoughts I have are from God? Discerning the will of God is not always easy to do, but the Ignatian tradition of discernment of spirits can help.

Íñigo López de Loyola was a soldier who experienced a conversion while recovering from a war injury. Since the only books around StIgnatiusOfLoyolaFounderOfTheJesuits600x334crop for post on Discerning the Will of Godwhile he was recovering were writings of the saints, he dove into the rich tradition of the Church and came to know Christ. The result of his conversion was the great man we know today as Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Not the least of his contributions to the Church were his Spiritual Exercises, which he developed based on his own experiences in prayer and discerning the will of God. Discernment of spirits is all about being conscious of the spiritual battle we are all in and knowing how to respond to different thoughts and emotions in order to know the will of God in our lives.

When you enter into the interior life, you enter into a battle. The devil does not want you to pray, and he will do whatever he can to stop you. He will find your weaknesses and attack them. He will try to convince you that you are worthless and that all your efforts toward God are in vain. He knows how to convince you that your worst fears are true. He knows how to twist your thinking and make you believe his lies. For those engaged in the spiritual battle, the enemy's goal is to keep them from discerning the will of God. It's much harder to do the will of God if you have trouble determining what His will is. As difficult as discernment can be, the fact of the matter is that you don’t have to be a slave to the devil's confusion and fear. Scripture warns us about fear and tells us that fear works in opposition to love. The apostle John tells us:

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love.”

-1 John 4:18

The Word of God teaches that you don’t have to live in fear. You don’t have to be subject to the illusions of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Through the teachings of St. Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises, particularly his fourteen rules for discernment of spirits, you can learn how to discern the voice of God and come to a place of peace that the world cannot provide.

Knowing the profound impact it has had on my own life, it is amazing to me how many people are uninformed about the Church’s teachings about prayer and discernment of spirits. That is why we at the Avila Foundation are so committed to teaching people about the mystical tradition of the Church. We believe that the wisdom of the saints on prayer has the ability to set souls free and change them forever. We have seen it time and time again in our ministry. Consider applying for enrollment at the Avila Institute to learn more about discerning the will of God in your life. This winter Dan Burke will be teaching Discernment of Spirits through the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation. Each time we offer this course we are blessed to witness profound conversion experiences.

The course goes over St. Ignatius’ Fourteen Rules for Discernment of Spirits as well as a discussion of practical applications and examples from Scripture. The text for the course is Father Timothy Gallagher’s The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide to Everyday Living (also a great read for those not taking the course). Students leave the course with a much deeper understanding of the mystical tradition of the Church and the ability to apply it to their own spiritual lives. The unique thing about the School of Spiritual Formation is that it is not focused on academic achievement but on understanding the spiritual life and being able to grow in one’s own prayer life. The goal of the School of Spiritual Formation is to lead souls closer to Christ and help them along the journey to heaven.

Winter Session begins January 4, and we have extended the application deadline to December 28th. We have a few spots left, and we would love for you to join us. Here is a list of course characteristics:

Discernment Of Spirits Cover

The Discernment of Spirits- An Ignatian Guide for Every Day Living by Fr. Timothy Gallagher

  • Format: Live/Online or Recorded.
  • Course Duration: 6 Weeks.
  • Courses begin January 4.
  • Class Time: One 1-2 Hour Class Per Week.
  • Grading: Pass/Fail.
  • Student Interaction with Professor: As much as desired.
  • Student Interaction with Other Students: As much as desired.
  • Each 6-week course is $150.
  • Number of Courses to Earn a Certificate of Completion from Avila Institute’s School of Spiritual Formation: 12.

Courses offered this winter include Discernment of Spirits (taught by Dan Burke), Introduction to St. Teresa of Avila (taught by Dr. Therese Recinella), and Introduction to St. Francis of Assisi (taught by Patrick Linbeck). Please apply by December 28 to ensure a spot. Contact Josh at with any questions.



Art: Mirror of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Peter Paul Rubens, 1600s, PD-US author's life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Dylan Jedlovec

Dylan Jedlovec is an Operations Administrative Assistant at the Avila Foundation, parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and Divine Intimacy Radio. Finishing up an undergraduate degree in Marketing and Economics from Samford University, Dylan is first and foremost a disciple of Christ and a son of the Church. Dylan has a heart for evangelization on college campuses, and has worked closely with FOCUS as a student missionary and served as President of the Catholic Student Association at Samford. As a member of the University Fellows Program at Samford, Dylan developed a love for the writings of the Saints, particularly the Doctors of the Church, through his studies of the core texts of the Western Intellectual Tradition. This love for the rich intellectual tradition of the faith brought him to the Avila Foundation, where he seeks to further the kingdom through feeding Christ’s sheep. In his free time, Dylan enjoys watching baseball, reading, hiking, running, and lifting weights (although you can’t really tell).

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  • Patricia

    The Avila Institute is a profound spiritual, intellectual, and life- changing experience. Enter with an open heart and you will grow in love of God and deepen your “knowing” of God and our beautiful Catholic Faith. The Discernment of Spirits class is excellent and most helpful to understanding spiritual movements in our soul and gives ideas for concrete and specific actions to take to navigate through the spiritual battles we will encounter. Honestly, words can not fully express the blessings of participation in these courses. I can only state: Highest recommendations!

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  • Fidelis-Mary O. Nwachukwu

    Discernment of Spirits is an awesome course good for all yearning for authentic spiritual guide. Through divine providence, Avila Institute has all the teachings it takes to witness the beatific vision after all ones struggles on earth. By his grace, I will make heaven. It never occur to me before that desolation can also be a great virtue that can lead one to heaven. After participating in the class, I am renewed and strengthened spiritually to forge ahead irrespective of the numerous obstacles being encountered in life. The course has made me to love God more intimately in my state of life and also to see everything he allows to be perfect.

    • Dylan Jedlovec

      I’m glad to hear it has impacted you so positively! I can completely agree with your testimony of the graces that come from learning to understand and appreciate desolation. Praise God for the wisdom of the Ignatian tradition!

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