Saturday Sept. 14, students, faculty and visitors gathered in the St. Joseph Center to hear the guest lecturer elucidate his area of expertise, the proper discernment of spirits, at an all-day seminar entitled “Living the discerning life.”
The speaker, the Rev. Timothy Gallagher of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, focused on spiritual ways of overcoming evil and living out holiness in the footsteps of Saint Ignatius. Lasting most of the day, the seminar involved four sessions constructed around the topic of spiritual discernment and offered time for discussion and prayer.
“Discernment of spirits is a spiritual action which firstly calls us to be aware,” Gallagher said, “(and) to notice the spiritual experience going on in our head and the related stirrings of our hearts. Once we have become aware of it, to work with it until we understand what is of God and not of God … and to act accordingly.”
In striving to live a holy life, Gallagher said it is natural for everyone to experience moments of dryness or discouragement. They can feel tempted to despair and listen to the voice of the enemy which says that we are not good enough or strong enough.
“All of us know that as we live our spiritual lives, there are types of spiritual energy, types of prayer when God feels close,” said Gallagher. “We’ll also recognize that there are times … when the bottom seems to drop out of that image. On such days, we don’t feel God’s closeness.”
Gallagher then went on to identify saints who had experienced this in their lives and overcame it. In telling the life story of St. Ignatius, he showed how this saint moved from sin to a longing for something more fulfilling to a conversion of heart and mind. Despite the constant reminder of his past ringing in his ears and the pressure of failure, this saint persevered in his quest for a spiritually enriching life.
Gallagher challenged his audience to meditate on what would happen in their individual lives if they began to live with their eyes open to the spiritual experience going on in their hearts and minds, saying, “We will become in our day, as Ignatius was powerfully in his, agents of renewal in the Church.”
Gallagher is an acclaimed speaker whose recorded talks are popular internationally and the author of multiple books, including “The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living.”