FROM THE PROVINCIAL'S DESK
My dear friends in the Lord,
July is a very special month for us, when we celebrate the Feast of our Founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola. Happy feast to one and all. One of the ways to celebrate this feast of our founder is to reflect on our charism. One of the hallmarks of our way of proceeding is Discernment of God's will. St. Ignatius used this tool to find God's will before making any important decision. He left this legacy for us in the Spiritual Exercises. He proposes two methods of discernment of God's will. The Affective Method of consolations and desolations and the Rational Method of reasons for and against. Both have to be practiced in the context of prayer. In the Spiritual Exercises, he gives us Rules for the Discernment of spirits, one set suitable for the 1st week (numbers 313-327) and another set suitable for the 2nd week (numbers 328-336).
We are all aware of all this, have used it during our Long Retreats, both in the Novitiate and in Tertianship, we appreciate it and use the term quite freely. However, I've noticed that in a number of cases, there is some discussion, some airing of views, but not discernment as Ignatius envisioned it, to find what the Lord wants us to do in this particular instance. We like the idea of greater participation, wider discussions on various issues, but at the end, some of us, on some occasions, fall short of this ideal. We tend to give our opinion, based on our previous experience or impression, often based on hearsay. We do not ask detailed questions to know all the aspects about a situation, for us to make a proper discernment. At times, when we pick up the feeling that this or that individual wants badly what he is asking for, we tend to give in to the desire of the person, without much thought. The affective method does not seem to be practiced.
Discernment is a great instrument. But it requires openness to listen to others and to the promptings of God's spirit. I strongly urge everyone to make concerted efforts to inculcate the spirit of discernment to find what God wants us to do. I expect that all of us, especially those who lead discussions, to make sure that background studies are done and the topic is presented in depth. I expect all to ask questions to know the situation as best as can be. I expect everyone to reflect and express both positive and negative aspects of the issue. I expect all to listen with an open mind to all the opinions that are expressed without trying to shut up those who express opinions contrary to one's way of thinking. Having done this, I expect all to spend some time in prayer to find out what the Lord wants us to do and only then express one's opinion. Remember, the affective method is as valid as the rational one.
I am aware that if there is no culture of discernment, this is bound to appear to be tedious, long process. In some minor cases that do not have a lasting impact, you may not want to go into discernment but only get the opinion of the persons concerned. Keeping that in mind, I suggest that those who organize meetings and set the agenda, clearly make this distinction: topics for discussion and topics for discernment. When a topic is placed on the agenda for discussion, all may zero in to give their opinion, based on their experience and knowledge. when a topic is for discernment, I expect all to follow the process of discernment proper, either affective or rational.
In the recent past, I've noticed that people have given opinion based on mere request to give opinion, without asking for proper information from knowledgeable persons. Keeping this in mind, I ask everyone to consider this vital and help create an atmosphere of discernment so that all of us may look for and find God's will and become effective instruments in His hands.
May the Lord help us to achieve this goal for the greater glory of God and salvation of all.
A. M. D. G.