Riding the Roller Coaster of Life – Advice from A Saint

Blog-RollerCoaster

Everyone wants to know: What’s the key to happiness?

This questions transforms itself, however, when we discover God our Heavenly Father, our Savior Jesus Christ, and our divine guide the Holy Spirit. Then, we begin to wonder: What is God’s will for me?

Ultimately, these questions are one & the same; God desires our happiness, in this life and for all eternity.

To help us consider this question, there are many resources available to us. For me, however, it wasn’t until I obtained a Spiritual Director that I began to learn well how to discern God’s will for my life. He introduced me to someone who has become a close personal friend, St. Ignatius Loyola: the founder of the Society of Jesus & the contemporary guide for discernment.

Wounded Pride and A Busted Leg

Many of us know his basic story: A canon ball shattered his leg in battle. He told the surgeon to re-break his leg, because his clothes didn’t look good the way his leg was set back together. That was fiery redhead Iñigo López de Loyola: a vain, high-class bachelor whose great dreams of military triumph and fame had been utterly destroyed. Bored out of his mind as he recuperated, he read the only books available; the lives of Christ and the saints. Their example completely changed his perspective on life.

As many converts do, Ignatius adopted extreme spiritual practices fueled by his newfound zeal; he prayed day and night, hardly ate, hardly slept, and beat himself—weeping uncontrollably through the night over his past mistakes.

Thanks to God’s grace and the help of local townspeople, Ignatius’ mind and heart were opened to what God truly wanted of him.

Riding the Roller Coaster of Life

Ignatius outlined the Discernment of Spirits, which are keys that spiritual directors have used for hundreds of years all over the world, ever since. In doing so, they have taught that our life has two basic situations we face, over and over again:

  • Consolation – A period of contentment, peace, gratitude, and/or feeling closer to God
  • Desolation – A period of worry, frustration, and/or feeling further from God

Ignatius described these periods as the natural ebb and flow of every person’s spiritual life. Consolation and desolation are experienced for a wide variety of reasons; it’s not important that we know why we are experiencing the consolation or desolation. What’s important is to discern what we are experiencing, and how to respond to God’s grace in that light.

His “rules” for discernment give us practical insights into interpreting whether we are in a period of consolation or desolation. Based on this position, we learn how to act or respond to a situation or decision we need to make.

Basic Take-Aways for Success

Since we are limited in time and space here, I would strongly advise you to review Ignatius of Loyola’s Discernment of Spirits in its entirety. (The contemporary explanation recommended by my Spiritual Director was The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living by Fr. Timothy M. Gallagher. You may also consider a retreat on the Spiritual Exercises.)

For here and now, I’d like to share a few important lessons with you that I have learned from Ignatius. These have helped me ride the roller coaster of life:

  1. Make Decisions with Peace – If I am in a period of desolation, I am not properly suited for making a major decision that will impact my life, my family, etc. In these cases, I need to seek consolation, as well as the guidance of an unbiased person whom I can trust, such as a spiritual director.
  2. Don’t Worry; Desolation Will Pass – Ignatius reminds us that we will all go through periods of desolation, but that they do not last forever! This is why it’s important to discern & realize: “I am experiencing desolation.” Name what you are experiencing. This realization will remind you that your perspective will be through the lens of desolation for the time being. Then, you will be strengthened with the ability to choose wisely and remember that it will pass.
  3. Seek Consolation through Prayer – When I’m in a period of desolation, I don’t feel particularly drawn to prayer. However, this period is when prayer is essential. Since I don’t feel like praying, I should remember & revisit those times of consolation when I felt close to God. This can help motivate me to pray.
  4. Treasure Times of Consolation – If you are experiencing consolation, treasure it. Write about these blessings in a journal; how do you sense God’s closeness? Where do you see God’s hand in your life? What insights have you gained from this time? These memories are important to treasure, because they will strengthen you in times of desolation.
  5. God Is Always Near – Our Catholic faith gives us wonderful reminders of God’s nearness in the sacraments, the witness of the saints, the prayers and devotions, the sacred art, and the Body of Christ present in our brothers and sisters. No matter what we are experiencing, God who is Love is always near to us. We have no reason to fear, only to listen and do our best to grow & develop so that we can, in turn, respond by living in generous love.

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.

Angela Sealana is Media Coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, having served at the apostolate for 10 years. She also serves on the PCH Speaker Team, and offers a talk on discernment.

7 Practical Principles for Discerning God’s Will in Our Lives

It’s a common question: “What does God want?” How do we know? Lent gives us the perfect opportunity to learn the answer, as we enter ‘into the desert’ with Jesus, listening to God’s voice in prayer and penance. Here are some practical principles (based on Peter Kreeft’s book “Making Choices”) to help you discern God’s will for your life:

ONE: LOVE GOD!

The first principle is embarrassingly simple: LOVE GOD. If you love God, you will love his will; if you love his will, you will want to do his will; if you want to do his will, you will want to know his will (in order to do it); and if you want to know his will, you will! Jesus said that all who seek, find. This refers to finding God and his will. Not all who seek wealth, glory or even health will get it, but all who seek God will find Him! Our faith is important, a child-like faith, trusting in God, our Heavenly Father.

TWO: LISTEN to the HOLY SPIRIT.

Open yourself up to the Holy Spirit. God guides us when we want to do His will. We must have an attitude like Mary, the Mother of our Lord: “I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to do whatever he wants.” (Luke 1:38) Ask Mary to intercede for you. Ask her to pray for you to be docile to the Holy Spirit.

THREE: GET RID of OBSTACLES.

Why, with such powerful help available, does discernment seem so difficult? Not because there’s not enough power, but because there are obstacles that we put in the way. What is that obstacle? SIN. But the obstacle is not sin as such, but unrepented sin. None of us can avoid sin. Saints are simply sinners saved. When sin is unacknowledged and unrepented, it sticks to our spirit and blinds our minds. Repented sin is like garbage put out for the divine garbage man to take away. Unrepented sin is like garbage left in the kitchen that stinks up the air around all the food. Sometimes we rationalize sin rather than repenting of it and it blocks our discernment.

For instance, a married person committing adultery may say that they have fallen in love with someone and feel that God must then be leading them to divorce their spouse to marry this other person. But God has made it clear. He said “You shall not commit adultery.” We can be sure that this person’s idea is not God’s will for him or her, but the obvious sexual sin is a serious obstacle. It also damages his/her relationship with God; this also affects the Body of Christ! Once our will is out line with God’s will, only 3 things can happen:

– – – turn, repent and restore the relationship with God and with it the power of discernment OR
– – – we keep walking away from God, knowing what we are doing but do it anyway; OR
– – – we walk away but rationalize it because we can’t endure the truth that we are turning our backs on God, on Truth, on the source and standard of all goodness, including our own.

To repent is a matter of the HEART, the MIND and the BEHAVIOR. Once the heart repents, we start the journey; the heart is the captain of the soul. When the mind repents, we bring every thought to Christ. When we repent through behavior, we are on the road to recovery; a life of good virtues will help us live a healthy life!

Think of this analogy: The WILL is the Captain, the MIND is the navigator, and the BODY (hands and feet) are the engines of the ship. The whole ship needs to turn (in other words, to repent).

FOUR: GET RID of UNFORGIVENESS.

How important is forgiveness? So important that Christ commanded us to mortgage our very salvation on it. An unforgiving heart is so at odds with the heart of God, whose very nature is to forgive, that it cannot discern God’s will. So before trying to discern God’s will, be sure you aren’t holding a grudge against anyone.

FIVE: MAKE IT a HABIT.

Discernment is a habit, not a quick fix. When we become Christians we are not called to abandon common sense. The New Testament writers often encourage us to think and never discourage us from using our minds. Today, we are so used to “instant gratification.” We must learn to be patient with nature’s and grace’s slow rhythms of growth. How do we do this?

Virtues in reality are habits of doing good. Choosing the good, using our common sense—it’s a daily effort. We wake up each morning realizing it to be a new day and a new beginning and also a continual journey of what already has been experienced. The way we progress is to try to consciously do the opposite of our weakness. If we are impatient, let us try to be more patient…another words exercise that virtue. “No pain no gain” has some truth to it!

Cultivating habits is like cultivating crops; it takes time. Habits can fertilize other habits.

SIX: BE PRUDENT.

“Prudence” means practical wisdom. It is a matter of reason, intelligence, and practical wisdom. Sometimes we ignore this intellectual ingredient when we relate ONLY to the heart and the Spirit. For example: “I feel I love this person very much so I am going to agree to have premarital sex.” This is not being prudent or wise! We must use our minds to discern between good and evil. God wills for us to use our own reason in making specific moral decisions. (Grace builds on nature).

When discerning, always consider the three main factors involved in any given question or problem:
A. God’s objective moral law, revealed in Scripture and the Church’s authoritative interpretation of it.
B. The situation God providentially arranges for you.
C. The testimony of your own conscience, especially the inner peace that you have, is a mark of the Spirit’s presence.

SEVEN: LISTEN when you PRAY

Discerning God’s will is the fruit of a healthy relationship with the Triune God. The fruit of prayer. But remember: prayer is a dialogue with God. The scriptures tell us how God spoke many times to people. So many times WE do all the talking and hardly listen!

What do you think about this: you go to your doctor and tell him/her… “I have problems with my back, I have constant headaches, my blood pressure is high almost everyday. These are my problems and pains Doctor. OH! I also need my allergy shot!” Then having gone through my list I look at my watch and say, “Oh my goodness, I have to go..well thanks for listening!” The doctor would say.. “Wait just a minute, you didn’t let me tend to you.”

Prayer is very important part of our relationship with God. Prayer is the life of a new heart. (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2697)

Our Lady of Hope (Pontmain, France)

Fr. Ed Hauf, OMI, shares the story of Our Lady of Hope, an apparition of the Virgin Mary.

Little Ways to Transform Your Heart

Dr. Susan Muto presents how the simple life of St. Therese of Lisieux, suffering terminal illness, drew her closer to Christ – transforming her into one of the greatest missionaries; and what her Little Way can teach us in the life we live. Includes American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation.

This presentation was given during a Catholic Seniors’ Conference presented by Pilgrim Center of Hope.

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Today, we can be easily discouraged amid bleak headlines, divisive words, and life’s many challenges. How can we make a difference in a world that seems to have lost hope? With joy and humor, Pope Francis’ Missionary of Mercy visited San Antonio to celebrate Pilgrim Center of Hope’s 25 year anniversary and re-awaken us to the hope that God gives.

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Professional counselor, wife, mother, and spiritual director Jeannette Santos provided a message of hope at the 2019 Catholic Seniors’ Conference about how God is close to us especially in our times of need, suffering, and distress.

Fr Patrick Martin

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During Pilgrim Center of Hope’s 2019 Catholic Seniors’ Conference, blind priest Fr. Patrick A. Martin provided a message of hope about how God redeems our experiences of suffering and “brokenness.”

Seniors: The Joy of Being Known by God

Dr. Margarett Schlientz speaks on “The Joy of Being Known by God” at the 2nd annual Catholic Seniors’ Conference, organized by Pilgrim Center of Hope at the request of Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, MSpS.

Raising Catholic Kiddos

Raising young children is often wonderful – but exhausting! And parenting kids in the faith has its own challenges. Host Greg Camacho and Janet Bonnin, founder of Families of the Way, talk tips and encouragement for raising Catholic little ones.

Catholicism Live! was a weekly program produced by Pilgrim Center of Hope from the early 2000s until 2019.

Healing Life’s Deepest Wounds

Fr. Ed Hauf and Dr. Lisa Landry discuss healing Father/Mother wounds: what they are, their effects, and how to find healing.

“Catholicism Live!” was a weekly program of Pilgrim Center of Hope from the early 2000s until 2019.