‘Praydreaming’: A key to discernment

In the February 2010 issue of "Catholic Update," a publication under the auspices of St. Anthony Messenger Press, there is an excellent article by Jesuit Father Mark E. Thibodeaux, "Praydreaming: Key to Discernment." He speaks of prayerful daydreaming as the key to discernment.

Accordingly, the Holy Spirit speaks to us through our own daydreams and desires.

Actual grace is a light to the mind and an impulse to the will. We gradually come to discern what God wants of us.

At first, we may not fully understand whether this dream is from God or not. Not every desire is from God, but many are, and when a dream brings peace and joy it is a good sign that God is asking us to choose a new path.

There are many approaches to discernment in our Catholic tradition, Father Thibodeaux writes, and St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, explains one: "Good discernment consists of prayerfully pondering the great desires that well up in our daydreams."

Good desires are one of God's primary instruments of communicating his will to his children. God enflames the heart with holy desires and an attraction toward a life of greater divine praise and service. Sometimes these desires and attractions have to do with a vocation, but more often than not they have to do with the choice of volunteering for some noble work.

My own vocation emerged from daydreaming about being a priest. At the time I definitely wanted to marry and raise a family. Becoming a priest was the last thing I wanted - or so I thought. I resisted the idea for more than five years, until I finally had to surrender and admit that what I wanted most of all was to become a priest.

Spiritual directors know that the Holy Spirit often leads His children along paths they would not have chosen for themselves. Many of my columns are written in a state of "praydreaming." I awake with the whole article in my head, and while I am still half asleep I scribble some notes so I can remember them later.

Here's a new article taken from notes I've had for a couple of weeks. You can decide if it's from the Holy Spirit or not:

We need air. But in order to receive air, we must learn to breathe. If you cut yourself off from air you will die.

We also need joy. Life is so miserable at times that we need joy to survive.

It is important to know that joy is a choice. If you have chosen Jesus as Lord and Savior, you already have His joy in you. Then you must decide to live joyfully because of the knowledge of His love.

If you cut yourself off from spiritual joy, you will suffer emotional death.

The Gospel tells us that God is love (1 Jn 4:16), but love and joy are two sides of the same coin.

God is both love and joy. The knowledge of God's love opens us to a participation in His joy.

Joy, therefore, is not merely a feeling; it is a kind of contentment based on the knowledge of God's never-ending love.

If you have bad feelings over some sorrow in your life, you still have joy at the center of your heart. God's joy is always present.

If God has allowed some sorrow to overtake you, it does not mean that He has abandoned you. His joy is within you. Claim it and be glad.

Fr. Catoir is founder and president of the St. Jude Media Ministry.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2010