Listen to the show:
Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor
Today’s guest(s): Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV
Links from today’s show:
- Fr. Gallagher’s website
- St. Joseph Retreat House
- The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living
- Discerning the Will of God: An Ignatian Guide to Christian Decision Making
- Spiritual Consolation: An Ignatian Guide for Greater Discernment
- Meditation and Contemplation: An Ignatian Guide to Prayer with Scripture (Crossroad Book)
- An Ignatian Introduction to Prayer: Scriptural Reflections According to the Spiritual Exercises
- The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living
Today’s topics: Ignatian Spirituality and Discerning God’s Will
Summary of today’s show: How do you know what God’s will is for your life? How do you know if you did God’s will today? Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV, joins Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor to discuss Ignatian spirituality, and especially the daily Examen prayer and discerning the will of God. Discernment is not a technique and examen isn’t a test. They are both parts of a relationship with God. Also, what kind of input should your spouse have in your discernment?
1st segment: Scot welcomed everyone to the show. He said Fr. Chris must often hear from seminarians how can they know what God wants them to do in their lives either each day or for their whole lives. Fr. Chris said Fr. Tim Gallagher’s books have been very useful for diocesan priests and seminarians. Every day before lunch, for instance, they pray Fr. Gallagher’s Examen Prayer.
Scot said we recently got news that Bishop Arthur Kennedy will be taking a new role in the archdiocese and that Msgr. James Moroney, already a professor, will become rector. Fr. Chris said there is a mix of sadness among the seminarians at Bishop Kennedy leaving, because of the great work he has done in the seminary forming priests, seminarians and laypeople in the faith, and joy at seeing Msgr. Moroney as his replacement. He can’t think of a better replacement to continue Bishop Kennedy’s work. Fr. Chris said Msgr. Moroney is well known throughout the Church, especially for his work traveling around the country to talk about the new translation of the Roman Missal.
Fr. Chris said with today’s gift, we will have a greater insight at the end of the show about what prayer looks like.
2nd segment: Scot welcomes Fr. Timothy Gallagher to the show, an Oblate of the Virgin Mary. Scot asked how an OMV has become an expert in Ignatian spirituality. Fr. Tim said the founder of the order, Venerable Bruno Lanteri, met a Jesuit priest as a diocesan seminarian and took him as his spiritual director. He became convinced of the power of the Ignatian spiritual exercises to change hearts and help dedicate their lives to Him. He decided that since the Jesuits have so much to do in the Church, he decided that his order would focus on Ignatian spirituality.
Scot said the OMV came to Boston in 1976, including maintaining St. Clement’s Eucharistic Shrine in Boston, which is very active and unofficially a student and young adult parish. They have St. Francis Chapel in the Prudential Center Mall, which offers Masses and confession throughout the day. They run St. St. Joseph Retreat House in Milton, which has been becoming very active.
Fr. Tim said when he was a senior in high school there came a point of great clarity that God wanted him to become a priest. He researched many orders and the diocesan seminary before coming across the OMV. He was attracted to their Marian nature, growing up in a family with great Marian devotion. Also that the order was based in Rome and he would be living in Rome.
Fr. Chris asked what is the most important element of his work as an Oblate. Fr. Tim said his own work is very Ignatian. Having written the books, people ask him to come speak all the time.
Fr. Tim described St. Ignatius. Until he was 30, he very worldly. He was CAtholic, but his ambitions were very worldly. When he was 30 his legs were wounded in battle and spent a lot of time convalescing. His only reading material was a life of Christ and stories of the lives of saints and he won over by the heroism he encountered. He had a radical change in his life.
3rd segment: Scot said a key to Ignatian prayer is the daily examen. Fr. Tim said St. Therese talks about a moment of her total conversion on Christmas night when she was 15 years old. She’d become nervous, scrupulous, and prone to tears after the death of her mother and her sister going off to the convent. They had just returned from midnight Mass and her other sister had prepared a gift for Therese, shoes filled with gifts in the fireplace. Her father, who didn’t know she could hear, said, “Thankfully that will be the last year for this.” Therese is struck to the heart, but then didn’t cry, came into the room and never shed nervous dramatic tears for the rest of her life. That was her moment of total conversion.
Fr. Tim said without prayer nothing happens, but we also need reflection on the spiritual experience that happens when we prayer. That’s when we learn. The examen prayer brings a reflection on experience of the day so we can live the next day more focused on where God is really leading us.
We daily need to ask God’s forgiveness each day, but in addition to the times we have been less than what God has wanted, God has also been active in other ways in our day.
Fr. Chris said there’s five steps. The first is becoming aware of God’s presence. How do we become aware of God’s presence in the hubbub of life. Fr. Tim quoted Soren Kierkegaard who said his prescription for the ills of the world is silence. We have to create silence, search for silence, even in small moments. It is the atmosphere the permits the rest to happen.
Prayer is a relationship, an encounter between two persons. We become aware of God. We lift up our heart and consider how God is looking upon me, the love that is there, the desire for communion. Rather than jump into prayer, start by becoming aware of God’s presence. if we being prayer relationally knowing we are loved, then the examen is not a heavy dark examination, but being with someone who loves me.
Fr. Chris said the next step is to have gratitude for the day God has given us. How can we be grateful in the midst of pain or suffering? Fr. Tim said to see the gifts that have been there throughout the day, even the small ones. He said people who have had suffering in their lives have an exercises where they gradually begin looking for the things for which they were grateful, starting with the smallest things and eventually coming to knowing that it’s in the end that God loves me.
At this point something will change in my heart. It will be different when I look at the darkness, anger or heaviness in life. Fr. Chris said the examen prayer builds on itself each day. How does the examen prayer prepare us for tomorrow?
Fr. Tim said he remembers walking into breakfast one day and seeing a member of his community he hadn’t seen in a while. He recalled some resistance to renewing a relationship with this man who had been difficult. There was one chair and he sat in it but remained silent. When he sat down later that day for his examen, he knew he needed to look at it. He knew he’d not lived it with a Christ-centered love. Many years, he’s grateful for that examen, because there is new closeness with that community member. So much happens over the course of a day, there is a difference between reacting and doing.
This takes courage to practice this as a daily discipline. It’s not easy as a culture to stop and review daily life, because we have a sneaking suspicion we’re going to get a spiritual report card with a D on it. To stop the flow of life takes courage. If we have the courage of Mary Magdalene who stooped down on Easter Sunday to peer into the darkness, it can be lifechanging.
4th segment: Scot said the book “Discerning the Will of God” might be the best place for listeners to start. Fr. Tim talked about the difference between asking God’s will in particular situations in daily life, between good and bad or even between equally good and moral options, and the bigger vocational questions like marriage, children, priesthood. Fr. Tim said discernment doesn’t happen in a vacuum nor is it a technique. It’s a relationship. If I want to discern more clearly, the way to begin is to grow in my relationship with God. Make the Eucharist at the center of discernment. Go to daily Mass if you can. Spend time before the Blessed Sacrament in adoration. In his book, he recounts the stories from many different people and it’s remarkable how many of them said their discernment included going to daily Mass.
Then start reading Scripture. Listen to the Word of God. Find a good spiritual director or retreat director. Create the context in which we can begin to hear God’s word more clearly.
Fr. Chris said he still encounters people who are petrified of Scripture. Where should those people start? Fr. Tim suggested approaching Scripture throug hthe daily Mass. He said the monthly Magnificat is a good resource, even if you can’t make it to Mass, because it also has resources. Any good Catholic bookstore will have other devotional prayer aids like that. This is why he wrote the two other books: “An Ignatian Introduction to Prayer: Scriptural Reflections According to the Spiritual Exercises” and “Meditation and Contemplation: An Ignatian Guide to Praying with Scripture”.
Scot asked how one can determine that it is God leading me to a choose, not just my own preference? Fr. Tim said, first, we presume some kind of spiritual guidance. Then, Ignatius says one way to know is when God makes it clear to us without a doubt. A second way is to be attentive to spiritual consolation. He remembers a Jesuit who told him that when he was discerning married life or the Jesuit priesthood, how he would feel a soothing calmness while praying in a particular Jesuit chapel.
Scot asked how we should handle our spouse’s input in our discernment? Fr. Tim said if God has called me to the married life and my spouse is giving me input on my life’s decisions, I really need to be open to whatever light God is giving me through that relationship, because that relationship is so central. But very important, both husband and wife should be discerning. He knows a couple who end every day in a daily examen together. This is the ideal and this the heart of conjugal spirituality.
Fr. Gallagher will be giving a seminar on the discernment of spirits at St. Clement’s, Boston, on January 28-29. Contact Carol at 617-266-5999 x130 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fr. Gallagher’s schedule is on his website. To schedule an Ignatian retreat, visit the St. Joseph Retreat House website