Sr. Margaret Michael Gillis, Vocations Director for the Daughters of St. Paul, is offering a daily discernment tip on video for National Vocations Awareness Week. Her first tip is an invitation to pray for vocations, and you may want to check out the rest through the week at the Daughters of St. Paul Facebook Page. (I’ll try to post them here as I can.)
In the meantime I wanted to share with you an app that teaches and reminds us how to do the examen, a wonderful discernment tool and spiritual practice. The examen is a wonderful way to listen to God’s invitations in our life, helping us to look over our day and to be aware of how God is acting in our life, and how we’ve responded. The examen comes to us from the famous expert on discernment, St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, who has influenced the Church greatly with his spirituality that focuses on discerning the will of God. One of the tools for discernment are his Spiritual Exercises–an in-depth retreat where the retreatant seeks to discover God’s will. A practical tool that everyone can use in everyday life is the examen of consciousness.
The examen is a bit like the examination of conscience–examining our thoughts, words, actions, and omissions at the end of every day, or before we go to confession. But the examen is a bit different. Rather than focusing on what we’ve done or haven’t done, the examen helps us to look over the day and focus on how God has invited us and worked in our lives during the day.
At http://www.theprodigalfather.org/ Father Michael Denk hosts the Examen App for iPhones, android phones, and tablets that can guide you through the examen–with written steps on the screen and videos. The app is free and contains a full explanation of how to pray the examen. It even has reminders that you can set so that you remember to take the time to pray the examen! If you have a moment, just visit his site now and download the app!
For those of you who don’t have a device with which to use the app, I’ll briefly share the steps of the examen below. Later, I’ll do a whole blog post on this powerful prayer and tool for discernment.
Steps for the Examen:
Note the gifts of love God has given this day; give thanks
Ask God for insight and an open heart; ask God to show you what God wants of you this day
With God, look over your day; pay attention to the stirrings of your heart; review your choices and responses
Accept the love and forgiveness God gives you
With God plan concretely how to live in accord with God’s desire for you
Journaling with the steps of the examen is very helpful, and Father Michael’s Examen app encourages you to do just that. For more explanations of the examen prayer, visit: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen/
What is discernment and why is it important?
In this blog, we’re talking about discernment in the Catholic spiritual tradition, which is a specific meaning different from the typical dictionary definition—“making a good judgment,” or “distinguishing between good and bad.” Discernment takes on its true importance when we understand what it is and what it is not. Discernment is not:
- Making a decision
- Magically becoming 100% sure of what God wants
- Receiving visions or hearing voices from God
- Rationally deciding what’s best to do
- Knowing God’s entire plan for my life
- Judging right from wrong*
*Note: God, who is all-good, can never desire evil; God can never desire that we do something that is wrong. If we are truly discerning, then we are deciding/choosing between two (or more) good things. If something is morally wrong, we may struggle with what to do, but we are making a moral judgment or choice, not a discernment.
So, what is discernment?
Choose the best definition of discernment.
a) a search for the will of God
b) the art of communication between God and us, the art of reciprocal understanding
c) the art of living in the Holy Spirit
d) the art of entering into a free relationship with all that exists
Which definition did you choose?
In my next post, I will share my favorite definition of discernment!
Turn your favorite definition of discernment into a prayer, and carry that prayer with you through the day (e.g., if your favorite definition is “Seeking the will of God,” then make this your prayer today: “Lord, help me to seek Your will”).