By Brother Sean Barry, SJ
Ignatius’ Recuperation at Castle Loyola
When you’ve got a big decision to make, how do you make it? Do you trust your gut instincts? Do you consult with others? Do you pray and reflect on it? Each of us has developed our own methodology, and St. Ignatius can provide us with some important insights.
Last time, we looked at the literal cannonball moment that changed the course of Ignatius’ life. After the Battle of Pamplona, the French victors were impressed by his valor and bravery, and they carried Ignatius back home to Loyola, Spain, where he began his recovery.
Ignatius wanted to read books of great adventurers and valiant knights, but his family had no such books. Instead, he could read The Life of Christ or The Lives of the Saints, a far cry from what he desired. Still, he read them, and Ignatius started to notice a change in how he felt.
As a man with a lot of time on his hands, Ignatius started to daydream about what his future could be. Ignatius envisioned himself as a knight. He also considered what it would be like to follow in the footsteps of great saints, namely Francis and Dominic. When Ignatius daydreamed about being in the first group, he found himself excited at first but later he felt empty. But when he daydreamed about being a great saint, he continued to feel life and energy long afterwards.
Ignatius was tapping into what we call discernment. In trying to determine what to do with his life, Ignatius paid attention to how he felt God was calling him. In our own lives, we make big decisions, and following Ignatius’ example, we can use discernment to help make them. Below, I have listed a seven-step process for Ignatian discernment.
1. Identify the decision to be made.
2. Pray for openness to God’s will.
3. Gather information.
4. Weigh the pros and cons of each decision.
5. Reflect on those pros and cons.
6. Ask for peace and clear thinking.
7. Make the decision, even if you’re taking a risk.
Points for Reflection:
• How can the rules of discernment help you in making a big decision?
• Is there a step that is more natural or one that is more difficult? Why?
• How would prayerfully including God in your decision-making process change things?