Today’s gospel parable of the final judgment and Jeremiah’s image of us as clay in the hands of the potter lead me to reflect on discernment on this feast of St. Ignatius.
How do I know God’s will for my life?
Isn’t that the most common recurrent question we share as believers?
I’ve heard the pain in my youngest son when he struggled to decide which high school to attend and more recently to try to understand the path he is meant to follow in life. I am so deeply grateful that I don’t have to try to play the role of some wise all-knowing parent who can somehow see what is best for him. Instead I have tried to help him learn to reflect on his life, to pay attention to the stirrings inside him, his consolations and desolations, in Ignatian language. Wow.*
To tell a 14 year old that listening to his life would help him to ‘hear’ God’s voice and know God’s will, didn’t go over too well.
I’ve struggled to help my kids discern. It stretches me as a parent. As much as I have read and tried to put into practice Ignatian discernment in my own life, it is still marvelously difficult/challenging to accompany my own adolescents in their own learning to listen deeply to their lives. But oh, how freeing it is as a parent!!! We don’t have to have all the answers! We are called to faithfully accompany them as they develop their own relationship with the Lord of Life (and with themselves!).
Of all the gifts of St. Ignatius to the world, I think the practical exercises for discernment are what I treasure most.
It is by discerning God’s movements in us, inviting always to life, that we will be plump, healthy fish in the net at the end time.
What a mystery that to listen to our life is to let the potter shape us into marvelous vessels of love and grace for the world.
* I can’t remember now who first introduced me to the Linns’ Sleeping With Bread, Holding What Gives You Life. It has been such a gift to our family. The simplified questions of the examen, what am I most grateful for and what am I least grateful for today gave John and me a precious tool for inviting the boys to be attentive. We’ve used it for periodic family retreat-sharing days between semesters or at year’s end. Two other books I have found very helpful in discerning with teens and young adults is The Power of Discernment: Helping Your Teen Hear God’s Voice Within by Maggie Pike and the section on discerning and deciding in Dean Brackley’s The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times.
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