Dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises Lecture 7: Making an Election in the Context of the Exercises

Dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises Lecture 7: Making an Election in the Context of the Exercises


(indistinct chatter) – Tonight we’re going to
talk about the election and discernment of
spirits within the context of the exercises. The existential context
of the Ignation Election is important. What does that sentence mean? Existential context. It means the way the exercises take place in the actual giving and receiving of the retreat experience. It’s not what somebody reads
in the spiritual exercises, it’s what some man or woman
does in the spiritual exercises. So existential is distinguished from what? Intellectual, abstracted, borrowed experience, okay? So it’s not something you
read about or someone else has told you about. It’s what you yourself undergo. Your experience is existential experience, existence, what’s in the real. So the context actually
going through the exercises is very important when you talk about discernment of spirits. And then what is that context? We’ve been looking at
it throughout the series of reflections together. Well it’s a context that
emerges from prayer. What kind of prayer? Well, meditation, contemplation, ignation repetitions, application of senses, the daily examine, and lithurgical worship would be examples of what we mean by prayer. So prayer is what? Not unifical but analogical. It’s not only one way of praying but there are many ways of praying, many ways of approaching union with God. A part of that context is also silence. Silence, as you know, not
only physical silence, I don’t talk, but psychological silence,
I’m centered, I’m focused. Spiritual silence, I am
searching for the face of God. It’s not the absence of
but the leaning towards, the searching for, the quest for. And focus. During the weeks of the exercises remember how Ignatius says
when you’re in the first week don’t start thinking of the second week. And when you’re in the infancy narratives, don’t push baby Jesus to
become an adult too soon. In other words do progressively if you want to experience developmentally. You move along where you
are, that’s the focus. So the whole idea of going
through weeks in the exercises of all the paraphernalia of first prelude and second prelude, the points, is gradually to get you
into your own focus, your own way of centering on what it is that god is presenting to you at this time as a vehicle for understanding the way God wants to work within
your life as you live it. Not as somebody else lives it or not as someone else has told you to live it, but as you live it. All that is that context of the exercises which is done so peacefully and with such regard for the freedom of a woman or a man making the exercises that you can forget the very sophisticated layers of reality that are making up that experience. Now they constitute what I would call the culture of the exercises, the symbols, the signs,
the values, the realities, that make up the life of the exercises, that’s what we mean by culture. There were questions that
people would ask sometimes, why do we have the two standards? Well after you’ve done the
exercises and made them you can think of other ways of representing the two standards, but the symbol and the two standards, the allegory itself begins
to yield meaning to you and you realize that the
exercises are a culture, a way in which the life of
symbol becomes important too. Things stand for realities
greater than themselves, deeper than themselves, multifarious than themselves. So there is, in a sense, a poetry of the exercises
not in terms of its language but more in terms of its
movement that allows you to see the levels and layers
of significance and meaning. Now you can’t force people to do this. It’s something that moves
throughout the exercises. We say, why are you
spending so much time on opening it up, this idea of the culture? Because you can’t have discernment unless you got the culture. Discernment is not a mechanical exercise that you impose on reality. It’s an establishment of a reality in which discernment
emerges from that reality. It’s part of the reality. It’s not the questions
other people give you, it’s your questions that
trigger off discernment. That’s why you have a
conference with somebody else. Now to find out what you should think but in order to uncover and to ruminate with someone else about
what’s actually happening, what are the movements
as Ignatius would say in the exercises. Now concomittant, going along with this structural context or culture, is the personal appropriation of the one making the retreat. You’ve got the culture there
as a person moves in to it, that man or woman takes on this rhythm so that there are how many ways to make the first week of the exercises? As many ways as there are people. There’s not one way. And if people say to you,
“Am I doing this right?” You know that they’re not because they’re looking
over their shoulder and you want them to lose the sense of trying to perform
mechanically and begin to, what? Experiment, move independently, find their own attractions, and really believe, for example, when Ignatius says stop
where you find fruit, he really means stop, don’t go on. But if I come back and tell my director that I haven’t finished
this whole exercise and I stayed at this one part, when I fail the course, the answer’s no, it’s
not that kind of reality. All of those are appropriations, allowing the reality to become yours, yours, okay? That is by this appropriation,
the way a man or woman has developed so that annotation 15, when the creator and Lord reveals Himself to the man or woman making the retreat, then the one who is guiding
that man or woman in the retreat should get out of the picture and let God deal directly
with that person, and that person deal directly with God. That’s not a one time experience, although its intensity can
be focused on one time. But it’s a pervasive ethics of the spiritual exercises that you find where God is leading
you and you follow it. And the rhythm that this
implies, of personal grace, what does that mean? The way grace, the giftedness of God’s relatedness to you, the
way God through some idea, some movement, some insight, some experience, some effectivity pulls you towards God, and accountability to the guide. They have become habitual. Accountability to the guide, be careful of that phrase. I don’t mean that you’re
pleasing the guide, I mean you are forthright
and honest and truthful in the way in which you depict and narrate your experience to the one who walks with you so that he or she knows what’s going on. Now I can’t overemphasize for you that without this culture or
environment of discernment you can’t discern. So when people say, I would
like you to help me discern, you start saying, well,
can you pray every day? They say no, but I’d like to discern. I say, no you don’t. Until you want to pray every
day you’re not gonna discern. You can mechanically go through things but you’re not gonna be attuned to how your interior life
is being touched by God, your memory, your intellect,
your will, your affections. You need space and time for that, okay? Otherwise you reduce
discernment again to a tool. And it’s not that. It is an instrument but it’s a whole complex of your reacting to the overtures of God in prayer. This personal rhythm leads
the one making the retreat to ask anew what have I done for Christ, what am I doing for Christ, what will I do for Christ. Those were the three questions
in the first exercise of the first week when
before Christ in the cross we asked that question. It wasn’t only for one time, but the substance of
that question reappears, recurs again and again as
you make the exercises. Or given what I know now about who I am and who Christ is through my prayer, how will I follow him authentically? How will I follow him? Okay. That choice is the Ignation Election. Election means a decision made in light of an ultimate relationship but touching all the relationships of my life. What does that mean? It means I make a choice because I realize this is what God is
inviting me to be or to do. And if I become or do
this it’s going to have an impact at all the other
things I do in my life. It’s gonna change my
lifestyle in some way, okay? Can it just change this little part? And I say well then it’s
probably not an election. It might be a decision. But an election is a powerful response to the way God calls you and it’s gonna touch
other parts of your life. If you reaffirm for example
that you really wish to be deeply married, not simply going through the conventions but knowing all you know now which you did not know when
you first got married about your spouse and the ups
and downs of married life, the hard days and the good days, and suddenly in prayer you find a deeper saying of yes, a deeper saying of yes, then that’s gonna touch all your life, the way you talk about your spouse, the way you treat your spouse, the way you interpret, the way the spouse reacts and interacts with you, the children that are
part of this relationship, you begin to realize in a
different dimensional way are gifts from God. All of those things get nuanced, changed, but they are impacted
by the election itself. So the task of the guide or the companion, the one who gives the exercises, is to guide this decision and
then I would underscore this, not to make it or suggest
that that decision what that decision should be. It’s not the job of a guide or a director. Is all about you making the retreat and God, the treasurer of the retreat, to be found and come together. Now, where did this ignation
teaching on discernment come from? First it came from
Christian tradition itself and it’s important to understand that. Now here’s where Mike Buckley begins and it’s a little dense
but we’ll unpack it, but it’s so good and it brings so much theological nuance together that we’d like you to have it. All human beings who search for God want God to guide their lives and Christians have
been taught normatively to expect to be guided by the spirit. All human beings, not just Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, something in a person’s humanity, all those who search for God, even if they don’t know
what the name of God is, they want God to guide their lives. They want to have some sense
of where they’re going. You can have for example
a non-believing alcoholic who is caught in the goodness of new life through Alcoholics
Anonymous talking to you about a higher power and that meaning God in the sense that you think of God, but an ideal, an inspiration, a desire to do good and to be good, but it’s higher, it’s bigger
than the life I’ve been leading and it judges the life I’ve been leading. It gives direction to the life I’m leading even though I might not call it God. Okay, that’s what Buckle’s
getting on the first part. Then notice how he changes this. And Christians among those human beings have been taught normatively to expect to be guided by the spirit. Normatively means it is the norm, it is the law of the life of a Christian to be guided by the spirit. For freedom Christ sent
you free, set you free, Galatians 5:1. What does that mean? That freedom is the power of
the spirit working within me to choose what is the good
God wishes me to embrace. That’s a norm. It’s not a law that we follow. It’s a graced instinct that propels us. After a while when you’re
driving a car and you see a green light and you
go through the light, or you see a red light and you stop, you are normatively
abiding by the signals. But it’s become so much apart of your life that it’s not a question
of obeying the law, it’s a question of keeping alive. And there’s a difference. You’re not mechanically stopping because you don’t want to get a ticket, although that could be true too, but you’re basically stopping ’cause you don’t want the car to get wrecked or you to get exiled into nothing. Such expectations both of a
person and of the church itself tend to put great emphasis
upon religious experience. So, you know, if you
say you’re guided by God you’re beginning to talk
about religious experience. Go back to what we said at the beginnning of the first paragraph,
existential context, that’s the experience,
what’s happening in life. And t hat means, and here’s a description of religious experience
that Buckley gives, an abiding interaction with God. Interaction. God speaks to me, I speak to God. Where do you have an example of that again and again in the exercises? In the colloques. That’s an interactive prayer. Where God engages affectively. I feel love, I feel discomfort. I feel attraction, I feel withdrawal. I feel the perfection, I feel repugnance. You name these but the
naming of it doesn’t give you the experience,
you feel the experience. That’s affectivitity, affect, the emotions, the emotions. And awareness reflecting on
this is what the emotion is. Think of the sophisticated reality when we begin to name our affections. Are you afraid? Are you eager? Are you hopeful? Are you repulsed? Are you turned on or are you turned off? That’s a reflective act in which you name and identify what
has moved you, okay? Those are two different things. Understanding in which you look at that being able to name a reality
and say it has a history. I have felt like this before. Or I remember reading about this and this is what it must mean. Or someone told me about it and I know now what they were talking about. So awareness is being able to name it and understanding is
able to give it a context in which I relate it to
other times when it’s I or others have had this
same kind of movement. And that leads to choice. I will go with this, I
will run away from this. I will embrace this, I
will thrust it from me. Prayer and action. Reflecting on how God works in this in order that I might do something, intimate personal relationships, ecclesial solidarity in the
entire life of the community. So there is throughout the exercises then a gathering of more and more rich, dense understanding of the ways in which God is moving through my memory, my intellect and my will. For what I can recall
that’s happened before. I have an understanding
of what it means now in a new context and I can see how it influences the way I
should move in the future. All that richness, that density are some of the reasons why people who have no religious affiliation, when they get into
understanding a little bit about the exercises will talk about
the psychological acumen of Ignatius, the insight he had into the way the human mind and heart work. There’s no place in the exercises where all of this comes
to a focus more intensely than when a man or woman
making the exercises begins to say, what do I do about this? What is God asking of me? And that’s why as a director we walk in sacred territory when we come into this communication of the richness and density of how God is working
within a woman or man leading them to some choice, to be or to do something out
of this religious experience. Now this emphasis becomes temptation, the emphasis on experiential stuff becomes temptation, something that could lead me away from rather than to God only under the persuasion
that the intensity of experience dissolves
one from discretion, critical reflection and
the doctrinal content of Christian faith. What is Buckley saying there? It’s dangerous territory because the very intensity of the experience can sometimes be translated as what I have to do overwhelmingly so that I
choose out of what I feel what I should be or what I should do. A kid praying in a retreat
before the crucifix. And finding day after day that he or she is moved to really wanting to serve God and suddenly thinks the only way I could do that is by being a nun, a priest or a brother. And they come to you, what do you do? You test that spirit. That’s not at all an unusual experience. But you don’t base a life decision on it. You need more time, you
need more sifting out of the influences. You need more data in
the person’s own life in the way that person
could communicate that than you have right now. That would be an example. Trivial it looks like but it isn’t. This emphasis doesn’t
absolve you from discretion. Can you do this? Can you do this? Should you do this now? Do you have enough
experience, talent, energy, stamina to do it? I like to be a trappist. Do you know anything about them? No, but it sounds good. You see what I mean? This happens. But what happens in life
frequently enough is people say we’re in love, I can just
feel it and I know it. Do you know anything about him? Do you know anything about her? Have you met their families? What’s the mother like? What’s the father like? What do you share with one
another besides attraction? I said I know against you at being sexual or being
attractive or feeling good. I just don’t think you
make a decision on that. Those are two different realities. How many of us overeat
because it looks good, it tastes good, and therefore
it must be good, huh? No, it must be bad as
one of my doctors said. If it tastes good, father,
it’s probably not good for you. Well that’s all you mean by discretion. When the force of an appetite clouds our decision-making apparatus. Critical reflection. What do I know about this? What are the constitutive elements of what I’m thinking I’m going to do? What do I know about this
person, this movement? And the doctrinal content
of Christian faith, this is a tricky one, but what it means is
God generally does not undercut God’s own revelation. I know that really stealing is wrong. I know what the church
teaches about stealing. But this is different because I’m special. A lot of people had that reasoning. I’m smarter than others,
I know more about it, it’s stealing now but I’ll
pay it back some other day. It’s the lack of critical
reflection there. And so in this experience
it gives experience a priority over the unspeakable mystery that approaches human
beings through experience. That’s a very important phrase. Tony came over and said I don’t know what you’re saying here. I’m not saying it, Mike
Buckley’s saying it, but it’s very important and
I had to do the same thing. What you’re looking for in
experience in the retreat is the unspeakable, I can’t find the words
to describe that mystery, that higher power, that limitless horizon, that deep love that I experience, the enigma of Jesus that calls me out from the centuries and
is not just a result of conditioning by other
religious thinkers. But what I’ve discovered in my own prayer that draws me to follow him, all of those are instances of mystery. Mystery doesn’t mean an unsolved problem. It means what Lan Ingram would call the limitless searching for truth. The limitless searching for truth, the deepest affection of my heart that I can’t quite explain. And all of that approaches human beings, that mystery through experience. It’s the only way God comes. Moses had to see a burning bush, Moses had to hear the voice. Moses had to understand he had to take his sandals off. All of these were conditions involving touch, sight, sound, through which the mystery was God spoke and made its appearance to Moses. But does how the voice in
the bush describe itself? I am who I am. God is our word. God is just I’m being, I’m (mumbles). I’m just whatever reality finally is, that’s who I am. Now if Moses said, I got it. God is a burning bush. I got it, God doesn’t
want us to wear shoes. I got it, every voice I hear
must be God speaking to me. It’s subtle. But what you find in
that epiphany in Exodus is an act of discernment. God is teaching Moses how to discern. I’m not the bush, I’m in the bush. You hear a voice but
it’s not really who I am. It’s me talking to you
but that’s not who I am, and I do want you to know
that this is sacred space because I want you to take
what I’m saying seriously but doesn’t got anything to do about whether or not you’re gonna
be calloused or uncalloused. And the danger is that you
transfer this religious guidance of a single person
or of an entire community to an unchallengeable subjectivity. That (mumbles) did. Very good people who took a purchase on what it was to be Catholic deny the reflection of the church and Vatican too and said
it doesn’t apply to us, it’s a meandering from orthodoxy. It took itself out of
the body of the church to create its own church. But people say, but
are they living better? No, they’re probably
living very good lives. Probably praying very intensely. But doing it by severing themselves from the life which is the church. Messy, dirty, full of political
shenanigans but still church. Underneath it there’s a mystery there. If you’re looking for the
pure reality that will have nothing that will ever disturb you, then you’re not looking for
the church that God found because it’s the people of God. And there are all kinds. And once you look only
for the pure, the good, and the smart, you’ve
already exiled yourself from the human race and there’s no church without the human race. I don’t care what some folks say. It’ll be better when
the church is smaller. We’ll have people that will really do, I want it just be
smaller, won’t be better. Just be smaller. The church is messy. Church is struggling. And if we don’t have people that we learn to forgive as part of the
church then we don’t know what church forgiveness is. So there’s a lot of stuff
here that Mike Buckley’s getting out as important. Our sentimentality, well I hate to use it
’cause my grandmother was terrific, but I remember
as a kid my grandmother saying benediction is the next thing to heaven. It means more to me than mass. Then I said, oh, grandma
you can’t say that the mass is most important to you. You think whatever you want. I still like benediction better than mass. Well, that sentimentality, but boy I wasn’t gonna touch it. Or superstition. Superstition. Baseball players who
haven’t been to a church in about 10 years will
still cross themselves before they approach the plate. That’s superstition. It’s not like people go oh
look he crossed himself. Yeah, I said, he probably
wore his lucky jack strap. It doesn’t have anything
to do with religiosity. It’s superstition. Or excited enthusiasms. Everybody jumps on the bandwagon. Kill the Jews. Kill the Jews, they’re Christ killers. People have used that enthusiasm to do all kinds of horrible things. None of that, and that’s what
this sermon cuts through, it’s cleaning up the influences so that the purity of God’s intention can become my intention. God wants me to be a loving person. What is the loving choice I
make in these circumstances that’s clean? Love the Lord your God with
all your mind and heart and soul and your neighbor as yourself. The hardest commandment there
is because we keep unpacking and trying to find out what it means. But once in a while when
you live it and discover it, it’s clean. You know what it means. The sense of ambiguity of the tension between longing and temptation, I long for God and then I gradually long for a God that I made after my
own image and likeness. Remember how we began these reflections and the exercises? The temptation to make a God of your own image, false gods. It’s found both in Paul line
and Johanna in the analogy. In the earliest canonical
documents of the church, Paul directs the Christian community, do not quench the spirit, do not despise prophetic utterances, but test everything, retain what is good. That’s discernment. You honor the experience. You test the experience. And you look for that
experience to give you guidance. The first letter of John counsels, beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God
because many false prophets have gone out into the world. So religious experience is almost always an equivocal reality,
inherently ambiguous. You may see, what do you mean. I don’t know whether this
experience leads me here or there. I don’t know whether it’s from God or a part of it is from God and part of it is something
that I then impose on this experience without
really sorting it out as well as I should. Every Christian freedom for example can be twisted into a pretext for evil. All influences need to
be tested prayerfully to determine their authenticity, and to meet this need the
community must be gifted with a discernment of spirits. Why owe it so much time? ‘Cause there’s nothing new that Ignatius is saying about a tradition. He’s adding to the tradition,
reflecting on the tradition, working within the tradition, bui he is true to a tradition
that is part of our heritage that God will work in our lives, God will move us, God will guide us, God will impel us towards a way of acting, but we still are required what? To test out what is of God
and what is not of God. What is of God, what is not of God. Second, right at the bottom of the page. From the personal experience
of Ignatius of Loyola is narrated in the act
or the autobiography which recapitulates this older and wider Christian tradition
and inspires and guides the teaching of the exercises, his letters and the constitution. So we have a tradition there. How does this discernment operate within the spiritual exercises? First discernment lies within the dynamics of Christ life choices. Christ is presented by Ignatius
as the great discerner. In many ways the second
week is not reflecting, not contemplations of the life of Christ. You don’t have everything Christ did in the gospels
repeated in the second week of the exercises. But you do have pivotal
moments of his decision making, pivotal moments of his decision making in the second week of the exercises. And that’s why when people use other gospel things, that’s good to do, but you have to make sure that there are other gospel things that highlight the decision making of Jesus. So within our prayer of looking at Christ and at his ministry, that’s narrated in the gospel, we see Christ the discernment. Discernment is part of
the gospel contemplation that Ignatius proposes to
the one making the exercises. That’s one reality. By looking at Christ we
learn what discernment is. Who do people say that I am? Was that a real question or
was it just a phony question Jesus was asking so he’d
be self-dramatizing? I believe with Rona and Lanagan that the humanity of
Jesus were developmental, that the mystery of his
godhood was embedded in this reality and gradually
his self-consciousness of who he was was revealing itself to him as I think most people
got a better and better idea as they move through
life, who they are, what they are meant to be, what really is their authenticity. So I think the question to Jesus was real, they’re kind of catching something there. I really need to know for
the people who watch me and been with me and heard me and seen me, what is God saying to you about me because that’s gonna be helpful to me. And I think that’s what good people do when they’re discerning. They try to get a picture
of how they come across. That’s why we fill out forms that evaluate people for a job or for ordination or for marriage. They get some idea of how
others read what we think we are and get another view of who we are. Second in a series of pastoral directives called introduction to
the making of an election, and notably the two sets
of rules for discernment, and that’s what we’re
gonan go through right now. There are two sets of rules, the first set of rules has 14. Regular doesn’t mean you
have to obey these laws, they’re reflections on a
way in which one can move given two different context. The first we context is you
can have two kinds of people in the first week. Those who are trying to get
out of basically a sinful life and live a better life, and those who have been
leading a pretty good life but wanna lead a more
reflective, more dedicated Christian life. Both of them fall under what we call the first week experience. And so you find two kinds of rules in this 14 rules of the
first week of the exercises. And then in that paragraph I lay out the ways in
which that can be worked. What is important there is the difference between consolation and desolation, rules three and rules four. Consolation is marked not
by intensity of feeling, that calls attention
to something happening. But consolation is marked by the direction of that feeling, where does it lead you to, where does it lead you to. Same for desolation. Consolation leads you to
God and the things of God desolation leads you to away from God and away
from the things of God. It’s as simple as that. Now sorting in alchemy
very difficult sometimes. A person can say, I know
I’ve been in desolation. I have felt very lonely. I felt that I’m doing a
lot of things by myself, and I keep going to God
and asking for help. That is probably one of the most complex statements that you can have. Is that consolation or desolation? I don’t know. If it’s leading you to
God that’s consolation. If you feel restless and
fidgety and self-doubts, that can be desolation. So when you’re working with somebody you better be careful about how you spread these two apart. You don’t say, oh, that’s desolation. Don’t let it bother you. No, bother. I think it should bother you that you don’t wanna lose God, but you feel kind of uneasy about it all. And you just go on and probe and say why, what is it that you don’t
wanna bring before God and you wanna say? And sometimes you’ll
find the person will talk and finally say I’m afraid
of what God will ask of me. So I want God, I wanna be with God, but I don’t want God to ask me anything. That’s not infrequent. Not infrequent. And what God might be asking you, something that could sound as simple as God doesn’t like the prejudice that guide so much of your life. Of course you’re not uneasy. You are uneasy. You don’t like people of different colors coming from different nations. There’s a deep rooted
zenophobia in your heart that doesn’t allow the universality of God to enter into it. And until you give that up
you’re not gonna be peaceful. It’s hidden, it’s conventionalized, it’s made appropriate but it’s not good. You systemically are on the
back of one of your kids, the kid can’t do anything right. And until you get rid of that apriori needs you have to correct
instead of accept, you’re not gonna find peace with God, not the way you’re looking for it. Not a big thing can be a little thing but it can gnaw away at
the peace you wanna have. So you don’t have to look for big things but you have to pay attention
to what is happening seriously in your life at that part. That’s the first week. The eight rules for the second week, it’s a different thing, a
different religious reality. They’re much more subtle and they deal with the experiences of being deceived or tempted under the appearance of good. John of the cross. The good person is tempted
by the good, not the bad. Tempted by the good. At such a juncture it is no longer enough to know how to deal with the attraction to an obvious evil or with
repugnance for the good, that’s the first week. These rules from the second week distinguish the consolation
in which there is no danger of deception when one is drawn wholly
into the love of God without commensurate thoughts or images from the consolation mediated
by ideas or imagination in which deception is possible. I really know that God wants
me to be a social worker, and therefore no matter my family says or how much money they’ve
poured into my degree in the business school, I’m
going to be a social worker. Okay, I prayed over it. I’ve seen what happens to
people who don’t have directions or poor or trampled down upon, or disregarded or
marginated in our society. And I want to do something about that. So therefore I’m gonna abandon
my three years of study and I’m gonna go into something new. Discern that spirit. Did you ever think that
maybe you could do more for people by being a good business person managing a non-profit
organization out of your smarts then you could be by
getting into the streets which you’ve never visited yet anyway. Now that’s not unusual,
not at all unusual. People get carried away by a good, and a good for me and a good for society. And this is probably
what God wants me to do. I said it could be but
I don’t know that yet. I think we need more
time, more discernment. One must attend to the attraction
toward the morally good by considering the beginning, the middle and the end
of the entire process. These rules of the second week, these eight rules in the
second week of the exercises, outline the progress
of deception disguised in apparent consolation. The good person is tempted by the good. Therefore all the more reason you have to be careful
about putting people in the second week who aren’t ready for the second week. Because they can still be
tempted by first week stuff and they think they’re
making second week decisions. You say, oh that doesn’t happen. Why do you think so many people have left priesthood and religious life? ‘Cause they did make good decisions but they weren’t making good decisions, not always, but frequently out of what God was calling them to be. And sometimes when you
deal with these people and you suddenly realize
as they’re going through reviewing their life
and so on they’ll say, I never had a vocation, my mother did and I didn’t wanna disappoint her. My father did, I didn’t
wanna disappoint him. I wanted to do the better thing and therefore I thought this was harder. You hear that? I wanted to do the better thing and therefore I did this
’cause it was harder. The harder thing is
never the better thing, it’s just harder. You don’t make a discernment on it. I just gave you three sentences I just spent most of my
life in Jesuit formation. I can tell you people get screwed up on one of those three. My mother’s vocation,
my father’s vocation, the harder thing is the better thing and therefore I ought to do it, and I really wanna be perfect and this is the perfect life, right? No, there is no perfect life. It’s all subjective. It’s what perfect for you, what’s you. But the church says, I
said the church holds up an ideal that never works until you put it into the life of people
and how they live that. The tyranny of the should is neurotic. Karen Horney, Neurosis and Human Growth. Read that chapter again
and see how important it is in the way people make decisions. It’s good stuff. These outline the process of deception disguised as a parent consolation, a frame or procedure whereby
the true and false consolations can be distinguished at the
terminus of their influence. Where does this go? Big words but it means, Ignatius says, where does this lead? Where does this lead? Is it good to move a crowd? Is it good to have the
ability to speak in such a way that you empower people with
some sense of their authority and they wanna live for an ideal? Is that a good thing? Yes. Can it be used for a bad end? Look at Hitler. Look at Hitler. And at the midst of it somebody will say you can’t say it’s wrong. Look at all these people, all
their hearts have been touched and they wanna do something for Germany. I said, yeah, they wanna kill the Jews. They wanna follow somebody who’s gonna lead them
into war and destruction and bring devastation upon
them as a culture and a people. The demagogue always works
with something which is good. The power to sway and works towards an end which is basically once you
stay with it for a while, destructive. So this is happening
socially and individually all the time. What Ignatius has got together is saying in a time of prayer, look
at where these things lead. Lead. Okay. Now, I’m gonna say just
a bit about comments to making an election. Discernment of spirits, the
rules for the first week and the second week are different from making an election. An election is the process
that a man or woman goes though in the exercises. They’ve been discerning
all through the exercises and been helped in that. But when you start coming to an election it’s that point where they say, what is God asking me to be or to do? To be or to do. What is a to be question? Should I be religious? Should I be single? Should I be a lay person who is single or should I be married? If I marry should I
marry Eleanor or Elaine or Yvonne or Harry or Hubert or Howard, you know? You go through specificities, through specificity. Generally people don’t do that. And many decisions in their
life they spend more time on buying a car than they
do in choosing their mate. Well, that’s not true. I said, I think it is true. I think that people don’t
slow down sometimes and say get to know each other. I don’t mean your bodies and
I don’t mean your effectivity. But what you really like,
what’s the family like. What things do you share
together about books, movies, prayer, life, so that as you grow older together you will not lose an interest
in how you can grow together, not separately. Those are important questions. You can’t dampen all the enthusiasms and the rants that people have. Those are the way God works too. I’m not at all saying that. But all the stuff that
people think are nuisances in marriage preparation,
if they were done right by humane people will be so helpful and a young couple can
know themselves better that they don’t do it well and if they get crappy questions and jam it down people’s throats and they send them to dumb
marriage preparation groups, and then they say, well, we do it. No, you didn’t do it. It’s not a discerning process. Sometimes it is, sometimes it is. But people can get so washed away in things that are not essential about will you wanna grow old with this person? Like a religious community, if you wanna know whether
you wanna join it, go visit their infirmary,
how do they treat their old. How do they care about them? Do you really wanna be part of this outfit as yous tart losing your teeth and you can’t actually
move the way you used to and you creak. When you can’t remember things. How do they treat people like that? Do you wanna be part of that group? How do they talk about one another? There was respect and
reverence and understanding. When you leave a group would
you like to be the first one or the last one to leave this group? I’ve had to tell people, people who are with you in a group never wanna be the first one to leave because you’ll make fun of them the way you have everybody else. Do you wanna live like
that that no one trusts who they are with you
because you will ridicule who they are? So those are good questions. Part of the discernment process is to say you look at the existential reality. In this making of the election to be or to do Ignatius
says there are three times, instantaneously I know
what God wants me to do and he uses the example of
Saul on the way to Damascus. Saul saw as a vision, this
is what you have to do. I asked my institution
director, Grace Birch director, Paul Kennedy whom I mentioned before, I said, father, do you
have any experience of this first time of making an election when you know instantaneously. Yes, he said. I know a woman who was a
dress designer in London and was very famous. And she was walking by a
Carmelite church and heard distinctly some call go into this chapel. And she went into it and she
said I’m gonna be a Carmelite. She said I didn’t know
anything about Carmelites, never heard the word before, but I had no doubt that this
was God who’s calling me too. Then he said and you are
going to go and give her novices there a retreat and
I want you to talk to her. Well, it was remarkable. Remarkable ’cause that’s
really what happened to her. Now there was a lot of
purification along the way. She had to go through and officiate and all the other stuff. But gradually she realized that the core of why she came was something
she could not explain to anybody else but was hers. It was tested, it was purified, it was redirected but it was hers. Okay, that’s first time
kind of experience. Second time is the effective movement and there’s some debate on
when Ignatian scholars who says it’s preferred by Ignatius or not, I think it was preferred,
it’s a time of effectivity. You’re basically at peace and you feel movements more one way
than towards another. I really would like to be single. I really would like to have a family. I would like to be able to have somebody who would hold me and
say he or she loves me. These are things that I see are very good and I really see them
not as merely attractions but as deep existential calls about the kind of person I want to be. Now let me pray about
that a little bit more, but basically it’s affectivity. I’m moving towards a
decision of a way of life that I find deeply
satisfying not only because it’s comforting but because
it responds to something deep in my own psyche and my history and my spiritual ambitions that I would like to be. Do I know anybody like that, my sister. She said I always wanted to be a mother, I wanted to have children. I thought this was very who I was, who I was meant to be. And God tested it by giving
her a tough marriage. But she set up my kids. My kids are what God called me to be. That’s the second time. Third time is you are peaceful but you don’t feel any
movement one way or the other that’s very pronounced. So you do two ways that Ignatius has, both of them involving reasons. And you have all that paraphernalia that some people put to the forefront of discernment which
really should be after you know there’s not an instantaneous understanding of how I’m called and there is no strong effective movement towards how I should be called. Then you use this way of
reasoning, of reasoning. So that basically is the way Ignatius lays out the rules for discernment. And then the election. So what we’re gonna do and what we will do in weeks three and four is look at how that discernment is confirmed in the life of Jesus and it becomes a confirmation process in the life of the one making the exercises. Now are there any immediate questions before we do something with
the little time we have here? – That is a very similar question. Most of the time people will come to you and they will like you have to guide them to discern about a situation. It happen most of the time also that we do know that discernment
need time and space but when they come to you realize there is not enough time
to go through a process of discernment. How do we, what do we do in this case? – Well if you give me a very specific case and I think that’s what happens is when you say there’s not enough time, there always is enough time. It’s God’s time, not our time. And so while there might not be the space of a 30-day retreat, you can ask the person, well, let’s put it this way. You start in saying what is
the decision you have to make and when do you have to make it. How much time can you
spend and open yourself to the influence of God in
making this decision. And then you have to work
from what the person has within that time. But you have to believe
and so does the person that within that time God can leave them. Now you might have to say as
you go through the process that God is gonna help you take the one or two steps you have to take to begin to reflect on
what next steps have to go but you have to start some place. And this might be the initial way in which you begin to see the
way that God leads you towards being more and more open to where God wants to
lead you more permanently. For example, what I find hard is unless you have a case you’re talking at all these abstractions about if you have more
time, a lot of time, like if a person says
I’ve been given two weeks to make a decision about whether I should stay in this job or I should take a job in another city. It influences my family
and my kids and so on and I don’t have much time. I don’t have time to
go away for a retreat. What can you help me do in two weeks? And you do what you can do. You try to bring them
to peace and try to say at this time before God as you gather all the data together, how does your spouse feel? How do the kids feel? The pros and the cons. Now try to put them to one side and maybe try to take at least a weekend in which you begin to look before the Lord making His decisions how you feel about you
making your decisions. Try to find an appropriate
scripture passage that the person could connect with. And maybe all that the
person can say is finally, he said, I’m not real clear. I feel more peaceful than I did but I don’t know whether
God wants me to stay or to go but in prayers I look at it. A part of me that wants
to try something new, venture some and creative,
says maybe I should move. This is the time to move. A part of me that wants
to be safe and secure and not jeopardize the
economy of my family says I should stay. Then I might say, well, could you talk that over with your wife and come to some
understanding of how she feels a little bit better. Can you take another half, little part of a day and begin to sort out which of these two in the light of which your wife says ’cause she’s the one
who’s gonna have to live this with you but it’s your decision, which are these do you
find more appealing? I don’t know what that
person is gonna say. The person might say I
really wanna take this risk. I think it is a risk and I’m scared, I think that my wife is
willing to go along with it and it might not work out but I think I have to try it. That there are other things going on. That’s all you can do. Now what if the wife says, or the spouse, the husband might say to her, to his wife, who is the business person, I can’t move, I can’t do this to me, I can’t do it to the kid. Then you have a non-negotiable in which you have to say I don’t think you can do a lot right now without it really injuring your marriage
and you have to look at that. But you have to be very
careful so that it’s not your decision and you’re not pushing a person more
one way than the other and the decision really is the person’s. But the more other people are
involved in your decision, the more you have to
make sure they consult so they understand what
that person’s choice will mean for the other persons that are related to him, family, wife, husband, whatever it is, spouse. So that’s why I say it’s so hard but I think you can do something so that the decision,
even if it’s tentative, most decisions are gonna tentative. For the data I have here now the demands I had to make a decision in a very limited amount of time, it seems to me that I can
make a prayerful decision knowing that new data might change but at least I’ve done what I can here to make this a prayerful decision. Sometimes it’s all you can do. But what I’m trying to say is but it can be a discerning decision which is not necessarily a
full fledged discernment. You’re praying over, you’re
trying to reflect on it, you’re looking at the ramifications of it, and you go along with it. I had someone who was asked to be chair of a retreat house board. He already had a big business and he had diabetes himself, his one daughter had a very serious medical condition but could
function very well as a student, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to take this added responsibility and he had maybe about a month to let people know whether he would keep his
name in for running for chair. Well he looked at both
sides, the cons and the pros, he was running a business, he didn’t have time to go away and pray. But gradually he came
to an understanding that he would not have the time he had before but what he would have is watch TV, cut out the TV and a
couple of other things, he really did have time where he could, he could really be a good chair and he had imagination and creativity and he felt that would be a gift to give and he also would be challenged, so he finally resolved what he would do. He would put his name in to be elected the chair of the board, if that’s where it went, realizing that there was a
quality of risk about this but his wife was willing
to make it with him. Less time at home, more demands, stuff like this. Well actually it’s a success story because it worked out very well for him. It brought out qualities
that he didn’t know he had, the side effect of it was that once he got in the chair he said, now, will you leave me through
an 19th annotation retreat to be a good chair? We worked at this, I said okay
yeah we’ll do that together. He’s off now and he did a terrific job as the chair of this retreat house. But again you work
within those constraints and you’re clean as a
guide to the fact that God is good at giving and God will give what this person can be open to in the reality of the
time constraints you have. I mean the question’s a very good one and it’s a good example. And you sometimes don’t have all the stuff Ignatius lays out here in a busy schedule to
do the kinds of long, reflective process that you’d have and the spiritual exercises. Then you try to encapsulate them as much as you can. Context, process, guidance, consultation and effectivity. Adapt it as well as you can. That’s all you can do sometimes. Any other question a person wants to ask? – If someone comes to you and say, I have a couple of (mumbles), and they want to be married,
they’ve already decided, they’re not gonna change. So, is it too late? – No, ’cause I don’t think it’s never, God’s time is never too late. But I would say when it’s happened I’d say that’s good and I wanna be with you, I wanna help you as much as I can, then I would use this technique. I’d say, what readings do you want to use for your wedding liturgy? I said, well, I want
you to read through them and you come back and
we’ll talk about them and tell me why you want that. Then I would use what they’ve chosen to talk about how that illumines for them the kind of marriage they wanna have. And sometimes it might be they say we’d like to go out for dinner with you. I say, sure. Over dinner when it’s appropriate time. We don’t wanna give all indigestion. But you say now you chose those
readings you talked about, what kind of things are growing in you about the type of people you’d like to be as you get older in your marriage. What would you like to share together? What makes you happy? You chose this reading
from the Song of Songs, was that because it was beautiful or did it say something? And then they’ll say something like, you know, I like this line here comes my lover leaping,
and they both start laughing. She said, I really like the
fact that he’s got energy and he’s got pep. And he makes me do things
that I wouldn’t wanna do that I’m afraid to do and
I hope he never loses. I do, she said. I hope you never lose
this idea of pushing me to do things that I wouldn’t do by myself. Then they talk a little bit more. So I start with generally
something they have to have anyway readings, something that
they choose, which readings, and something that they get to talk about that begins to move a little bit more into their anteriority that they have as they enter into this marriage. And if you’re lucky and
you know the families you can ask something about the family. What do you learn from
your dad and mom about the way you think a marriage should work? And have you shared that with one another? Have you talked about that? You don’t have to do it with me but I really think you ought to do that. So you deepen and find some creativity in transforming what is required into now what is desired, the readings, they are required. But which ones do you want? Why did you choose them? Where did they lead you as you
think about them in prayer? And then you try to get them, not all of these things are good, but you try it when they make a kind of weekend retreat or reflection, who are the people that move you, you get them to talk about
the experience with you, what did it mean, where did it come from. For me one of the things that I find, sometimes you have kids, you have young people. There are not so many kids anymore. They’re getting older. But a young couple will come and you notice that they never
ask you to go out for dinner. That’s been always interesting to me. It’s the ones who ask
you to go out for dinner to have a little more
time to talk over a meal that you begin to see that they are, they want something out
of this companionship that’s gonna be enduring and good and I’d like to talk about that with you in some way or other. And define a way you can do
it without being intrusive is I think important in all of that. But that’s one of the
things I would do is to use what they have to
have to something they want to have and then to find out why and to begin to tap into it. Now that doesn’t guarantee
it’s all gonna work out well but it’s a step and it’s a helpful step. Well, I don’t wanna get on with it. But one of the things they always try to bring out in the Homily is the fact that it’s never their wedding, it’s our wedding that they would not be there without all kinds of
people that have placed confidence and trust and hope in them. And that they have a wedding in front of their families and
their friends because they want them to be part of it. What is it you wanna continue to share and have other people be part of the rest of your life. What kind of a home
would you like to have? Who are the people you
wanna have in your home? Sometimes you can do it by something that they can read quickly. But they get the idea of
moving out of it’s just being their experience to being our experience is gonna help them. So you work with what you’ve got. All right, that’s enough. Thank you. (applauding)

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