04 August 2009

Discerning the Holy Will of God

+OFTEN when we say to ourselves, "What should I do?" we are really only asking, "What could I do?" Even if we mean to ask, 'should', we barely truly ask the question when we exclude discerning the Holy Will of God. When should we discern the Will of God? The answer is simply: always. Since we are not (yet) saints, and are not united to Christ, discerning the Holy Will of God does not come automatically, nor does it usually come to us easily even through prayer. When, then, is it appropriate to discern through prayer? The truth of the matter is, it is always appropriate to discern through prayer. "But if the matter is light, how then can I be in the world and yet pray always?" Remember that the Holy Spirit tells us to "pray always". But how is this possible? This is known as the habit of recollection, and like all good habits, it must be acquired (at least in part), by much repeated effort on our part.

Recollection by habit requires the consistent practice of the following:

1.) Daily discovery of who JESUS is through meditation on scripture. This understanding is revealed to us through the teachings of Holy Mother Church. Just as scripture, itself, is part of Sacred Tradition that comes from God, so is all the Church's understanding of this as it has been passed on to us from the Apostles. Any new understanding is not authentic, because God revealed all to us necessary for our salvation through the teachings handed down through the Apostles. Our understanding, therefore, must be truly catholica: True for all people, all places, throughout all times. What a wonderful patrimony on which to rest!

One of the best ways to choose your daily meditation is to follow the readings for that day, or at least for the Sunday of that week. This is because the more we engage in the liturgical year, the more we avail ourselves to the particular graces that come through deeper engagement of that liturgical time. The Holy Ghost then permits the liturgy to become a part of our lives not just externally, but interiorly, intimately guiding our very souls.

2.) We must ask daily, "Who am I to God?" We must examine our consciences by conducting both general and particular examinations. General examinations consist in thinking through the 10 Commandments (not "the 10 Suggestions"), and looking not only at mortal offenses, but any offenses, even the small worms of deception known as venial sins. Was the sin deliberate? Semi-deliberate? What fault of mine was behind it? Is it common to me? This brings us to the particular examinations along with firm resolution of ammendment. The particular examin can and should be done at least 3 times throughout the day, to make sure that you are keeping your resolution to avoid the sin or fault (which leads to sin). The resolution must be concisely predefined in such a manner, "When such-and-such occurs and I am tempted to ____, I will rather do ____ in order to maintain my friendship with God and grow in His grace and Love." Then, according to the times that you fall, you have a predetermined penance for that day, something small, unless the sin is mortal*. (*If one is yet in the position to commit mortal sins, greater care must by done to sever a near occasions and prompt and close attention must be kept by a good, well-trained Confessor.) Any person serious at all about their spiritual life should have a regular, well-trained Confessor that they see at least once every 2 weeks. Faults and resolutions should be discussed during this time, in addition to any and all sins committed since the previous Confession.

3.) Daily discoursive prayers are also important, and often either over-looked, or to the other extreme --- they are relied upon as an end and not merely a means to the more involved prayers of mediation and contemplation. If examination is akin to looking at a road map and considering where we are, and meditation is akin to considering where we should be heading, discoursive prayer is one of the ways in which we put 'the pedal to the metal'. It is part of the practice of virtue, and helps us to strengthen our virtue 'muscles', as it were. Discoursive prayer is part of our daily routine, and without a routine we will not grow in the virtues and therefore nor in our relationship with God.

The most important daily, discoursive prayer is the Holy Rosary, or Our Lady's Psalter. This prayer, which was given to religious who could not either read the Psalms, or memorize them, was also given to the laity by Our Lady herself. She gave it to the laity by way of giving it to St. Dominic Guzman (whose feast is celebrated today, August 4).

Our Rosary is preparation of the other steps, so long as we are faithful to praying the Rosary daily. By this means, we enter daily into the mysteries of our Lord, both by mediation and discoursive devotion. Also, it aids in building the habit of virtue, both by invoking the aid of the Blessed Mother (asking through her for her Son's Divine aid), and daily proving our love and devotion through this simple prayer.
Faithful adherence to these practices will lead us to becoming more and more recollected in Christ, and lead us to detachment of created goods. Detachment from created goods leaves as we attach ourselves authentically to God will lead us to contemplative prayer --- where we received infused virtues and 'listen' to the Voice of God. The bottom line is the more we keep to these basics in greater devotion each day, the more readily we will be able to discern what we should do and not merely what we think we can.

St. Dominic, pray for us.+

"... heretics are more easily won over by examples of humility and virtue than by external display or a hail of words. Should we not rather arm ourselves with devout prayers and, carrying before us the standard of true humility, proceed in our bare feet against Goliath?" --- St. Dominic
Note: Please listen to Veni Creator on the first, top right video on this page. Invoke also St. Dominic to sing from Heaven with you, as he is especially likely to do, this having been one of his favorite songs which he often sang (along with the Ave Maris Stella). (The Veni Creator will be the first song played among the 2 others that follow also invoking the Holy Ghost.)

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