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Spiritual Discernment

Books by Theme

A divine inspiration cannot ask us to do something that contradicts what the Word of God teaches and asks of us. This means not the Word of God as compiled by each individual’s fantasy and interpretation, but Holy Scripture as transmitted and explained by the teaching authority of the Church. For example, a divine inspiration cannot ask me to commit acts that the Church considers immoral. In the same way, true inspirations always go in the direction of a spirit of obedience to the Church.
- In the School of the Holy Spirit, p.47

The Holy Spirit may encourage a mother to be somewhat less occupied with her household cares so that she can dedicate some time to prayer. But if he suggested to her that she should spend so much time in contemplation that her husband and children suffered, there would be good reason to question the source of this inspiration.
- In the School of the Holy Spirit, p.48

The most important criterion for discerning divine inspirations is the one that Jesus himself gives us in the Gospel: “A tree is known by its fruit.” An inspiration from God, if we follow it, will produce sound fruit: the fruits of peace, joy, charity, communion, and humility. An inspiration that comes from our flesh or from the devil will be sterile or even bear the negative fruits of sadness, bitterness, pride, and the like.
- In the School of the Holy Spirit, p.49

We will find it much easier to discern the action of the Holy Spirit if we have the possibility of opening our hearts to someone who can give us spiritual guidance. Very often we cannot see clearly into ourselves, or discern our motivations, and light will come when we put what we are living through into words, talking to someone experienced in the spiritual life.
- In the School of the Holy Spirit, p.43

If an inspiration truly comes from God, and we silence our fears and consent to it wholeheartedly, in the end we shall be filled with irresistible peace; for the Holy Spirit will not fail to produce such peace in those who allow themselves to be led by him. This peace sometimes dwells only in the very deepest part of the soul, while questions and worries remain at the human and psychological level, but it is there and it is recognizable.

By contrast, if an inspiration comes from the devil or from our own ambitious, selfishness, exaggerated need for being recognized by others, and so forth, and we consent to it, it can never leave our heart in total, deep peace. Any peace it does bring will only be superficial, and will soon disappear, to be replaced by disturbance. We may refuse to acknowledge this disturbance and relegate it to the depths of our minds, but it is still there, ready to reemerge at the moment of truth.
- In the School of the Holy Spirit, p.53

Is God’s will always the choice that is most difficult? God’s will, and hence the inspirations of his grace, obviously often go in the opposite direction from our immediate tendencies, in the sense that our tendency is often toward the desire for selfish comfort, ease, laziness, and so on. St. John of the Cross tells us, in a celebrated passage: “Let the soul apply itself ceaselessly not to what is easiest, but to what is most difficult . . ., not to what pleases, but to what displeases.”

He is not wrong to say this, in that context. But we should not interpret his maxims wrongly, or take as a systematic rule for discerning God’s will the principle that in any given situation what he asks of us will always be what is most difficult. That would make us fall into an exaggerated ascetical voluntarism that had nothing to do with the freedom of the Holy Spirit. We might even add that the idea that God is always asking us for what we find most difficult is the kind of thought that the devil typically suggests in order to discourage people and turn them away from God.

God is a Father, and he is certainly a demanding one because he loves us and invites us to give him everything; but he is not an executioner. He very often leaves us to our free choice. When he requires something of us, it is to help us grow in love. The only commandment is to love. We can suffer for love, but we can also rejoice in love and rest in love. It is a trap of our imagination or of the devil to picture a life spent following God as something imprisoning, in complete, constant contradiction with all our own desires, even the most legitimate ones.
- In the School of the Holy Spirit, pp. 55-56

When the suggestion that comes to us isabout much more important things—a vocation, a change of direction in our life, choices that may have serious repercussions on other people, or else something that clearly goes beyond the habitual rule of life for the vocation we have received—then it is essential not to decide anything without submitting that inspiration to a spiritual director or a superior.
- In the School of the Holy Spirit, p.62

We should also realize that certain movements that are apparently good (because their object seems good) may not be so in reality, but may in fact come from the devil, who is cunning and sometimes impels us to do something that, although it appears good, would be contrary to God’s will for us and would produce harmful results in our lives.
- In the School of the Holy Spirit, p.42

Nine Days to Rediscover the Joy of Prayer Jacques Philippe
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