Discernment Resources

The following are abstractions from the books cited, regarding the Discernment Methodology and how the San Jose Cursillo Movement employs it:

What Is Discernment?

Christian discernment is not just any process of decision-making taking place in a vaguely prayerful setting. It is a specific methodology of decision making with roots dating back to Moses and which was defined and refined by St. Ignatius Loyola in the 16th century. It is a method to make sure that the Holy Spirit is guiding the thought process and is applicable for both individual and group decision making.

The Essential Components of the Discernment Process

  • Assiduous Prayer

    • Good discernment requires regular and serious prayer so that those involved can be open and hear the Holy Spirit talking to them. They must be aware that the Devil and their own egos will also be trying to command their thought process.

  • Adequate Information

    • Good decision making requires that sufficient information, relevant to the choices, is available and known.

  • Reflection

    • On Affective Responses In Relation To God This process requires noting, interpreting and reflecting on the feeling and desires that are experienced during the decision making, especially as it pertains to our relationship with God. St Ignatius stated, “each person must realize that they will make progress in all spiritual matters in proportion to their flight from self love, self will and self interest.”

  • Weighing

    • The Reasons Participants need to be adequately informed and to give due weight to all the known reasons for and against each and every option applicable to the decision. Objectivity through honesty, flexibility and openness.

  • Confirmation

    • Once the decision is made, the participant(s) will experience either peaceful confirmation or uneasiness, and the latter meaning that additional discernment is required.

Reflections on the Discernment Process:

  • Group discernment may appear to be democratic in nature, in that each participant has an equal voice, however, it is very important that the group be aware of, invoke and respond faithfully to the presence and movement of the Holy Spirit and thus find “God’s will” in their decision. Each element and component of the process is intended to work towards this end.

  • Both individual and group Discernments require implementation of all of the components listed above.

  • It is very important that the purpose, ground rules and ramifications of the group Discernment are both known and accepted beforehand, by all participants.

  • The Discernment process used by St. Ignatius ensures that each person in the group has the opportunity to state clearly what they wish to say both for and against all the options in question. This should not be done as persuasive rhetoric, debating, winning votes or intimidating but with candor, confidence, simplicity and love. It is often wise to have participants purposely express both the pros and cons of their desired option/position so that they are “forced” to be aware of both sides of the options/decision.

  • The group Discernment process requires a considerable level of trust, in-depth participation and the willingness to listen to others with an open heart. Participants must also try and overcome their own personal fears, prejudices and biases.

  • It is very important to be aware of where you are personally in regards to your spiritual and emotional life and whether you are as St. Ignatius stated either in a state of consolation (close to God and experiencing his love) or desolation (having a block with God which affects your love and relationship with him).

  • It is important to be aware of both your intellect and your emotions when making decisions. In other words, use your head but trust your feelings.

In the event that additional reading on the discernment process and/or St. Ignatius is desired, please consult the following books from which the aforementioned information was derived:

  • “Listening to the Music of the Spirit-The Art of Discernment” By David Lonsdale, S.J. Ave Maria Press Norte Dame, Indiana 46556

  • “The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius” Translated by Anthony Mottola, Ph.D. Published by Doubleday, 666 Fifth Ave., New York, NY