Divine Word Missionaries


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Arnold Janssen Spirituality Center


Sr. Clarette Ramirez SSpS - 2005

"SSpS-women disciples of Jesus, the Missionary, living a contemplative attitude of discernment" is the theme of this recollection. We begin by going down to the level inside us where we are most ourselves-where "we live". Our goal is to literally share God's life in all God's mystery. This kind of union from moment to moment, in the most ordinary activity-not just in our prayer timers our desire. It touches everything we do, lets God share his life with us, and is also known as "doing God's will."

To do the will of someone is really to experience his person. Yet in our daily discernment we often find ourselves separating the will of God from the person of God. We tend to focus on rules and norms and commandments that give us direction to lead a good life. Yet, inside the heart of someone approaching discernment this way, one finds something different from what's inside the heart of one for whom life has become a deepening love affair with the person of God who takes the initiative in each one of us, usually quietly and quite undramatically, urging us, provoking us.

The important question in our daily life is: "What is my Beloved calling me to now?" In giving myself to this call, I experience more of God's love. I find God is "here" and not "there." Discernment involves a radical openness that leads me to a very Personal Experience of God. This awareness of my own personal identity in Christ serves as a touchstone experience in me, for discernment entails a comparison of interior experiences. It helps me to know whether God is or is not in an experience.

What are these interior experiences, these "spirits" within? Usually they are not concerned with actions. Yet I often make my life a matter of doing good actions and avoiding bad ones... without looking at the root of my actions I also ought not to limit myself to the level of thought-good, clear, orthodox thoughts about God, self and life. Although these levels are part of me, I cannot limit myself to them. (Jn 14:21-23) To live in a contemplative attitude of discernment helps me focus on a quality of my being, the affectivity at that inner unique core where I am myself and cannot be anyone else. This affectivity has no logic to it, but is all mixed up – feelings, desires, impulses -- the stream of consciousness that everyone of us is -- not has, but is. This is where I need to be converted -- at the core. "How should I enter into this situation so that God can share with me more of his life? "What will this feel like in me?"

These interior affective movements are "who I am." Whether I am in touch with them or know what to do with them is another question. Often these urges, feelings, impulses make us playthings of them... they run us, e.g. the bad mood. We hear people say "Don't go near her today; she's in a bad mood.” In other words when the mood is no longer in control of her, then deal with her. Discernment is precisely a faith process whereby the individual is not a plaything of these affective movements. It allows the grace of God to get on top of them and control them… allowing my affectivity to painfully be converted into the affectivity of Jesus. This is where conversion happens... in these tendencies, urges, impulses and desires. The more I allow my affectivity to be converted into that of Jesus, the more I become an inner-directed person, no longer needing external rules.

To live in an attitude of contemplative discernment, then, means that

  1. I am in touch with myself at the affective level. I cannot be running away from those urges and impulses. And I need to be humble. It takes humility to admit that what I'm feeling now is plain and simple jealousy, or old, healthy (but nonetheless sinful) lust. I'm tempted to call it something else or just try to forget it. But until I do admit it and call it what it is, in no way can I discern it.
  2. Once I am in touch with my feelings, I interpret my experience in the light of faith. This needs Christian wisdom, not worldly wisdom... e.g. if I think my life's goal is pleasure, then I will avoid whatever brings pain. The wisdom of the Paschal Mystery is to find joy & life out of the pain of death.
  3. After being in touch with myself and interpreting my feelings in faith, then I have to do something about it in the light of the faith-interpretation. What is now required is courage to act.

To sum up, there are 3 essential foundations for living in a contemplative attitude of discernment.

  1. The mystery of God, drawing every human heart to deeper union with the God-self through coming to know and love his Son more...Jn 6:44, 65. Of my own accord, I can in no way come to know Christ. God's drawing me to himself is felt as urges, impulses, desires—that stream of consciousness that we experience daily - the stuff of discernment, sometimes so subtle that it could be overlooked.
  2. The mystery of sinfulness, which I also find in that deep affective level as desires, moods, urges, etc. to do or think something "If I follow this urge, will I experience God sharing more of God's life with me?" I sift through these movements to see which come from God and which don't. This is discernment—to be more sensitive at my interior, affective level in my ability to recognize God.
  3. The fact is that God reveals himself to us much more intimately in these deep affective movements. It is important to clarify them and this is very difficult. But often this clarification comes in my trying to describe it to somebody. Clarity comes in my trying to say it in the context of spiritual direction.

Adapted from the article on Individual Discernment by Fr. George Aschenbrenner, SJ

Reflection Guide:

  1. I share what I find helpful in this article to help me live in an attitude of contemplative discernment.
  2. I also share the questions that arose within me as I read the article, needing clarification.