Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Excerpts from Fr. Cantalamessa's book Come, Creator Spirit...
... the charism (that is, Holy Spirit inspired gift) of discernment whereby Christians can distinguish between:
  • what comes from the Holy Spirit,
  • what comes from our own minds, and;
  • what comes from the Evil One.
A charism is more than common sense and shrewdness (although those strengths are indeed natural gifts from God for which we should express humble gratitude). A charism is supernatural: "the Holy Spirit helps us evaluate situations and to direct our choices, not only on the basis of human wisdom and prudence, but also in the light of the supernatural principles of faith" (p. 333).
How to tell if something is from the Evil One? "Paul gives the same objective criterion of discernment that Jesus gave: the fruits. The 'works of the flesh' show that the sinful desire giving rise to them comes from the old nature, and 'the fruits of the Spirit' show that the desire from which they spring comes from the Spirit (see Ga 5:19-22). 'For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh' (Gal 5:17)." Note that the desires of the flesh are not merely desires for sexual activity outside of true marriage; the desires of the flesh could also be the Vatican cleric who puts ambition above Gospel service, or simply the person who is compulsively and intemperately attacking, slandering, and criticizing others. Self-righteousness is as much a desire of the flesh as lust. So is greed and lust for control and power over others.
How to choose between two goods? "Saint Ignatius Loyola developed his teaching on discernment mainly as a response to the needs of such a situation. He suggests that we take note of one thing in particular: our own inward dispositions, the intentions (the 'spirits') that underlie our choice. . . . Ignatius Loyola suggested practical ways to apply these criteria. As an example, when two possible choices are open to you, it is good to settle on one of them as though that were without question your choice and to stay with that for a day or more; then stop and evaluate how you really feel in your heart about that choice. Are you at peace about it, is it in harmony with all the other choices you have made, do you feel inwardly encouraged to follow that route, or on the other hand does it leave you under a veil of disquiet? Repeat the process with the other choice open to you. Do it all in an atmosphere of prayer, of abandonment to God's will and openness to the Holy Spirit" (p. 334).
Fr. Cantalamessa then gives a good biblical overview of discernment as follows: "When you come right down to it, it is simply a question of putting into practice the advice that Jethro gave to Moses: Put the questions to God, and wait in prayer for God's answer (see Exod 18:19). A deep-seated habitual disposition to do God's will whatever the situation puts you in the best position to discern well. Jesus says: 'My judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me' (John 5:30)' " (p. 334).