The notion of spiritual discernment is not new to the spiritual life of Catholics. It has been part of our spiritual heritage for a very long time. Discernment is the key way we judge reality as it exists, and how I am a protagonist in this reality. One of the spiritual masters of the contemplative life is Saint Ignatius of Loyola who, as you know, placed great emphasis on spiritual discernment. This is seen in his classic manner of leading persons to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ in what is known as the Spiritual Exercises as lived in the 30-day silent retreat, or the 8-day retreat or some shorter form of retreat. The Exercises is more of an experience of grace than a text; it is a method, a journey rather a destination; discernment means having an experience greater sense of freedom in Christ than a decision maker.
The election of a new Pope, man who has been formed in Jesuit and Ignatian spirituality has consequently brought to us renewed interest in the difficult, exacting and yet rewarding manner of knowing and living God’s will and living in the Divine Presence now. We know that our happiness on earth as in heaven has been promised to us by the Lord Jesus himself. You may want to contemplate the biblical narrative of the hundredfold to see what Christ indicates.
The other night on EWTN’s program with Father Mitch Pacwa, SJ, a new program, the Sacred Story Institute, was discussed and the conversation gave me a solid impression that what is proposed herein is very much worth our critical attention. Poke around the website (link given above) and you’ll find some interesting and useful stuff. The work of Sacred Story is clearly about the new evangelization but it is more: it is about meeting Jesus personally through the gift of life given to us by God the Father. If the goal is gain more people in the pews, then don’t bother; the spiritual life is not a program. If you want to know Christ in a personal way with the concomitant desire to be His disciple, then look no further.
Here is my recommendation: watch what Jesuit Father William Watson says as he introduces the Sacred Story Institute here. You may want to order a copy of Watson’s book, Forty Weeks: An Ignatian Path to Christ with Sacred Story Prayer. One valid piece of criticism I can offer is it can be perceived to rely on psychology a little too much. Fair enough. There are points in the work that gives the impression that seems to give too much preference to psychology than to spirituality. Perhaps this is a point in further revisions of the text as they do some beta testing.
It seems to me that if you want to be mature Christians, then you ought to take advantage of the work of this Institute.