"God works through non-programmable events, 'that' by chance this has happened to me," says Pope Francis.

Pope Francis continued his catechesis on discernment. On this second occasion he took the example of an episode in the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Javier Garcia-September 7, 2022-Reading time: 4 minutes
Pope Francis

The Pope waves upon his arrival at the general audience in St. Peter's Square on Sept. 7. ©CNS/Paul Haring

The catechesis of the Pope Francis reflected on the workings of providence in ordinary life. The hand of God is hidden behind the apparent casualness that encloses a multitude of daily actions.

After being wounded in the leg in the defense of the city of Pamplona, he was convalescent for several months. Lacking screens that could entertain him during the hours of prostration, he could only turn to reading as a means of entertainment and escape. For this reason, he asked his relatives for books of chivalry, of which he was very fond, but as there were only religious books in the house, he had to be satisfied with this genre. Thanks to this situation, he began to learn more about the life of Christ and the saints.

Pope Francis, the spiritual son of St. Ignatius, commented on how the founder of the Jesuits "was fascinated by the figures of St. Francis and St. Dominic and felt the desire to imitate them. But the chivalrous world also continues to exercise its fascination on him. And so he feels within himself this alternation of thoughts, those of chivalry and those of the saints, which seem to be equivalent.

"But Ignatius also began to notice the differences," the Pope continued. "In his autobiography - in the third person - he writes: 'When he thought of the world - and of chivalrous things, it is understood - he took great delight; but when after he was tired he left it, he was dry and discontented; and when in going to Jerusalem barefoot, and in eating nothing but herbs, and in doing all the other rigors that the saints should have done; he was not only consoled when he was in such thoughts, but even after leaving it, he was content and joyful' (n. 8). 8), they left him a trace of joy".

Francis explains the action of grace

Glossing on this story, the Holy Father underlined the contrast between the emptiness left in the human heart by certain desires that are presented in an extremely attractive way and the things of God, which may not be very appealing but then do fill the human being. Something like this happens to St. Ignatius when he is saddened by the religious literature offered to him.

The Pope quoted a famous text from the "Spiritual Exercises" of St. Ignatius in which he explains the devil's different ways with better and worse people: "In persons who go from mortal sin to mortal sin, it is commonly customary for the enemy to propose apparent pleasures to them, to reassure them that everything is going well, making them imagine delights and pleasures of the senses, in order to preserve them and make them grow more in their vices and sins; in such persons the good spirit acts in the opposite way, pricking and pricking their conscience by the right judgment of reason" ("Spiritual Exercises," 314).

Listening to the heart

"Ignatius, when he was wounded in his father's house, was not thinking precisely about God or about how to reform his life, no. He had his first experience of God by listening to his own heart, which showed him a curious inversion: things that at first sight were attractive left him disappointed and in other, less brilliant things, he felt a peace that lasted for a long time. We also have this experience, many times we start to think one thing and we stay there and then we are disappointed (...). This is what we have to learn: to listen to our own heart".

But listening to the voice of the heart is not easy, not least because we are bombarded by so many stimuli. "We listen to the television, the radio, the cell phone," the Pope continued, "we are masters of listening, but I ask you: do you know how to listen to your heart? Do you stop to say: 'But how is my heart? Is it satisfied, is it sad, is it looking for something? To make good decisions it is necessary to listen to one's heart.

Appearance of causality

To prepare oneself to listen to one's inner voice, it is necessary to read the biographies of the saints. In them one can easily see God's way of acting in the lives of people, so that their example guides us in our daily decisions. By interiorizing the Gospel and the lives of the saints, one learns to see how "God works through non-programmable events, that by chance, by chance this happened to me, by chance I saw this person, by chance I saw this movie, it was not programmed, but God works through non-programmable events, and also in the setbacks: 'I had to take a walk and I had a problem with my feet, I can't....'. What is God saying to you? What is life saying to you there?" . Following this supernatural logic, the Pope advised the faithful to be "attentive to unexpected things".

It is in the unexpected events that God often speaks. "Is the Lord speaking to you or is the devil speaking to you? Someone is. But there is something for discernHow do I react to unexpected things? I was so calm at home and 'bang, bang', the mother-in-law arrives and how do you react with the mother-in-law? Is it love or is it something else inside? And you make the discernment. I was working in the office and a colleague comes to tell me that he needs money and how do you react? See what happens when we experience things we do not expect and there we learn to know our heart, how it moves. Discernment is the help to recognize the signs with which the Lord makes himself found in unforeseen situations, even unpleasant ones, as it was for Ignatius the wound in his leg".

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