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Issue 172 - Path and Passion - March 2018
Path and Passion: A Lenten Discernment" retreat at Oblate Renewal Center is the inspiration for our Reflection in this issue. Presenters for the retreat were: Jan Davis, "Prayerful Discernment"; Renata Furst, "Scriptural Discernment"; and Mary Wilder, "Four Tenants of Discernment."

Online Holy Week Retreat
In addition to the Path and Passion retreat on discernment, please click here for a free online retreat with meditations for each day in Holy Week through Easter Sunday.
Prayerful Discernment
       The Spiritual Exercises are based on the notion of Ignatius of Loyola, that God created humanity to praise, reverence, and serve God; that all else was created to help us reach that goal. That is, we are to choose from all the good things (gifts) that God has given us. But how do we discern which will best lead us on our path to God? David Fleming, S.J., writes, describing spiritual discernment, "Our only desire and our one choice should be this: 'I want and choose what better leads to God's deepening life in me.'"
       The "dynamism" of spiritual discernment is that this spiritual desire gently moves the soul - the soul invaded by grace, inflamed with the love of God, may accomplish anything God may ask. In the end, the purpose of discernment is so that my will and God's will are the same.

       Of course, there are many temptations, lures and yearnings that make discernment difficult. Some of the presenting distractions are: mischievous spirits that wreak havoc to our peace and joy; the struggle between the false and true self (flesh and the Spirit that the apostle Paul writes about in the New Testament letters); acedia (spiritual sloth known as 'the noonday devil'); ressentiment (a toxic lingering hate that arises from jealousy or psychic powerlessness); and that the "enemy" (Satan) appears as the Angel of Light tricking us with "covert deceits and perverse intentions." [Exx332]
       Participants at the Path and Passion retreat were encouraged to pray through Holy Scripture to become aware, to understand, and to take actions regarding the movements in the soul. In the Contemplation to Attain Love, Ignatius writes, "I will ponder with deep affection how much God our Lord has done for me, desires to give me even his very self, in accordance with this divine design." [Exx 234]                           --by Jan
Riches, Honor, Long Life
"I do not want and feel no inclination to have riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, a long life rather than a short one, except for what benefits the service of God."
- Ignatius of Loyola [Exx.166] 
When Dr. Renata Furst presented those words Tuesday, my first thought was "hard": it would be hard for me to say those words. My second thought: This is why I will never be canonized a saint.
  • I truly do feel little inclination for riches - but I certainly look forward to retiring in comfort, rather than in poverty.
  • I can live quite well without fame, without my name in the headlines. I don't need that kind of honor. But I certainly want to protect my good name, to be respected by those who know me.
  • Long life? I'm rather counting on that. Three of my four grandparents lived past 90; the other died at 86. Dad was 93 when he died; Mom was 84. I'm shooting for 85, at a minimum.
Unlike Ignatius, I feel strong inclinations on these points. As I move toward retirement, and seek to discern how best to live the rest of my life, I admire the saint's detachment. But I am far from matching it.
For me, it is helpful to remember that the dichotomies Ignatius presents are not simply either/or choices. Wealth, for example is a continuum, from extreme poverty to luxurious abundance. As a middle-class American, I am already well toward the wealthy end of the spectrum. The question is, where do I go from here? Is protecting my wealth, or gaining more, my top priority? How much of my wealth might I be willing to sacrifice?
And while I am certainly not about to foolishly throw away either my honor or my remaining years, I have to ask: Is there nothing for which I would risk my life? Or my honor? If not, just how much is my life or my honor worth?
These are tough questions. I don't have easy answers to the challenge posed by Ignatius' words. But I do know this: As a Christian, I honor Jesus of Nazareth. This week, this Holy Week, I am reminded that Jesus walked a path of poverty, a path that led to dishonor and an early death.
And I claim to be his follower.
--by Bill

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Bill Howden and Jan Davis
Soul Windows Ministries