Several months ago, a reader noted that my favorite book about discernment, Discernment: Acquiring the Heart of God by Marko Ivan Rupnkik, SJ, is no longer available. Sadly, this is true—even used copies are quite expensive! None of the books I am going to recommend here—and there are many good ones—quite replace Father Rupnik’s book in scope and depth in one volume. However, there are some great resources out there that you can read (while waiting for my book, based on this blog, of course!)
Father Timothy Gallagher, OMV, shares his expertise on discernment and Ignatian spirituality in a style that is both lucid and deep. He is by far my favorite author on discernment! Father’s story-driven style makes it easy to understand how to apply Ignatian principles to our own lives, even when he is exploring more complex material. All of his books are excellent and helpful for growing in the spiritual art of discernment. The first book that I’d recommend is:
Discerning the Will of God: An Ignatian Guide to Decision Making
by Father Timothy M. Gallagher, OMV
A wonderful source of practical wisdom for seeking God’s will, based on the writings of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Full of examples and stories, Father Timothy Gallagher makes the wisdom of Saint Ignatius of Loyola accessible to the everyday person. In this book, he goes through Ignatius’s three “modes” of discernment, which are extremely helpful for us to see how God works in our lives in different ways. Not only does Father take us through the process of discerning in each mode, he begins the book by spending a significant amount of time showing us how to prepare to discern: the “foundation” of God’s loving will for us, an openness to God’s will, and the means to use in our preparation, such as the Eucharist, the Word of God, and spiritual direction.
If you’re looking for another, deeply Ignatian perspective on much of the material covered here in this blog, Discerning the Will of God is a great choice. (Available at any Pauline Books & Media Center in the USA or Toronto, Canada, and online at frtimothygallagher.org)
Awareness that God has created us out of love and ceaselessly offers that love us; a consequent thirst for communion of wills with the one who so deeply loves us; the consciousness that each of us can say with John Henry Newman, ‘He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another’; the desire to live like Jesus who always did the will of the One who sent him: This is the foundation of discernment. – Discerning the Will of God: An Ignatian Guide to Christian Decision Making, pp. 29-30
The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide to Everyday Living
by Father Timothy M. Gallagher, OMV
The Discernment of Spirits takes a deeper look at discernment by exploring the Rules of Discernment developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola, which are foundational to living Ignatian spirituality. This material is more complex than Discerning the Will of God, but Father Timothy makes it accessible through his clear explanations and examples of contemporary stories. A good follow-up to the previous book for those interested in going deeper into discerning God’s will in daily life, and how God helps us to discern through desolation and consolation. I highly recommend The Discernment of Spirits, which the website states is Father’s most popular book.
Father Gallagher has written a number of other books on Ignatian spirituality—including books on the Examen prayer, on praying with the Word of God, and further exploring of Ignatius’s Rules of Discernment He wisely provides a guide to all six of his books on Ignatian spirituality, which you can find by scrolling down this page: frtimothygallagher.org/books.
Called to Life by Father Jacques Philippe
This small book that provides a solid foundation for discerning one’s vocation and for discernment in every day life, especially developing our relationship with God, God’s desire for our happiness, our vocation as human beings, and listening to the call of God in the Word of God. This is a good start for someone on the path of discernment. Father Jacques Phillippe is a priest in the Community of the Beatitudes, and has become popular both in his accessible writings and retreats.
Every authentic vocation is a calling to live ever more fully. We should be wary of callings that may mask refusal to engage life, fear of love, flight from the body or feelings, or a lack of acceptance of human existence as it is. Accepting one’s calling should mean choosing a more intense, abundant way of life, not fear-driving flight, or a disguised choice of death, as can happen with some poorly discerned religious commitments. – Called to Life, pp. 24-25
He Speaks to You by Sr. Helena Burns, FSP
A daily meditation book that assists young women to enter into a daily conversation with Jesus about their lives, according to themes that draw the reader ever deeper into a personal relationship with Jesus. Monthly themes include: His Love, His Life, His Cross, His Will, His Family, His Majesty, His Ways, etc. The month of April (His Will), is dedicated to discernment, vocation and freedom. Sister Helena is a sister of my community, the Daughters of Saint Paul, and, in addition to her wonderful media work and her frequent presentations on the Theology of the Body, she has also dedicated years to assisting young women in discerning their call in life.
(From Jesus): My written word is your sure guide. It is enlightenment, consolation, and most of all, My love letter to you.
‘Thy word is a lamp to my feet and light to my path’ (Psalm 119:105).
God is always communicating. Always. If we can’t hear Him, perhaps we need to open our ears a little more! Perhaps we don’t like what He says and so we look for a different word from Him. Thus, He seems silent. The Apostle John says that all the books in the world couldn’t hold what God has done (and is doing and saying right now)!
‘I know the plans I have for you…to give you a future and a hope’ (Jer. 29:11). What clues do you have from God’s word about your future?
Dear Jesus, even Your “hard sayings” are good news because they have the power to heal and redeem me. Help me always experience Your word as good, helping me see the big picture. – He Speaks to You, p. 98 (April 5)
Two more titles that you might find helpful are:
The Art of Discernment: Making Good Decisions in Your World of Choices by Stefan Kiechle
A basic, practical, and easy-to-use book about discernment that is focused on decision-making. The approach is Ignatian and includes many quotes from people in discernment or in the middle of making a decision.
Close to the Heart: A Practical Approach to Personal Prayer by Margaret Silf
Author Margaret Silf writes about Ignatian spirituality and Christian prayer for the every day person, from a “real life” perspective. Along with prayer, discernment is beautifully covered in this book that helps the reader who is just starting out in the spiritual life to grow in their relationship with Christ. (Note: Although Margaret Silf no longer considers herself Catholic but Christian, her way of making Ignatian spirituality accessible for the everyday person is still widely regarded.)