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Discerning the Will of God with St. Ignatius of Loyola

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.

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Art for this post on discerning the will of God with St. Ignatius of Loyola: 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 was formerly an Operations Administrative Assistant at the Avila Foundation, parent organization of SpiritualDirection.com, 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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