A long-standing theme in the Church’s spiritual tradition, “discernment” has been given even greater prominence since the beginning of Pope Francis’ pontificate, that is, in the last ten years. It is not surprising, therefore, that between August 31, 2022, and January 4, 2023, his weekly catechesis during the Wednesday general audiences was dedicated to this topic on 14 different occasions.
In simple yet profound language, Pope Francis presents St. Ignatius of Loyola as an example of spiritual wisdom and draws on his teaching to recall and explain the principles, elements and practice of spiritual discernment. Reading the 14 catecheses provides an effective guide to discernment, which is certainly indispensable for those who want to examine their lives and take the initiative, making choices that flow from a personal relationship with the Lord.
Although it is recognized from the very first catechesis that discernment is an exercise of intelligence and expertise, the vocabulary used belongs mainly to that of the emotions. Suffice it to say that in the catechesis as a whole, the word “heart” appears as many as 80 times, “desire” or “desires” 38 times, and “affect” or “affections” 19 times. Thus, it can be seen at once that the spiritual reading of one’s life, which is essential for any discernment process, is an exercise of intelligence and expertise based on reading one’s emotions, that is, listening to one’s heart. At the same time, a true discernment process is inseparable from the desire to seek and fulfill God’s will, knowing that God only wants the good of God’s children.