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Freedom in Christ: Practicing Discernment of Spirits

Freedom in Christ

To learn more about Discernment of Spirits and the life of freedom in Christ, sign up for our upcoming webinar (online mini-course) on Saturday, February 18th.


Freedom in ChristLiving in Freedom through Discernment of Spirits

What chains or addictions are holding you back? We all have our own addictions, our own struggles that we can never seem to shake and keep us from living a life of freedom in Christ. For some, it doesn’t take much digging to know what plagues them. For others, it may take some searching to find in the depths of their heart the things that hold them back from living in the freedom of Christ in which they were created to live.

The struggle that holds me back the most is a struggle with negative thoughts. The battle with negativity can often impact my spiritual life. I can fall into the habit of buying into the lies of the devil and believe that God does not look out for my best interests. This is a lie from the pits of hell. When we believe the lies of the devil, it becomes ever so easy to run from prayer, when, in fact, we need to be running to prayer. In order to resist the temptation to negative thoughts, it is important to stay sober and vigilant as 1 Peter 5 instructs:

“Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.”

– 1 Peter 5:8-9

Being aware of the spiritual battle going on is the first step. Learning to practice discernment of spirits can help you identify the ways in which you can fall into negativity, or whatever it is that you struggle with the most. Once you identify the triggers, you can learn to combat them and continue on the path of freedom in Christ.

St. Philip Neri once said, “There is nothing the devil fears so much, or so much tries to hinder, as prayer.” The devil wants to hinder our prayer because he knows that a soul devoted to mental prayer is a soul safe in the hands of God. The devil wants us to stop praying when prayer gets dry. But the fact of the matter is we must push through dryness in order to progress in the spiritual life.

The spiritual life always involves s extent of fluctuation between consolation and desolation, comfort and aridity. St. Ignatius wrote extensively about this concept in his Spiritual Exercises, but this concept can be found in saints throughout the history of the Church. The more you read from the saints, the more you realize that they all experienced the patterns of consolation and desolation, but that didn’t stop them from pursuing God. Desolation reminds us of our spiritual poverty, our utter dependence on the grace of God. We cannot achieve sanctification or any sort of unity with God by our own efforts, but it does require our cooperation with the grace of God. He wants us to say yes to Him so that His grace can consume and transform us. How are you going to say yes to Him today?

We are offering an upcoming webinar on Discernment of Spirits on Saturday, February 18th at 8:00 PM Eastern/ 7:00 PM Central. This mini-course is a great opportunity to learn more about discernment of spirits and how to navigate your own spiritual life. I can testify from personal experience that learning about this great tradition of the Church can set you free. Although there will always be sin and suffering in this world, Discernment of Spirits can help you to break free of the chains that hold you back. With the help of this great tradition, we can begin to have a taste of the radical freedom in Christ about which St. Paul says:

“For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1

In Ephesians, St. Paul refers to the spiritual battle using the analogy of battle armor to tell Christians to resist the devil and his temptations.

“Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in the truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

– Ephesians 6:13-17

To enter into the spiritual life is to enter into a battle. Scripture makes this clear. What are you doing to prepare yourself for this battle? Are you equipped to fight the battle? Or are you failing to stay sober and vigilant, constantly on guard for the subtle ways the enemy seeks to creep in unnoticed?

The tradition of discernment of spirits can help us discover the riches laid out for us in Scripture. Scripture, Tradition, and mental prayer work together to help us to discover the depths of God and the reality of His presence in our lives. Living this reality is a beautiful experience that no one can take away from you. Living this battle is always worth it. The result is true freedom in Christ that the world cannot provide.

We sincerely hope you can join us for the Discernment of Spirits Webinar on February 18th. If you want to go even deeper, we will also be offering a course on Discernment of Spirits this summer at the Avila Institute, where you can also take exciting upcoming sources like Foundations of Prayer, Growth in Holiness, and Evangelization in the Spiritual Life to name a few. It’s free to apply for the School of Spiritual Formation, and you can take courses at your own pace, as few or as many as you desire.



Art: Resurrection, Corbert Gauthier, 2010, copyright, all rights reserved, used with permission; Individual stained glass detail of Archangel Michael, taken from Cathedral of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (Cathedral of Our Lady of Solitude – [Our Most Sorrowful Lady]) [Diocese of Acapulco], artist not identified, photographed by Enrique López-Tomayo Biosca, 15 February 2013, CCA-2.0 Generic, 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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  • Christine Dudych

    I realize the webinar is around the corner… not sure I can participate. But on re-reading this, I just wanted to point out a clarification from the Jesuit camp on consolation/desolation. Consolation is not always the ‘sweet feelings’, nor is desolation to be equated with dryness. Consolation is ‘what brings you closer to God’… and it may be the dryness that does that. Desolation is ‘what leads you away from God’… and it may be the ‘sweet feelings’, however imagined, that does this, if it leads us to expect them all the time, or leads us to think that, because we have them, we’ve ‘got it made’

  • LizEst

    Hi Christine! It is about 1 and a half hours. God bless you.

  • Christine Dudych

    Hmm…. Liz, is it too late to sign up?… I see on the form that a confirmation email should come within 24 hrs, but we’re well into that, now…

    I’m in Ontario, so I think that’s Central time.

    • LizEst

      Christine — No, it is NOT too late to sign up. If you sign up now, you will get a confirmation email with a link right away.

      I looked up Ontario time (as compares to US time zones) on the internet and it falls into two time zones Eastern and Central. Here is what was said:

      Central time zone: Ontario, northwestern:

      west of 90° West (except the Atikokan, New Osnaburgh and Pickle Lake areas, and the Shebandowan and Upsala areas)
      east of 90° West: Big Trout Lake area

      Eastern Time Zone: Ontario:

      east of 90° West (except the Big Trout Lake area), plus
      west of 90° West: Shebandowan and Upsala areas

      Hope that helps.

  • Christine Dudych

    I took a chance right after I wrote, and did get in. Your receipt didn’t account for the currency exchange, but I got that down for my records from my bank. (They actually called me to see if it was a legitimate transaction. 🙂 ) I’m in Toronto, so I’m pretty sure that’s Eastern… I was wrong about Central. I think that’s with Manitoba. In my mind, I meant Eastern.

    Thanks for answering promptly!

  • Christine Dudych

    a fourth… is it like skype?

    • LizEst

      No, it’s like on-line conferencing.

  • LizEst

    Hi again, Christine!

    I do not have the list of how many people are signed up at this point … so I don’t know how many there are.

    Oftentimes, there is a chat box in which you can type your question. It can be sent to all or to just the organizers (that would be Dan). You should preface it by saying that it’s a personal question and you do not want it shared with everyone.

    Oftentimes, Dan will mute everyone so no sound is heard except his voice. Sometimes–not always, after he is done speaking, he will unmute people individually so that individual people can ask a question. Usually, it is just Dan that you see in these webinars, unless he changes the setup.

    Hope that helps. And, I hope you enjoy the webinar!

    • Christine Dudych

      Thanks, Liz! I’m looking forward to it! 🙂

  • Christine Dudych

    Sorry for bothering you so much, Liz – but thank you, too!

    One last one… I was looking around for an address, an actual location, for the Avila Institute. Where is this all based? (I understand that the courses might all be online, but…)

    • LizEst

      It is not a bother, Christine, but a joy! Sorry to take so long responding…I’ve been back and forth to reconciliation and the Saturday evening Vigil Mass. Thus, the delay.

      The address for the Avila Foundation, under which falls the Avila Institute and, is: Avila Foundation, 1062 Grand Oaks Drive, Bessemer, AL 35022 So, if you wanted to write to the Avila Institute you could write to that address (using the Avila Institute name). We are hoping that someday we will also have a campus. For more on the Avila Institute, please see our site here: You can check out the programs, see the professors (and their academic qualifications), etc. I’ve taken many courses and the instruction is excellent, top-notch.

  • Christine Dudych

    Well, I did browse, and it looks good. But I’ve never done an online program before, and in truth, my current assignment might not allow for it, at this time. (I’m a religious Sister, secretary to my Provincial Superior. ) Even given that I have a bit more free time than I had at my last post, I’m hesitant to encourage myself to explore a whole new ministry at this point… should stay with what the Lord has asked me, through her! On the other hand, enrichment is good, and I can certainly set limits… and the online thing might allow for flex time! And it’s truly a treat to have a resource that is orthodox in its teachings!! (God bless twitter! that’s how I found you.)

    • LizEst

      Avila also offers scholarships. And, there are a certain number of religious, priests and sisters in the programs, from around the world. I recommend you take it to prayer, and to your spiritual director, and even your Provincial Superior. From a practical standpoint, having a bit more free time now might make it a good time to test the waters; but, you have to see what is best for you in your circumstances.

      Like you, I had never done an online program before! God bless you, Sr. Christine. I will say some prayers for you!

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