I am a big fan of Ignatius of Loyola. He understood people, their search for God and meaning in their lives and how to put together the spiritual life with everyday duties. I recently read a book about discernment, Always Discerning by Joseph A. Tetlow, S.J. and it is a treasure trove of ideas to ponder.
In the 2nd chapter, the author discusses what is meant by discernment. We all discern, all day, to one degree or another. Some of us are very introspective while others seem to not give much deep thought to anything. And hopefully we don’t give the same amount of decision-making time to things like where to fill up our car for gas as to whom we marry or what job we choose in our career or to have another child. As Christians, I hope we involve God in the big decision.
A useful definition of discernment is this, “When we say we are discerning, we mean that we have set ourselves to find God at work in the world and unite ourselves to him” (Tetlow, pg. 13). In other words, how do we live, knowing that God is at work in the world? How does what I do each day, from the most mundane task to the extraordinary one, reveal God and my unity with him?
It is by being aware of the dynamic play among our head, heart and hands. In our head we have knowledge that we have learned and understand about our faith. It is truth revealed by Jesus through the Church. As followers of Jesus we are learning more and more each day and understanding the beliefs and practices of our faith more fully as we mature.
Our heart holds our belief that Jesus is our Savior and we are committed to living out our life according to that belief. For me, this is what gives me the ability to hold on when I am weary. It allows me to rest in him, knowing that there is a far greater plan for me than I can imagine.
And then we come to our hands. This is our work, our lived behavior of faith and belief coming together to be the world what it needs from us.
In general, God is asking us to engage all- body, mind and soul – in loving him. And all these three facets are always interacting. The more we are steeped in his word, in prayer and the sacraments, the more our daily actions and interactions mirror our faith. Each of these aspects, head, heart and hands, help the other grow and develop. It is not a straight line from one to the other, flowing in the same direction. I see it more as head, heart and hands are points on a circle, with thoughts, feelings and ideas freely moving around the circle, helping us grow more fully into people who desire to be one with God.
You can find a full review of the book here.