Friday, April 02, 2021

Death to Self and Discernment

That outward circumstances play a part in the formation of a spiritual judgment may be seen by merely looking at the kind of circumstances that interior souls at one time or another have to face. It is easy enough to estimate the effect of these things upon their characters. Loss of material goods conduces to a man's discernment. With detachment from outward standards comes a greater reliance upon the significance of the inward.

Sickness conduces to discernment. There is nothing like a long illness to teach a man the difference between true and false compassion. If only from the sight of his own self-pity, he learns the value of entering into the pains of others.

Suffering of every kind—and especially the suffering of temptation—fosters the potentiality of discernment. Not only is the genuine need distinguished from the sham, but even in the need that is unjustified, that is brought upon itself, an element of sincerity can be discovered that demands an act of understanding.

Solitude ministers to discernment. Sometimes it is born in it. In fact, one wonders how a soul can come to possess the discerning spirit without the help of solitude and silence.

And, above all, in prayer: in the practice of unrelenting prayer, hours of it and carried on over the years, a soul chiefly learns to judge according to the spirit. Discernment is nothing other than this: the power to interpret God. How, short of the directly miraculous, can God's will be interpreted as it is capable of being interpreted apart from the light of prayer?

Dom Hubert van Zeller, How to Find God ... and Discover Your True Self in the Process (Manchester, New Hampshire: Sophia Institute Press, 1998), 206.

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