“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…”
Thursday, 15 October 2020
One of the ways of praying about our decision is to use our imagination prayerfully and to notice our feelings. For example, if I am trying to decide between continuing to teach in a school, or whether to study to become a special needs teacher, I can spend a number of days imagining that I have decided for the one option and another few days imagining that I have opted for the alternative. As I do so, I notice how I feel. Especially in my times of prayer, I pay particular attention. Which option stirs in me a greater sense of faith, hope and love?
St Ignatius of Loyola discovered this way of noticing when he was recuperating after a battle in Pamplona in which he was severely injured. As he lay recovering, Ignatius recognised that when he thought about one future possibility for his life in the service of God, he felt deep and consistent joy and peace. Thinking about the alternative of a life of worldly ambition, though it felt exciting at first, ultimately left him feeling desolate and dry. As he moved back and forth between the two options, he noticed that that pattern of alternating feelings remained constant. When he reflected on this, he recognised that God speaks to us in and through our feelings.
In discerning (making a life-changing decision), we also need to use reason and intellect. There can be occasions where we do not have much intensity of feeling when praying with a particular decision. It can help to draw up four columns. Look first at option A -what are the advantages and disadvantages. Look then at option B alongside it and list the advantages and disadvantages. Don’t just look at how many advantages and disadvantages there are in each column. Sift and weigh them. Take them into your heart to heart conversation with God.