Discernment is an important process in every Christian’s life. This is the case not only in calls to vocation but also decisions that affect daily life. Understanding good and evil and properly diagnosing proper choices in life help the Christian navigate the troubled waters of temporal existence.
Vocation is more than just one’s eventual role in life but also one’s daily duty and position everyday in life. It is important to continually strive to fulfill one’s daily duty and help others find their role. Discernment and guidance are key in these choices. Proper discernment is based in prayer and imitation of Christ in fulfilling God’s will. However, even with prayer, we can sometimes doubt. Learning how to discern and dissect moral decisions can be more difficult than it appears. Sometimes it takes time to finally find God’s will and answer to you.
The article, “WHAT IS IGNATIAN DISCERNMENT?” by Rev. Doug Leonhardt, S.J. looks at how St Ignatius Loyola utilized prayer, meditation and logical thinking based in philosophy and morality to come to discernment conclusions. The article states,
“Pondering and noticing interior movements of attraction and heaviness are at the heart of Ignatian discernment. Discernment involves prayer and weighing facts and feelings about the several good choices which ultimately leads to a choice about what is the best fit for an individual. In the traditional language of Christianity, good Christians try to find the will of God for their lives. They look for signs but often when no clear signs are given, they make a decision and then ask God to bless it. ”
Discernment in choice, path, endeavor and even regarding spirits and people are important parts in Christian spirituality. It is important to learn how to form a strong Christian moral compass that helps guide one’s conscience. Through wisdom granted by the Holy Spirit and an offering of all one does to God, one can be more confident that the right choice or feeling will eventually emerge.
Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Christian Counseling.
The spirituality of great men and women guide them. It allows them to pour out the inner grace God has given them and share it with the world. St Ignatius Loyola was one such visionary who dived deep within to ultimately pour back out to all. Martin Luther King Jr shared very similar views as St Ignatius, in how he looked to find Christ in everyone. Like St Ignatius, he looked to give service to humanity through love of Christ.
This ultimately led to a social platform of peace, love and equality. The same teachings of St Ignatius that was handed down originally from Jesus Christ.
The article, “The Jesuit Spirituality of Martin Luther King Jr.” by Marcia Chatelin looks deeper at the comparisons of both these great men in their love of Christ and search of social justice. A social justice that is both a hallmark of Martin Luther King Jr. as well as the Jesuit Order. The article states,
“We are able to return to King’s writings and speeches, and when paired with a review of the Spiritual Exercises, we can sharpen our gaze and our resolve to do justice to these compatible visions. Both provide us inspiration in seemingly opposite models, which are both necessary to identify and repair our fractured world: Ignatius’ mystic experience and King’s most humble revelations of faith; Ignatius’ great emptying of ego while alone and King’s luminous spirit in front of many”
Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Training and see if it matches your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four certification in Christian Counseling.
The early Church faced many misconceptions about Jesus Christ. Some believed Jesus’ body was a shell to the Divine Logos without a human soul. Others thought Jesus was not true body at all but a phantasm of light. Still others thought Jesus’ human nature and divine nature were so entangled that neither retained a true liberty from each other and were in fact fused into one mixture. Others distinguished Jesus’ nature so much that there was no true unity but a loose union of two separate natures.
One of the earliest though was Arianism which denied the co-eternal nature of the Son with the Father. This heresy was perpetrated by the hesiarch Arius in the 4th century. His heresy was condemned at the Council of Nicaea at 325 AD as well again at Constantinople in 381 AD. Of course proper and orthodox theology teaches that Jesus is one person with two natures in harmony being both fully God via the Second Person and fully human through Jesus of Nazareth.
The article, “What Is Arianism and Are You Accidentally Committing This Heresy?” by Alyssa Roat gives a very detailed account of Arianism and is a good resource for those seeking to understand it better. She states,
“Many centuries ago, a man named Arius stirred major controversy in the church with his claim: Jesus Christ was created and finite, not of equal divinity with the Father. This became known as the heresy of Arianism. However, repudiation and rejection of his claim did not come easily. Even today, we may find ourselves falling into Arianism.”
Please also review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification and see if it matches your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals in ministry who are seeking a four year certification in Christian Counseling.
Christ’s famous words, “give unto Caesar what is for Caesar and give unto God what is for God” was important clarification to Christians on how to be good citizens. Christ knew His Kingdom was not of this world but He also knew that Christians live in the temporal world. Under such conditions, certain things must be given to God for spiritual salvation, but there were also duties to give to lawful authority.
The Christian citizen is thus not only brining the joy of the good news to the world, but also existing within society, obeying its laws and contributing not only at a spiritual level but also at a social level. Christians share their many talents with their community and nation and serve as examples of good moral character while obeying and serving their nation. Whether it is as mere citizen or political post, a Christian is meant to obey law and represent just cause within society.
A good Christian citizen while obeying just law and serving as a good civic and moral example also pushes for just and good social reforms through the proper legal and peaceful channels. The good Christian protects the rights of others, opposes unjust laws that discriminate and impose suffering on others and protect the right of the weak. Obviously abortion is a key issue here in regards to an unjust law that must be opposed through civic and legal discourse. Those who take upon public office have a dual duty to both their faith and state. While they cannot allow religious based ideals to overwhelm those who believe differently, Christian political leaders must adhere to the moral natural law in all legislation. Those who break from those fundamental truths that bind all humanity, for the sake of secular glorification, fail both their duties as a statesperson and Christian. Again this is why all Christian political leaders MUST oppose abortion legislation and denounce it for the evil it is.
A Christian hence is called to represent Christ in the nation and promote social morality. This is done through voting according to conscience based on Christian ideals and also by supporting and promoting social justice to all. While Christians may disagree with current social laws, they promote change to truth through peaceful measures that reflect the example of Christ. Christian citizens also stand up against anti religious laws that look to remove reference of God to society. The constant attack of atheism is found in society and this atheism looks to remove the freedoms and expressions of God in the public square. The Christian citizen is called to peacefully battle this insult to God.
A good Christian citizen will also avoid extremism and nationalism. Christian citizens will promote love of country and patriotism, but they will not support nationalistic values that place value over others of different race or creed. In a pluralistic society, Christians while promoting the teachings of Christ, nonetheless, respect the values and opinions of others. They do not look to force the teachings of Christ on others, but look to gently teach by word and example.
A Christian citizen however never places civic duty over the duty to God. When the state over steps its boundaries, like Christians who endured death centuries before and in communist nations today, the Christian citizen stands up for religious freedom and the teachings of Christ at the expense of even one’s own life. This is an unfortunate reality for many nations under communist control who denounce religious freedom and expression of one’s own personal worship. In these cases, the Christian is called to duty to God first and overthrow of the evil government.
There should never be a conflict between being a good citizen and a good Christian in a democracy and just republic. When balance is given to both, Christianity can flourish and add to the value of the secular state by producing good citizens that respect law and the social needs of others.
Love of nation is never a bad thing. In fact, it is a prerequisite of any good person. It places the love of neighbor over oneself which is a central teaching of the faith. Christian citizens hence are always willing to sacrifice for their home and fellow citizen.
If you would like to learn more about Christian Counseling or would like to become a certified Christian Counselor, then please review the program and see if it matches your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and designed for qualified professional seeking a four year certification in Christian Counseling.
Spiritual direction is key to Christian formation. Individuals no matter the age require guidance in morality, coping, spirituality, and challenges. A spiritual director is usually clergy, but some can also be lay people who become a spiritual father or mother to you. Their guidance is important in every phase of life as the Christian grows in the faith. If you do not have a spiritual director, it is wise to find one. It is not something that one randomly chooses, but something the Holy Spirit guides one to. The mentor and the learner find each other.
Usually a spiritual director has knowledge of your life and past. He or she is able to guide one through troubles because of this knowledge because of this unique knowledge. This is why randomly choosing someone and expecting them to know you will not produce the best results. It is something that is not forced but naturally found due to mutual spiritual attraction of need. If one becomes a member of a church, or one meets a new pastor, it is not prudent to choose this new person you work with as your spiritual advisor. There should be a natural divide. This is why priests or pastors do not at times have spiritual directors who are common to their work unless the bond is far older before they met professionally or in ministry. Of course, a spiritual bond may develop but if no spiritual bond is present, this person should not be one’s spiritual director.
So in essence, a spiritual director has a bond with you but also is equipped with the wisdom to help you develop in the faith and face problems. They should not be random persons you meet merely due to their position as a priest or pastor. With Christianity, this mentor can be a elder, or a trusted friend within the faith, or also a long known pastor, or in Catholicism, a priest who also hears one’s confession but also knows you and has a spiritual bond.
Merely talking to someone about your issues does not make one your spiritual director, but it is a reciprocal spiritual bond to help spiritual parent and spiritual child grow.
The article, “Spiritual direction: What is it, who needs it, and why?” by Mary Farrow looks at why Christians need a spiritual director and the importance of spiritual direction. She states,
“Spiritual direction instead focuses on a relationship with God, Cleveland said, which is “not a problem to be solved, but something to be discovered and deepened and celebrated. A lot of times people are looking for something else…so sometimes we have to really reorient someone’s thinking – are you looking to deepen your relationship with God through prayer and discernment?”
Hence spiritual direction is more than confessing sins or seeking God’s forgiveness but is a process of spiritual growth. It involves discernment and other ways to help a person progress spiritually through the world.
If you would like to learn more about Spiritual Mentorship and Spiritual Direction, please review AIHCP’s Christian Counseling Certification. The program is online and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification is Christian Counseling.
A nice look about people of different faiths and how they manage during the pandemic to prayer together while apart. The pandemic has restricted some religious public worship and has limited other ways we can come together, but we can still pray and we can still pray for each other. With social distancing, we can also within the various religious traditions still come together in safely despite the dangers.
The article, “Staying Apart but Praying Together” by James Estrin looks at how religious groups are remaining spiritual and strong despite covid. He states,
“The sanctuary at The Jewish Center accommodates more than 500 people but only 60 are now allowed inside at a time. Attendees must preregister online, answer a coronavirus exposure survey and have their temperature taken at the door. When weather permits, shortened services are held outside on the rooftop.”
The article covers other faiths as well. To read the entire article, please click here
Despite shutdowns, or restrictions, the faith remains strong during the pandemic and people will find a way to pray to God, whether privately or in public via safe measures. God does not wish his creation to test him but to respect the safety measures for all. This does not make one’s faith less but makes one logical. God can protect us from any plague, but we cannot as his creation test him and do foolish things that promote its spread.
Pastors, Priests, Ministers and Pastoral Caregivers can all face burnout. It is human nature to burnout if over worked, or bombarded with other needs. It is important to also care for oneself and ensure enough sleep, rest and spiritual retreat is given. It is also important to identify signs of burnout and how to properly deal with it. God’s grace can go a long way but our human bodies need an occasional spiritual and physical retreat.
The article, “Pastoral Burnout and Spiritual Direction” by Kelly Edmiston looks at how pastors can identify burnout and deal with it. She states,
“I spent years ministering out of an empty tank. As a car can only coast on fumes for so long, I was puttering out. And this puttering took years. In this season of “puttering”, I embraced a “fake it until you make it” philosophy in the name of being “faithful” to the calling on my life. But the truth was, it no longer felt like a calling. It felt like a burden. I know now that I was suffering from pastoral burnout.”
The forced confinement due to Coronoavirus is a crisis for many. It locks them away from the necessary physical interaction. For those with mental health and addiction issues, it can also play havoc upon their lives. The quarantine can become a nightmare for many but it can also be an invitation among the chaos to find peace and guidance. It can be if applied become a retreat from the world that can help individuals discover the quiet of God among the materialistic world.
The time for prayer and spirituality can be found in the quiet and isolation for those who seek it. Mystics and saints have reminded humanity throughout the centuries that a turn to God involves quiet. While social prayers and ceremonies are essential to our social nature, we are also individuals and must feed ourselves spiritually through meditation and quiet prayer.
In more normal times, it is healthy to turn to God to prayer daily and if possible once a week in an hour retreat from the world. This retreat allows one to re-access, re-focus, and discover what truly matters in life. That purposeful break or short spiritual quarantine from the world can allow one to hear God. One cannot hear God’s will or God’s demands in the loud of the world. Competing false ideals and distractions emerge. Satan looks to keep one busy as to avoid God and his message.
An hour retreat totally given to God as gift is a time to hear God. St. Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross, St Benedict and St. Ignatius all speak of this quiet. The quiet where God is heard through meditation and total giving to God.
In that time, the phone is set away, social media ignored and television turned off. It is a time for God where we separate from the world to hear God’s desires and will. It is a quiet time that heals the soul from the isms of the world and refreshes the spirit to face it.
This time of physical retreat from the virus is a bad thing but it is also a time where we can spiritually retreat and find ourselves again. It is a time where the business of the world can allow one to work on oneself. Spirituality should not be something we neglect in this scary time. We can turn this time of fear into a time to re-access our own spirituality and take the opportunity to re-emerge from the quarantine as better Christians, people and followers of God.
If you would like to learn more about Christian Counseling then please review the program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and leads to a four year certification.
In the meantime, be safe and allow this time of uncertainty to help cultivate better spiritual practices through the time honored instrument of silence. Through silence we can filter out the noise of satan and find God.
Whenever evil, plague, war, death and disaster befall society, various reactions emerge spiritually within the community; From the secular atheist, a cynical mocking of the all good God; From the doubting faithful, a existential dilemma of faith and reason; From the faithful, a twofold reaction, one of faith supplied with reason and prayer, and the other, fueled with a faith devoid of reason and careless actions.
The primary and first question deals with evil and a good God. The cynical atheist will mock the faithful for believing in a God that allows disaster and plague to befall creation. The atheist will offer a false two fold conclusion that either God is not all good to permit evil, or not all powerful to prevent it. What is being ignored is the fundamental fact that humanity through its own choice lives in a fallen world. Free will chooses evil, not God. The price of being autonomous is evil. It is something that God in his all omniscient mind found well worth the price of evil. The price for His sentient life forms to choose good or evil.
This choice of free will plays a key role why evil exists. God did not create evil nor does He will it, nor does he not have the ability to control it. God permits it for a greater cause, humanity’s autonomy and overall eternal life outside the temporal world. While this does not address the day to day hardships of disaster and plague, it does illuminate a path beyond this valley of tears.
In Christianity, God does not abandon His creation. Instead, God Himself, takes upon human nature, binding to His Divinity the the Person-hood of Jesus Christ. Jesus accepts the cold of the temporal world and opens Himself to the pains of disaster and plague. Jesus allows Himself to be the sacrifice for all sin and bears its ugly face, but before that, He also endured the pains of this world and the suffering of loss, grief, death and tragedy.
Christianity presents an excellent answer to the problem of evil. It presents a God, who does not watch from a distant throne, but one who enters into the human condition and suffers with His creation as an act of free will and love.
While this question will not answer the disbelief of an atheist it at least answers the supposed riddle of a good God and evil. God is clearly good and His reason for permitting evil is clearly understood.
The doubting faithful represent the second response to spirituality and disaster and plague. The doubting faithful question why God permits them to suffer. Some may understand the theological response listed above, while others may not, but the doubting faithful, begin to doubt God Himself, His existence, and even their own faith. When plague or disaster strikes humanity, they wonder if God is there or if even God can hear their prayers.
They doubt the value of prayer. They begin to doubt if God can perform a miracle and save others from disaster. They question their prayer’s worth. Why pray if God will not act? The doubting faithful see prayer as a contract not a covenant. If prayer is not answered, then either God is not there or their prayer is insufficient. This leads to a poor understanding of suffering and grief in Christian spirituality.
Prayer when offered as petition definitely has a request but when the end of that request becomes the only driving spiritual force then the prayer is open to only one’s will and not God’s will. One should pray with the fervent attitude of deliverance, but if that physical deliverance does not come, one should not doubt God’s presence or one’s lack of one’s own spirituality. Instead, prayer while seeking one’s desired end, should also seek God’s end. It may seek conclusion but must be open to a conclusion that is not what one desires. Prayer must seek God’s presence to help carry one through grief, disaster and plague, whether cure or deliverance is given or not.
If a prayer is not answered according to one’s will, it does not mean God cannot perform miracles, or that God does not care, but it means that God has a different path and will than one’s own. One must instead believe that God knows best despite the suffering. One must instead, imitate Christ, who accepted the Father’s will even if it meant His own death. One may rejoice in the miracles that can occur, but if they do not, one must rejoice silently in God’s plan, no matter how painful or confusing it may be.
Ultimately, the spiritually doubtful, must re-evaluate their own spiritual life and the true essence of prayer, if they wish to understand why God answers and not answers some prayers.
Finally, in disaster and plague, one can see the two responses from the faithful whose faith is not suppressed but strengthened in times of chaos. The first response is one of prayer and reason. The second, is a prayer and faith devoid of reason and careless action.
The first response is the response of the church faithful. It understands the theology of good and evil, one’s role in it and the role God plays in answering prayer. The faithful pray in covenant with God, knowing that God will always be present physically and spiritually in their lives. The faithful believe miracles can happen but are also prepared to suffer and offer suffering through Christ to God the Father. They are willing to prayer but are also equally willing to carry their cross.
The second response though is devoid of reason. It challenges reason and in many ways tests God. Like those who handle serpents as a testimony of faith, these individuals will disregard precautions in time of plague in the name of faith. They will congregate together in Jesus name despite a contagious virus and will question the faith of others for believing bad things can happen. While the bible and church history is full of stories of God preserving individuals from illness or disaster, there are also equally many stories of disaster.
While it is possible that during reception of communion that Christ would preserve a person from a contagious virus, it is also possible that the virus still could infect. This is based on multiple issues regarding the person’s spiritual state but also the will of God. It is unadvised to tempt God unless God Himself has appeared to oneself. To boldly take dangerous actions within the spiritual community is not only unsafe and illogical but also not Christ centered.
In some cases, one has seen saints survive disease in care of others, while in other cases, history has witnessed saints who have died for those they cared for. Hence, acts of faith against logic and reason cannot be presumed to be immune to natural consequences. Yes, God can miraculously prevent the transmission of a virus during Communion, but it does not necessarily happen. This is why in times of plague, the Church while optimistic, always errors on the side of caution. Services, masses and gatherings are closed during times of plague because the Church does not wish to tempt God. This is not a lack of faith. If God so chose to command faith, He would, but if He does not, following reason and safety in no way invalidates faith.
Instead, God expects obedience. Obedience to ecclesiastical and civil authority over one’s own ideas.
Hence, prayer and reason is the proper response to any disaster or plague. It is measured with faith and believes in miracles but it is also measured with reason and obedient to authority in time of crisis and disaster. Prayer in times of crisis is not a useless endeavor but carries great merit and can produce great things, but ultimately is tied to the will of God and not one’s own will. It is a prayer of covenant and not contract that seeks to imitate Christ.
Bad things can happen to the most devout, even in one’s most deepest prayer, so one should not take heart that one’s prayer was not answered. Instead, one should understand that like Christ, miracles can occur, but when they do not, one must be ready to suffer like one’s Master. Christ suffered, He grieved and He offered His will to the Father. Christians and followers of Christ are asked to accept no less. The world denounced Christ and Christians can expect no less than their Master.
During disaster and plague, pray, pray and pray more. Expect great things but also expect suffering if it is God’s will, but know no matter the outcome, Christ will be with the suffering in this fallen world.
If you would like to learn more about Christian Counseling Training, then please review the certification program offered through AIHCP. The program is online and independent study and offers a four year certification for qualified professionals.
Lent is an excellent time for Christians to find a spiritual retreat. A retreat from the loud and noisy material world. Lent allows the Christian the time to self reflect and re prioritize things in life. Many utilize Lent as a time to give something up but learning to rediscover one’s Christian life is the primary point of Lent. Lent gives one the opportunity to rediscover one’s cross and to follow Christ to Calvary and later rise with him.
Silent prayer can play a large role in helping Christians find their spiritual nature. Silent prayer can help one hear the voice of God and help the soul find a deeper connection. Silent prayer removes one from the noise of materialism and realigns the soul properly to its primary end which is God.
The article, “Lent: Silent prayer in a noisy digital world” b y Sr Nancy Ussellmann looks at the value of silent prayer and its place during Lent. She states,
“Lent offers us a time to take stock of our lives, question our motivations, examine our relationships and pray more attentively, opening ourselves to God’s actions in our lives. The ashes on our face remind us that we are not gods, we will not live forever and this life has a purpose.”
Lent is a critical time for sacrifice but also self reflection and spiritual growth. Silent prayer and Christian meditation can play a large role in helping one grow one’s faith and re-connection with God. It allows one to rediscover their Christian vocation and refocus on what matters most in life.