Peace & joy to you, brothers and sisters in Christ! On July 31, the Church celebrated the memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, one of the most influential saints of the 16th century and founder of the Jesuits. His contributions to the spiritual treasury of the Church continue to bless countless people worldwide.
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius are a compilation of meditations, prayers, and contemplative practices which help people deepen their relationship with God. Within The Exercises, we find St. Ignatius’s Discernment of Spirits, which is the interpretation of what he called “motions of the soul.” These interior movements consist of thoughts, imaginings, emotions, inclinations, desires, feelings, repulsions, and attractions. Discernment of spirits involves becoming sensitive to these movements, reflecting on them, and understanding where they come from and where they lead us.
Here’s my brief summary of how to apply the main principles of Ignatian discernment of spirits effectively. The acronym I use is AUT: Acknowledge, Understand, Take Action. First, we acknowledge what our thoughts, feelings, and desires are; next, we ask God to help us understand where they are from, recognizing that there are 3 possible sources for these motions of the soul: the Holy Spirit (and all the ways He moves: angels, Scripture, holy music, etc.), or the human spirit, or the evil one (and his crew, known as demons or evil spirits). And then, we take action, rejecting what is not of God and receiving joyfully what is! Simple and sweet! Let’s ask God for the gift of discernment this week and try AUT several times a day, especially if we’re feeling low in any way. God wants us to have freedom in Him, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom! (See 2 Cor 3:17) To read more about the exercises, especially discernment, please visit this website. God bless you abundantly!