By Biz Blee
Earlier this month, along with more than two hundred faithful at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Washington, DC, I was blessed to attend an evening of reflection with Dan and Stephanie Burke.
It was no ordinary gathering.
It was, above all, an encounter with the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, complete with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and strung with a beautiful cadence of reflections from Dan, silent Adoration, and Evening Prayer chant lead by Stephanie.
Dan’s testimony followed, a testimony of his deeply painful personal suffering and his own encounter with Jesus. In his vulnerability, he shared in a way that revealed both his humanity and the healing power of God’s love. Hearing his story, interwoven with the lessons of St. Ignatius’ Discernment of Spirits, those of us present discovered a friend who could meet each person exactly where they were, who could speak so powerfully to everyone’s own trials and sufferings that all distractions simply fell away.
Dan offered us a path to peace and liberation through Discernment of Spirits. Desiring to offer this as a “year acceptable to the Lord,” I made several resolutions that evening based on this revelation of the wisdom of Saint Ignatius, pillars of the spiritual life to build a foundation of peace of Christ.
First of all, to give my first fruits to God. I will begin my day by fixing my mind and heart on the One for Whom I was made and in Whom I live and breathe and have my being. (This is part of the morning prayer from my Apostoli Viae prayer book and each day it reminds me of exactly what is most important.)
Secondly, to adore Christ through the daily Sacrifice of the Mass and in Eucharist Adoration as much as I am able - giving God His due, and doing it out of love. I will continue that adoration throughout each day in my heart, removing the excess noise in my life and making a continual offering to Him of all that I am.
I will also strive to live in the Truth, knowing the Truth will set me free. Any ‘discernment’ which leads me away from the Magisterium of the Catholic Church can only lead me to hell. I have to ask, “Are my thoughts, words, and actions leading me to greater love of God and those closest to me?” I need to ask God to reveal the destructive patterns in my head and show me the truth. This is why I need frequent confession, spiritual direction, holy friendships, and community.
Finally, to take every thought captive to Christ. The enemy feeds me, and all of us, lies that lead to doubt, despair and narcissism. I need to know my weak links and to fortify them with the exact Scriptures that will speak to them. The only way for this to be possible is to be immersed in study and memorization of Scripture. I must strive to know Scripture verses and repeat them over and over.
This is all part of the process of discernment. That is, to first of all be aware that the enemy wants to lull me to sleep and not realize that is is a battle every single day. Then, to understand, considering the way I think and perceive. If I am going to engage in the battle, I need to understand how it works. Finally, to take action. I must decisively reject the lie and embrace the truth. I must listen, and then, if something is true, enter into it more deeply. If it is not true, then I must fight in the power of Jesus’ name, resisting and renouncing the enemy and the spirits of fear, anger, wrath, greed, and unforgiveness. I will fight like heaven to get the hell out of me! And I will know, in so doing, that I will receive resistance, attacks, and humiliations from the enemy.
But I resolve to remain steadfast. I will trust in the Lord. I will make an act of faith. And I cry out to God, “Help me, dear Lord and Blessed Mother, to follow God’s will. Help me to to ‘prepare a year acceptable to the Lord!’”
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. James 4:7-8