Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel may be very difficult during this COVID-19 crisis. As we celebrate the feast day of St Ignatius on 31 July we are reminded of the power of discernment. Fr Brian McCoy SJ discusses the need for us to listen to the Spirit to understand what we are being called to do. (Transcript below the video).
Decision making. Our lives are full of decisions we have to make each day. COVID-19 has reminded us about many of us wearing masks for the first time in public, social distancing, hygiene, following new rules and guidelines by our premiers. Not easy decisions they’re making but, we hope together, decisions for the good of all.
We know that making decisions, whether it be from bishops to board members of schools, to principals, to ourselves, making good and lasting decisions that give strength to a community and peace to the members of it is not easy.
Ignatius, when he was in the cave at Manresa a year after Pamplona, started to write his Spiritual Exercises. And part of those spiritual exercises was something he called the ‘rules for discernment of spirits’. How do you know, how can you know, if the Holy Spirit is guiding the decisions you are making – giving lasting peace, freedom, and service and love for the world and for others. How do you know? That’s the gift of Ignatius and his rules for discernment.
Beginning with silence and prayer, but above all praying for an openness, a freedom, to let the Spirit guide our decisions, not our own selfish or personal interests or preferences.
Now this week a representative group of Jesuits in the Province is discerning a terna of three names to go to Father General for my successor. Now we had hoped to meet together in Sydney some months ago but COVID-19 has prevented us from gathering. So this week this representative group – one is in lockdown having come home from New Zealand, three are overseas, the rest are in South Australia, Melbourne and Sydney. And using various forms – some gathering in some places and the use of Zoom – we will try to follow the guidelines set by Ignatius, putting aside our own preferences as to who this person might be – certainly not promoting oneself or others – but trying to listen to the Holy Spirit guiding us at this time. The spirit guiding us to some form of consensus, which names we then presented to Father General for his discernment and final appointment.
So in this process of discernment this week, Jesuits from around this part of the world and some overseas, will start with prayer and silence, and then in gentle conversations of listening to others as to what the gifts we need for this next Provincial at this time in this Church in Australia at this time.
So let us join our prayers for them as they gather. Let us pray for their freedom, their space, their peace, but above all praying that the Holy Spirit will provide a guidance, a consensus, for those who gather. And as they make this very counter-cultural effort to listen, where it’s not just about simple voting, or promoting, or advertising, or self-promoting, but listening. May those men who gather this week encourage each of us to keep listening, that the holy Spirit may guide each of us to make good and lasting decisions.
Discern well, make good decisions, and above all, stay well. Thank you.
Fr Brian F McCoy SJ, Provincial