You have a major decision to make: Do I marry this person? Do I put aside the stability of my current job to take another? or to start a new company? or to enter a different profession? Do I put financial security aside to pursue further studies? For a Catholic: Should I...
You have a major decision to make: Do I marry this person? Do I put aside the stability of my current job to take another? or to start a new company? or to enter a different profession? Do I put financial security aside to pursue further studies? For a Catholic: Should I become a priest, a deacon, or a religious?
There are all sorts of manuals written to address decision making in one''s personal life or in leadership roles. For Christians, there is also the spiritual process of discernment: learning what is God''s will for you. Note the assumptions: that God has a personal will for you beyond that you be a good and loving human being. And another is that, for most people anyway, God doesn''t just tell you what to do in some vision or in a voice from heaven. You have to uncover God''s will for yourself.
You have a prayer of a chance to learn God''s will, but most of us don''t really know how to approach this matter in prayer. "Discerning the Will of God: An Ignatian Guide to Decision Making," by Timothy M. Gallagher, OMV, describes the three ways of Christian discernment that were developed by the founder of the Jesuit Order, St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556). In brief, these modes are: (1) understanding God''s will in such a way that one has no doubt from the start, (2) experiencing clarity in decision-making through the "discernment of spirits," and (3) while one is in a state of tranquility, coming to an understanding of God''s will through rational decision making.
Gallagher explains the Ignatian methods in easily accessible language. (He provides Ignatius'' original text as an appendix.) In addition, he employs numerous real-life examples of people making decisions through Christian discernment. These illustrate the three modes as they have been practiced in actual, modern-day situations.
Sometimes the story-telling overwhelms the narrative. If this book were a crabcake sandwich, you wouldn''t complain about there being too much filler. But even a crabcake sandwich needs something to hold the crab meat together, and so you have the start of this book: there''s not enough of the author''s words to hold it together meaningfully. Fortunately, Gallagher gets the proportions right as he begins to explain the Ignatian process.
The readership is expected to be Catholic, but Ignatian discernment applies equally to all Christians. Indeed, I think it can be adapted by those from other religious traditions as well. The point, ultimately, is to discover the path that best allows one to serve and praise God. At the end of the book, Gallagher addresses why one should have to discover God''s will anyway--why doesn''t God just tell us what God wants? Ultimately it comes down to God''s desiring us to grow though the discovery process. Enter that discovery process, and grow as a human being and a person of faith, by learning Ignatian discernment. You will not find a better guide to do that than in Timothy Gallagher.