Desires and Discernment
by JIM MANNEY
Mark Thibodeaux, SJ, has a pithy definition of discernment: “Good discernment consists of prayerfully pondering the great desires that well up in my daydreams.”
These “great desires” are the fundamental forces that drive us. Sin happens not because we have desires, but because we are ignorant of the “desires beneath the desires.” In Ignatius’s view, the most universal desire is to praise, reverence, and serve God. This deep desire is often hidden to us. We fall into sin not because we are in touch with our desires, but because we are not in touch with them.
Discernment, says Thibodeaux, is a process of “praydreaming:”
I fantasize about great and beautiful futures. I let God dream in me and I sit in silent awe and wonder as these holy dreams come to life before the eyes and ears of my soul. . . .
Often, after many hours of prayerful deliberation, there will be a moment when you will just know. It will feel not as though you are making a decision but, rather, as though you are acknowledging a decision that has already been agreed upon by God and your heart.
I’ll recognize this auspicious moment by the way one option over the others leads to praydreams. Maybe those praydreams aren’t idealistic, comfortable or beautiful. But somehow they are realistic and right, more peaceful and charged with energy. These dreams will fit like a glove.
All the other options—though perhaps more beautiful, more comfortable or more safe—will drift farther from my soul’s watchful eye and will begin to fade into the horizon.