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Posted October 15, 2015

Book: What Do You Really Want? St. Ignatius Loyola and the Art of Discernment
Author: Jim Manney
Our Sunday Visitor. Huntington, IN. 2015. Pp. 143

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

We can find answers through learning the art of discernment --- the wisdom that enables us to see and interpret the leading of the Holy Spirit as it is manifested in the inner lives of our hearts. The great master of this art was St. Ignatius Loyola, author of the Spiritual Exercises, who believed that the ability to discern properly is one of the most important skills a Christian can have. Ignatius believed that the answer to the question "What Should I Do?" is found in the shifting sea of feelings, insights, leadings, and intuitions of our affective lives.

What Do You Really Want? Shows us how to understand these emotions and use what we learn to make the choices that best serve God and bring his love to the people in our lives. It shows the truth of one of Ignatius's greatest insights --- that when we find what we really want, we find God wants too, because the deepest desires of our hearts were placed there by God.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Ignatius defines spiritual consolation in one of the rules for discernment of spirits:

"I call it consolation when an interior movement is aroused in the soul by which it is inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord, and as a consequence, can love no creature on the face of the earth for its own sake, but only in the Creator of them all. It is likewise consolation when one sheds tears that move to the love of God, whether it be because of sorrow for sins, or because of the sufferings of Christ our Lord, or for any other reason that is immediately directed to the praise and service of God. Finally, I call consolation every increase of faith, hope, and love, and all interior joy that invites and attracts to what is heavenly and to the salvation of one's soul filling it with peace and quiet in its Creator and Lord."

Consolation is "an interior movement" a lifting of the heart "to what is heavenly." But it also can be seen externally, in "tears: and other physical manifestations. The essence of consolation is loving the things on earth, not for their own sake, but through God and for God. This is the meaning of "finding God in all things." Touched by the love of God, we find him everywhere. All things speak of God; all things can lift the heart to what is heavenly. Consolation comes when we follow the greatest commandment: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself" (Lk 10:27).

We have to distinguish between sensory consolations and those which come beyond the senses, deep in our hearts. The two are related. People who have fallen deeply in love will experience great passion and desire for each other. They will have feelings of happiness and euphoria. These feelings support and even deepen the lovers' bond. At the same time, we shouldn't work too hard to separate spiritual and "nonspiritual" consolation. They usually go together. We are creatures of spirit and flesh; we experience consolation in our bodies as well as our hearts.

Some people downplay the emotional side of consolation. They remind lovers that the joy and fervor of falling in love will pass, the honeymoon will soon be over, and the "real work" of a relationship will begin. Spiritual advisers will sometimes tell people not to seek out spiritual experiences because true conversion is a matter of the will and action, not feelings. The Ignatian tradition counsels otherwise; it welcomes passion, tenderness, excitement, fervor, enthusiasm, and other expressions of joy. We're to seek them out. Ignatius told Francis Borgia that "without these consolations all our thoughts, words, and actions are tainted, cold, and disordered." He continued, "We ask for them so that with them we may become pure, warm, and upright."

Table of Contents:

1. Discernment as a way of life

2. What is God's Will?

3. The language of the heart

4. Becoming aware

5. Great desires and disordered attachments

6. Our divided hearts

7. Consolation and desolation

8. How to thwart desolation

9. How do I know this is from God?

10. God and bad decisions

11. Three ways to make a decision

Final thoughts