Igniting Our Values
Igniting Our Values

March 22, Sunday

Spiritual Discernment

During this fifth week of Lent, let’s focus on Ignatian Spiritual Discernment, which, for many of us, is a hallmark of our spiritual practice.

Spiritual discernment is a matter of the heart, whether we’re talking about the “reasoning heart” of David Fleming, the “prayerful and daydreaming heart” of Mark Thibodeaux or the “true sentiments of the heart” of Saint Ignatius himself. Jesuit scholastic Brendan Busse also hinges his understanding of spiritual discernment on the human heart — by way of a rare and resonant metaphor.

Scripture Readings

Sunday Readings - Week 5

JER 31:31-34
HEB 5:7-9
JN 12:20-33



A procedural note: our reflections and prayers will refer to the Sunday readings for the week, not the daily readings.

Daily Reflection

A Problem of Penmanship
by Brendan Busse, SJ

Discernment is more recognition than decision. We think everything is about choice but choice means nothing if we can’t discern between good and bad, between choices that suit us and choices that betray us. A common hurdle in discernment is our inability to trust our own desires. If we could trust our desires, choice would be an afterthought; but we regularly fail to trust the things written on our own hearts. Perhaps spiritual discernment is a problem of penmanship.

When we contemplate our hearts, and the many desires written there, do we recognize the shape of the characters, the curve of the vowels, the tilt of the letters? Do we know whose script we’re reading? Can we trust the words we find? Do we know who wrote them there? Can we recognize the hand of God?

I have several friends with tattoos scripted in the penmanship of someone they love. Just as the sound of our name means something more on the lips of our beloved, a simple word means something more when scripted by their hand. We savor the sight of their penmanship. We revel in the record of their gestures.

In discernment I seek to recognize God’s penmanship the way I recognize the hand my mother used to scratch my back as a child, the hand she used to write grocery lists and love notes. In this hand something was written on my heart, something I hope never to forget, never to lose.

If discernment is about recognizing penmanship, then it’s also about authorship. I seek to put my own hands to the task of writing, to make a gesture of love in my own script, to spill my share of ink into the pages of this life. In this way, perhaps what has been written on my heart will not perish but be poured out.

Un problema de caligrafía
Por: Brendan Busse, SJ

El discernimiento es más reconocimiento que decisión. Pensamos que todo es acerca de elegir, pero elegir carece de sentido si no somos capaces de discernir entre el bien y el mal, entre opciones favorables y opciones que nos traicionan. Un obstáculo muy común en el discernimiento es la incapacidad de confiar en nuestros propios deseos. Si pudiésemos confiar en ellos, la opción sería una reconsideración; pero, invariablemente desconfiamos de las cosas escritas en nuestros propios corazones. Tal vez, el discernimiento espiritual es un problema de caligrafía.

Cuando contemplamos nuestros corazones, y los muchos deseos escritos en ellos, ¿reconocemos la forma de los caracteres, la curva de las vocales, la inclinación de las letras? ¿Sabemos a quién pertenece la obra que estamos leyendo? ¿Somos capaces de confiar en las palabras que encontramos? ¿Tenemos conocimiento de quién escribió esas palabras allí? ¿Podemos reconocer la mano de Dios?

Tengo varios amigos con tatuajes, escritos con la caligrafía de alguien que ellos aman. Así como el sonido de nuestros nombres significa mucho más en los labios de quién amamos, una simple palabra vale más cuando está escrita por su mano. Nos deleitamos observando su caligrafía. Gozamos recordando cada uno de sus gestos.

Al discernir, busco reconocer la caligrafía de Dios, de la misma manera que reconozco la mano de mi madre rascándome la espalda cuando era niño, la misma mano con la que escribía la lista de las compras y las notas de amor. Esta mano escribió algo en mi corazón. Algo que anhelo nunca olvidar, nunca perder.

Si el discernimiento es acerca de reconocer la caligrafía, entonces es también reconocer a su autor. Yo busco poner mis propias manos a la tarea de escribir, hacer un gesto de amor en mi propio manuscrito, escribir mi parte en las páginas de esta vida. Y de esta manera, quizá, aquello que ha sido escrito en mi corazón no perezca sino que sea anunciado.

Brendan Busse, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic studying theology in Madrid, Spain. He spent the previous two years as a faculty member at the Matteo Ricci College of Seattle University where he taught courses on Ignatian spirituality and poverty in America. He is also a regular writer and associate editor of blogs at TheJesuitPost.org, a social media project of young Jesuits in the United States.


F. de Goya


Almighty God,
author of my life,
help me learn to read what you have written on my heart.
Give me discerning eyes
and an untiring spirit
to look within me
in order to understand how to reach outside of me.
And once I have begun to read you aright,
give me the generosity to help others to read you,
to sound you out one letter,
one word of radical giving at a time.


Let me tell you about my marvelous god, how he hides in the hexagons
of the bees, how the drought that wrings its leather hands
above the world is of his making, as well as the rain in the quiet minutes
that leave only thoughts of rain.
An atom is working and working, an atom is working in deepest
night, then bursting like the farthest star; it is far
smaller than a pinprick, far smaller than a zero and it has no
will, no will toward us.
This is why the heart has paced and paced,
will pace and pace across the field where yarrow
was and now is dust. A leaf catches
in a bone. The burrow’s shut by a tumbled clod
and the roots, upturned, are hot to the touch.
How my god is a feathered and whirling thing; you will singe your arm
when you pluck him from the air,
when you pluck him from that sky
where grieving swirls, and you will burn again
throwing him back.
Let me tell you about my marvelous god
: Susan Stewart

O caught like pennies beneath soot and steam,
Kiss of our agony thou gatherest;
Condensed, thou takest all — shrill ganglia
Impassioned with some song we fail to keep.
And yet, like Lazarus, to feel the slope,
The sod and billow breaking, — lifting ground,
— A sound of waters bending astride the sky
Unceasing with some Word that will not die . . .
: Hart Crane

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
: T.S. Eliot


Scene from THE NEW WORLD (2008)

Nothing Has to Happen (Hungry Ghosts)

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