Peace, Listening, and Rules of Discernment

October 7, 2023

Above: People pray before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration.

By Fr. David Gaines

Pope Benedict XVI said: “If you follow the will of God, you know that in spite of all the terrible things that happen to you, you will never lose a final refuge. You know that the foundation of the world is love, so that even when no human being can or will help you, you may go on, trusting in the One that loves you.”

So you might ask, “Okay, okay I get it, I need to follow God’s will for my life and not my own… but how do I know the will of God? How do I hear His voice, how do I actually discern His will?” These questions can be challenging in our relationship with God. For all of us, and especially for young people, our relationship with the One who is our final refuge is supremely important, and, at the same time, this relationship can feel difficult.

Prayer, most simply put, is conversing or relating with God. Our relationship with God is not only talking to Him, but also listening to Him. It is this latter concept, listening, that most people struggle with. This listening is especially important when it comes to facing significant choices, like discerning our vocation and otherwise discovering His will for big decisions in our lives.

As Bishop Daly often says, “God does not speak to us in confusion and fear, but rather amidst order and peace.” Listening to God is not supposed to be complicated and fearful because God works out of order and peace. Nevertheless, our relationship with God requires of us intentionality, openness, and patience as we discern His Holy Spirit and His guiding will in our lives over and above the spirits of this world, the flesh, and the devil.

St Ignatius of Loyola gives in his Spiritual Exercises a masterful blueprint for how to discern God’s will in our lives. Specifically, he gives various rules for engaging this discernment. These rules help us become aware and better understand, at least to some extent, the good and bad movements of our soul; for the good, to receive them, and for the bad, to reject them. A text of the 14 Rules of Discernment of Spirits by St. Ignatius of Loyola can be found here.

In the proceeding video, Fr. Timothy Gallagher shares in summary his many years of study and of giving retreats based on these 14 Rules of Discernment. These rules can be extremely helpful for the average young person who’s discerning his or her vocation, but also very useful for all of us engaged in the spiritual life and intimacy with our Divine Friend, Jesus.

Fr. David Gaines was a ordained a priest of the Diocese of Spokane in 2014. He is the parochial vicar at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes and chaplain of Spokane’s chapter of Courage. He also contributes especially to fostering vocations for the diocese as a member of the Diocesan Vocations Commission and as part of the Office of Vocations Leadership Team.