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Ignatian Spirituality


Discernment of the spirits

Faith Formation, Ignatian Spirituality

By Nikolaas Sintobin, SJ
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Mar 8th, 2018
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Spiritual discernment of spirits helps us to become sensitive to our interior movements – thoughts, emotions, desires, fears, feelings of sorrow and joy. Through awareness and reflection discernment allows us to understand where they come from and where they lead us. 

This series of eight videos by Fr. Nikolaas Sintobin, SJ introduce us to the history and process of Ignatian discernment. In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius of Loyola provides various rules for the discernment of spirits (Spiritual Exercises, 313-336), which form the basis of this process.  Below a short summary of each video. 

  1. Discernment of spirits comes from the experience that God speaks to us in our heart; in the heart of every human being. In our heart, we encounter movements; ways of being touched: joy, sadness, for example. Discernment works on the basis that some of these movements are signs that we are coming closer to God.
  2. Discerning spiritual movements is something every human being, every Christian, can do. However, there are steps to take in advance to enable you to discern.
  3. Discerning the movement of spirits requires preparation. Fine-tuning the heart is necessary. But there is also another precondition. Good discernment asks that a range of options be prepared, which you then discern about.
  4. Discernment of the spirits presupposes a certain basic attitude in the person who wishes to do it. An attitude of openness, of trust, and of letting go.
  5. Discernment asks you to examine what is going on in your emotional life to distinguish between joy and sadness. More specifically, to actually choose to have joy as your compass.
  6. Discernment of spirits takes place at the level of your heart. It’s something very personal. Nevertheless, experience tells us that it can be very useful to let yourself be guided through your discernment.
  7. It goes without saying that you can discern during transition times in your life. But you can actually discern in every stage of your life. Even in old age.
  8. Discernment of spirits can be done at all stages of your life and with regard to the full range of experiences. However, there is one particular time when it is better to hold back from making a discernment. That is times of crisis.

This series is republished with the permission of the author and was originally published on the “Platform voor ignatiaanse spiritualiteit” channel.