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Sunday, 3 March 2013

On discernment and prudential judgement

Some terms need to be defined. I have written about infallibility, which is confusing people. What is missing from most conversations on infallibility is our own, adult understanding of the Faith.

Let me start with prudential judgement.

The CCC states this about prudence:

1806 Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; “the prudent man looks where he is going.” “Keep sane and sober for your prayers.” Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle. It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.

When we need to apply reason which is right, that is formed by a Catholic conscience and steeped in Catholic teaching, to a certain situation, that is when we use prudential judgement.

One cannot merely decide on any moral issue with feelings or fear, but only with clear reason based on the virtue of prudence.

Most issues, except doctrines, dogmas and sins which are intrinsically evil, allow for some prudential judgement.

I can decide yes or no to go to a restaurant on Sunday with my TLM friends after Mass. I cannot use prudential judgement regarding having or helping an abortion.

I can use prudential judgement as to believing in some private revelations of the saints, but not in believing in the Immaculate Conception, which is a teaching of the Church-a dogma.

Discernment is another gift given to us by the Holy Ghost and is connected to prudence and part of the gift of wisdom.

Discernment helps us understand right from wrong and flows from a well-formed conscience.

I think that discernment comes from self-knowledge.

If one is humble and acknowledges sin in one's self, discernment grows, becomes more keen.

Habitual sinners of serious sin lose discernment.

They lose the ability to judge wisely.

They lost the ability to sense and see right from wrong.

The closer one gets to God, the more clear one sees spiritual realities, like sin, virtue, one's vocation in life.

One must become objective. One cannot be a saint without objectivity. I must be able to look in the mirror and see what is real and true.

A saint must be rational. A saint must be peaceful and reflective.

Discernment helps bring about clarity and clarity creates more discernment.

Discernment includes discerment of spirits and one of the simplest summaries is found in the Catholic Encyclopedia on line.

An excellent lesson is that given by St. Ignatius Loyola in his "Spiritual Exercises". Here we find rules for the discernment of spirits and, being clearly and briefly formulated, these rules indicate a secure course, containing in embryo all that is included in the more extensive treatises of later date. For a complete explanation of them the best commentaries on the "Exercises" of St. Ignatius may be consulted. Of the rules transmitted to us by a saint inspired by Divine light and a learned psychologist taught by personal experience, it will suffice to recall the principal ones. Ignatius gives two kinds and we must call attention to the fact that in the second category, according to some opinions, he sometimes considers a more delicate discernment of spirits adapted to the extraordinary course of mysticism. Be that as it may, he begins by enunciating this clear principle, that both the good and the evil spirit act upon a soul according to the attitude it assumes toward them. If it pose as their friend, they flatter it; if to resist them, they torment it. But the evil spirit speaks only to the imagination and the senses, whereas the good spirit acts upon reason and conscience. The evil labours to excite concupiscence, the good to intensify love for God. Of course it may happen that a perfectly well-disposed soul suffers from the attacks of the devil deprived of the sustaining consolations of the good angel; but this is only a temporary trial the passing of which must be awaited in patience and humility. St. Ignatius also teaches us to distinguish the spirits by their mode of action and by the end they seek. Without any preceding cause, that is to say, suddenly, without previous knowledge or sentiment, God alone, by virtue of His sovereign dominion, can flood the soul with light and joy. But if there has been a preceding cause, either the good or the bad angel may be the author of the consolation; this remains to be judged from the consequences. As the good angel's object is the welfare of the soul and the bad angel's its defects or unhappiness, if, in the progress of our thoughts all is well and tends to good there is no occasion for uneasiness; on the contrary, if we perceive any deviation whatsoever towards evil or even a slight unpleasant agitation, there is reason to fear. Such, then, is the substance of these brief rules which are nevertheless so greatly admired by the masters of the spiritual life. Although requiring an authorized explanation, when well understood, they act as a preservative against many illusions.

To be continued...