Sandpiper: Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst

AUGUST 2019 WWW.SANDPIPER.ORG.AU 9 ADULT EDUCATION Prayerful Personal Decision Making E very person makes choices and decisions. More thoughtful persons make thoughtful decisions. Faith-filled persons make faith-filled decisions. Prayerful persons make prayerful decisions. All this is done quite naturally according to the processes of experience, reflection understanding and judgement we are all born with. Spiritual discernment makes use of all this, with the help of the working and grace of God’s Spirit. - John Veltri SJ (from ‘Orientations’, available at Saint Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1520) learned to recognise the working of God’s Spirit in his life. While recovering from war wounds in the home of relatives, he borrowed books to pass the time. He discovered different kinds of reading moved him in different ways. The lives of great saints and the Gospels left him feeling peaceful and quietly energised, with a sense that he was in tune with himself. This he called ‘consolation’. Although at first he enjoyed colourful tales about the daring deeds of worldly knights, they left him strangely dissatisfied and unhappy. He called this ‘desolation’. Ignatius became attentive to his deepest feelings and to God’s presence in everyday situations. Then he began to help others. He grew to understand that the deepest and truest desires of our hearts tell us of God’s desires for us. So, the questions, ‘What do you want?’ ‘What are the deepest desires of your heart?’ were helpful for making important decisions. Ignatius noticed that, like himself, other people were easily pushed and pulled by negative influences. There were also times when they felt at peace and ‘right’ with themselves and the world. He learned how to interpret the feelings that arise from the different ‘spirits’ that move and influence us. He developed a practical spirituality for active Gospel- based living. It included good decision making, grounded in faith and prayer - discernment - and helpful guidelines that we can all follow. DISCERNMENT To begin a process of discernment, we need to be experiencing ‘consolation’ – that is peace within. Even when there is turmoil around us, or when life’s circumstances are not ideal, there can still be a sense of peace deep within our hearts. We should not make a life changing decision when feeling angry, depressed or upset – when in ‘desolation’, or, at such a time, change a decision previously made during a time of ‘consolation’. A condition for discernment is that we are as free as we can be, given current circumstances; free to allow ourselves to be guided by God’s Spirit to make the best possible decision. One approach to prayerful decision making is described by John Veltri SJ and others: PRAYING WITH DISCERNMENT Bring with you, in your heart, information about the decision and the alternative choices. This may come from data gathered from different perspectives, talking with an expert or with a friend or family member who cares about you. Try to be without prejudice, open to the wisdom available. Consider possible consequences of different choices. Then go to prayer and offer to God each of the alternatives. To pray through the decision: • Place yourself in the presence of God. • Pray for freedom to understand and choose what is most in harmony with God’s designs for you at this moment in my life. • Search for the solution with some form of prayer such as ‘Lectio Divina’ (Sacred Reading) or Ignatian Prayer (using imagination to pray with a Gospel passage). (See the Sandhurst website for further information on Praying with Scripture, AustralianCatholics : ‘Making Better Choices’ and ‘How I use Ignatian Discernment’ at ministry-resources.) You might take a half hour or more each day for several days to pray, using favorite Scripture passages. • Sometimes you will just be in silence before God for a few moments. • In the midst of prayer, present the alternatives to God and ask for enlightenment from the Spirit. • Note the interior movements of your heart. More peace - less peace. Consolations - desolations. Consolation feels gentle, as a drop of water on a sponge. Experiences of consolation are experiences of peace, and a sense of really being yourself, help to discern what ‘feels right.’ Desolation is like water splashing on a stone – it is not really gentle. It might feel uneasy and ‘not quite right.’ • See if a good alternative emerges with some clarity and peace. Then sit with the solution for a while to see that it still feels right. Do this as best you can and God’s Spirit will teach you the rest. After the time of prayer review what happened. Don’t be afraid to go back to prayer another day. Through prayer you are waiting for a solution to be given, or to emerge, from your experience. PRAYING FOR CONFIRMATION Confirmation is a growing sense of the ‘rightness’ (or ‘congruence’). It does not guarantee the right choice, or a successful outcome. It is, however, confirmation of the way we have gone about making the decision, as freely and as responsibly as we can, with love in our hearts. When a decision is right, there may be deep peace within, even if it might be difficult to carry out. Confirmation might sometimes be experienced as ‘things working out’ and obstacles ‘falling away’ as we start to act on a decision. If, reflecting upon a decision made, we experience lack of peace, we may need to pray some more, retracing steps such as praying with an alternative. It may be it is not the right time for this decision, or that it is not the right decision after all. Discernment usually takes time. As we go forward, it is good to remember St Paul’s wise words about what the Spirit brings: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self- control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) AUGUST 3 Diocesan ‘Wheel of Prayer’ Day, Mgr Jeffery Parish Centre, Shepparton AUGUST 25 Migrant & Refugee Sunday SEPTEMBER 1 — OCTOBER 4 Ecumenical Days of Prayer for the Environment SEPTEMBER 20 Term 3 ends SEPTEMBER 29 Social Justice Sunday OCTOBER 7 Term 4 starts OCTOBER 12 RCIA Sharing Best Practice, Kyabram OCTOBER 13 Marian Festival, Sacred Heart Cathedral NOVEMBER 30 ‘When Life is Ending’, Dr Caroline Ong RSM, De Campo Hall, Bendigo DECEMBER 20 Term 4 ends Calendar of Events 2019 (Visit for latest calendar updates. To include your event, email Please visit adult-faith-education to view RSVP details.)