St. John of Avila, Part 1 – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson – Discerning Hearts Podcast

St. John of Avila, Part 1 – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

  • Born: January 6, 1499, Almodóvar del Campo, Spain
  • Died: May 10, 1569, Montilla, Spain

Dr. Matthew Bunson and Kris McGregor discuss the life and impact of St. John of Avila, a doctor of the Church. They highlight his influence on spiritual figures like St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, Peter of Alcantara, John of God, and Francis Borgia during the Catholic Reformation in 16th-century Spain.

Born into a deeply faithful family, John displayed intellectual brilliance and a love for the faith, particularly the Eucharist, from an early age. Initially studying law, John felt called to priesthood and dedicated himself to prayer and discernment. Encouraged by a Franciscan friar, he embraced his vocation, eventually becoming a renowned preacher and spiritual guide. His homilies, grounded in scripture and grace, attracted large crowds and led to a revitalization of the faith in Andalusia.

Despite facing opposition and a year-long investigation by the Inquisition, John remained steadfast in his commitment to reform, care for the poor, and authentic Gospel living. He established schools and influenced the formation of various religious orders, leaving a lasting legacy in the Church.


Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions

  1. St. John of Avila’s Influence: How did St. John of Avila influence key figures like Ignatius Loyola, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and Francis Borja during the Catholic Reformation in Spain?
  2. Obedience and Service: Reflect on St. John’s obedience to authority, even when it meant redirecting his plans to serve the Church in Andalusia. How can we emulate this obedience in our own lives?
  3. Courage in Preaching: Despite facing opposition, St. John preached fearlessly against the wealth of the clergy and advocated for care for the poor. How can we summon similar courage in living out the Gospel in today’s society?
  4. Spiritual Formation and Holiness: Discuss how St. John’s spiritual guidance and example contributed to the formation and holiness of individuals like Francis Borja and Teresa of Avila. How can spiritual mentors shape our own journey of faith?


From Vatican.va, an excerpt from the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI

From the General Audience on St. John of Avila

“Thanks to his insight into the times and his excellent academic training, John of Avila was an outstanding theologian and a true humanist. He proposed the establishment of an international court of arbitration to avoid wars and he invented and patented a number of engineering devices. Leading a life of great poverty, he devoted himself above all to encouraging the Christian life of those who readily listened to his preaching and followed him everywhere. He was especially concerned for the education and instruction of boys and young men, especially those studying for the priesthood. He founded several minor and major colleges, which after the Council of Trent would become seminaries along the lines laid down by that Council. He also founded the University of Baeza, which was known for centuries for its work of training clerics and laity.

John of Avila was a contemporary, friend and counsellor of great saints, and one of the most celebrated and widely esteemed spiritual masters of his time. Saint Ignatius Loyola, who held him in high regard, was eager for him to enter the nascent “Company” which was to become the Society of Jesus. Although he himself did not enter, the Master directed some thirty of his best students to the Society. Juan Ciudad, later Saint John of God, the founder of the Order of Hospitallers, was converted by listening to the saintly Master and thereafter relied on him as his spiritual director. The grandee Saint Francis Borgia, later the General of the Society of Jesus, was another important convert thanks to the help of Father Avila. Saint Thomas of Villanova, Archbishop of Valencia, disseminated Father Avila’s catechetical method in his diocese and throughout the south of Spain. Among Father Avila’s friends were Saint Peter of Alcántara, Provincial of the Franciscans and reformer of the Order, and Saint John de Ribera, Bishop of Badajoz, who asked him to provide preachers to renew his diocese and later, as Archbishop of Valencia, kept a manuscript in his library containing 82 of John’s sermons. Teresa of Jesus, now a Doctor of the Church, underwent great trials before she was able to send him the manuscript of her Autobiography. Saint John of the Cross, also a Doctor of the Church, was in touch with his disciples in Baeza who assisted in the Carmelite reform. Blessed Bartholomew of the Martyrs was acquainted with his life and holiness through common friends, and many others acknowledged the moral and spiritual authority of the Master.”

For more visit \Vatican.va


For more from Dr. Matthew Bunson, check out his Discerning Hearts page.

Dr. Matthew E. Bunson is a Register senior editor and a senior contributor to EWTN News. For the past 20 years, he has been active in the area of Catholic social communications and education, including writing, editing, and teaching on a variety of topics related to Church history, the papacy, the saints and Catholic culture. He is faculty chair at Catholic Distance University, a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the author or co-author of over 50 books including The Encyclopedia of Catholic History, The Pope Encyclopedia, We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI, The Saints Encyclopedia and best-selling biographies of St. Damien of Molokai and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

IJCY4 – Journeying with Jesus – Is Jesus Calling You with Fr. Paul Hoesing – Discerning Hearts Podcast


Journeying with Jesus – Is Jesus Calling You with Fr. Paul Hoesing

Fr. Paul Hoesing and Kris McGregor discuss the guide for discernment, which is not just for those considering priesthood but for all seeking to discern God’s will in their lives. They explore lessons based on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, emphasizing the importance of encountering Jesus, desiring what he desires, and trusting him. The process involves becoming aware of one’s thoughts, feelings, and desires, understanding them in God’s presence, and taking action. Discernment takes time, akin to the gradual conversion experienced by the apostles.

Fr. Hoesing delves into the incremental nature of discernment, where individuals progress step by step, rather than seeking immediate answers to complex questions. The importance of seminary formation is to provide young men with the necessary human and spiritual development; addressing societal pressures on career decisions and the need for proper human formation, especially in the seminary environment.

The role of spiritual direction is important, guiding individuals through discernment and helping them articulate their prayers and petitions. Fr. Hoesing concludes with reflections on finding peace in Jesus, recognizing his presence, and anchoring oneself in Christ for fruitful discernment.


Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions:

  1. Encountering Jesus and Trusting Him: How does the encounter with Jesus impact one’s discernment process?
  2. Understanding Thoughts, Feelings, and Desires in God’s Presence: Reflect on the importance of becoming aware of one’s thoughts, feelings, and desires in the discernment journey.
  3. Patience in Discernment: How can we cultivate patience in our discernment process, understanding that it takes time?
  4. Incremental Nature of Discernment: Consider the idea of discernment as an incremental journey rather than seeking immediate answers. How does this perspective shift our approach to discernment?
  5. Role of Seminary Formation: Reflect on the significance of seminary formation in providing the necessary human and spiritual development for those discerning priesthood.
  6. Navigating Societal Pressures: How can we navigate societal pressures on career decisions, especially regarding vocations, and prioritize discernment of God’s will?
  7. Importance of Spiritual Direction: Reflect on the role of spiritual direction in guiding individuals through discernment and helping them articulate their prayers and petitions.
  8. Finding Peace in Jesus: How do we recognize and anchor ourselves in the peace that comes from encountering Jesus in our discernment journey?
  9. Closing Reflections: Consider St. Teresa of Jesus’ prayer: “Let nothing trouble you. Let nothing frighten you. Everything passes. God never changes. Patience obtains all.” How does this prayer resonate with your discernment journey?
  10. Prayer for Guidance: Pray for God’s blessing and guidance in your discernment, seeking to live fully and radically in Christ.

Based on “Is Jesus Calling You To Be A Catholic  Priest: A helpful guide”, published by National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Director.

Fr. Paul Hoesing serves at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary as President Rector

Ep. 10 – A Sister of St. Thérèse: Servant of God, Léonie Martin – Bearer of Hope with Fr. Timothy Gallagher – Discerning Hearts Podcast


Fr. Timothy Gallagher OMVA Sister of St. Thérèse: Servant of God, Léonie Martin – Bearer of Hope with Fr. Timothy Gallagher – Episode 10

In this episode, Fr. Gallagher shares more letters exchanged between Léonie and her sister, Thérèse.

In this episode, Léonie has returned home after her second failed attempt to enter into religious life at the Monastery of the Visitation at Caen.  Her father, Louie, has passed away, and her sister Céline has entered the Carmel with her three other sisters.  Her aunt and uncle have warmly welcomed her into their home, but she feels uncomfortable and out of place given the family’s outgoing social nature.  What will become of poor Léonie?

As Thérèse nears her death, she continues to write words of encouragement to Léonie.   She reassures Léonie that she will be even closer to her once she reaches heaven and will never stop praying for her.

After reading and re-reading Thérèse’s writings, Léonie is more determined than ever to return to the Visitation Sisters, where major changes have occurred within the Monastery.  The next chapter of Léonie’s story is about to begin.


Fr. Gallagher says, “Léonie’s life holds a very important story because she was the forgotten one; she was the one who was in the last place; she was the one who was less gifted than the others. Today we would call her a ‘problem child,’ and we’ll see that she certainly was the source of great anxiety to her parents, especially to her mother, Zélie, who loved her dearly.”

As a child, Léonie suffered from severe illnesses and physical maladies that would plague her entire life. She also struggled with understanding social clues and interactions and with behaving appropriately. Conventional educational models of the day failed to meet her particular needs, and she was labeled “developmentally delayed.” Yet those who knew her well described her as having a “heart of gold.”

Who was Léonie and what were her struggles? Why has her cause of canonization begun?  Father Gallagher, along with Kris McGregor,  answers these questions and explains why Léonie is “a bearer of hope” in this landmark series.

Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions:

  1. Léonie’s Struggles and Perseverance: How do Léonie’s repeated rejections from the Carmel reflect the challenges many face in pursuing their vocations?
  2. Thérèse’s Encouragement and God’s Mercy:  In what ways does Thérèse’s assurance of God’s love and understanding resonate with our own experiences of doubt and despair?
  3. Embracing Little Acts of Love:  Reflect on the significance of Thérèse’s emphasis on the value of small gestures of love in our spiritual lives. How can we incorporate this mindset into our daily actions?
  4. Finding Hope in the Face of Failure:  Despite feeling like a failure, Léonie finds hope in the possibility of a new beginning. How can we draw inspiration from her perseverance in times of disappointment or rejection?
  5. Trusting in God’s Plan: Léonie’s journey reminds us of the importance of trusting in God’s timing and plan, even when faced with obstacles. How can we cultivate a deeper trust in God’s providence in our own lives?

Marie

Pauline

Céline

St. Thérèse

A resource used for this series

Images in this post of the Martin/Guerin family are used with permission from the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux website for strictly non-commercial use.  We encourage you to visit the website for more information on this remarkable family.


For more series Fr. Timothy Gallagher podcasts, visit here

Father Timothy M. Gallagher, O.M.V., was ordained in 1979 as a member of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, a religious community dedicated to retreats and spiritual formation according to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  Fr. Gallagher is featured on the EWTN series “Living the Discerning Life:  The Spiritual Teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola.” For more information on how to obtain copies of Fr. Gallaghers’s various books and audio which are available for purchase, please visit  his  website:   frtimothygallagher.org

BTP-LOT18 – Awareness of the Presence of Christ – The Life of St. Teresa of Avila – Beginning to Pray with Dr. Anthony Lilles – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Awareness of the Presence of Christ – The Life of St. Teresa of Avila – Beginning to Pray with Dr. Anthony Lilles

Dr. Anthony Lilles and Kris McGregor discuss Chapter 27 of the work by St. Teresa of Avila. They explore St. Theresa’s profound spiritual experiences, particularly her visions and locutions, and how they relate to the stages of the spiritual life. In addition, they discuss St. Theresa’s humility in submitting her experiences to her confessor and the transformative effects these experiences have on the soul.

Dr. Lilles draws parallels between Theresa’s visions and experiences of other spiritual writers, comparing the deep personal encounter with Christ they represent, including the distinctions between various levels of spiritual awareness, such as the prayer of quiet and the prayer of union, and how they manifest in the soul’s relationship with God.

While these extraordinary experiences are not necessary for spiritual growth, they can profoundly impact the soul and its journey towards God.


For more episodes in this seriesThe Life of St. Teresa of Avila; with Dr. Anthony Lilles

For an audio version of the book“The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus” by St. Teresa of Avila

For other audio recordings of various spiritual classics, you can visit the Discerning Hearts Spiritual Classics page.


St. Teresa of Avila Interior Castle Podcast Anthony Lilles Kris McGregor

Discerning Hearts reflection questions for this episode:

  1. Exploring Spiritual Experiences: How do St. Teresa of Avila’s visions and locutions deepen our understanding of spiritual encounters with God?
  2. Submission to Spiritual Authority: What lessons can we learn from St. Teresa’s humility in submitting her spiritual experiences to her confessor?
  3. Transformative Encounters: How do encounters with Christ, like those described by St. Teresa, impact the soul and its journey towards God?
  4. Levels of Spiritual Awareness: What distinctions can we draw between different levels of spiritual awareness, such as the prayer of quiet and the prayer of union, and how they manifest in the soul’s relationship with God?

An excerpt from Chapter 27, discussed in this episode:

“At the end of two years spent in prayer by myself and others for this end, namely, that our Lord would either lead me by another way, or show the truth of this,—for now the locutions of our Lord were extremely frequent,—this happened to me. I was in prayer one day,—it was the feast of the glorious St. Peter —when I saw Christ close by me, or, to speak more correctly, felt Him; for I saw nothing with the eyes of the body, nothing with the eyes of the soul. He seemed to me to be close beside me; and I saw, too, as I believe, that it was He who was speaking to me. As I was utterly ignorant that such a vision was possible, I was extremely afraid at first, and did nothing but weep; however, when He spoke to me but one word to reassure me, I recovered myself, and was, as usual, calm and comforted, without any fear whatever. Jesus Christ seemed to be by my side continually, and, as the vision was not imaginary, I saw no form; but I had a most distinct feeling that He was always on my right hand, a witness of all I did; and never at any time, if I was but slightly recollected, or not too much distracted, could I be ignorant of His near presence.

I went at once to my confessor, in great distress, to tell him of it. He asked in what form I saw our Lord. I told him I saw no form. He then said: “How did you know that it was Christ?” I replied, that I did not know how I knew it; but I could not help knowing that He was close beside me,—that I saw Him distinctly, and felt His presence,— that the recollectedness of my soul was deeper in the prayer of quiet, and more continuous,—that the effects thereof were very different from what I had hitherto experienced,—and that it was most certain. I could only make comparisons in order to explain myself; and certainly there are no comparisons, in my opinion, by which visions of this kind can be described. Afterwards I learnt from Friar Peter of Alcantara, a holy man of great spirituality,—of whom I shall speak by and by,—and from others of great learning, that this vision was of the highest order, and one with which Satan can least interfere; and therefore there are no words whereby to explain,—at least, none for us women, who know so little: learned men can explain it better.

For if I say that I see Him neither with the eyes of the body, nor with those of the soul,—because it was not an imaginary vision,—how is it that I can understand and maintain that He stands beside me, and be more certain of it than if I saw Him? If it be supposed that it is as if a person were blind, or in the dark, and therefore unable to see another who is close to him, the comparison is not exact. There is a certain likelihood about it, however, but not much, because the other senses tell him who is blind of that presence: he hears the other speak or move, or he touches him; but in these visions there is nothing like this. The darkness is not felt; only He renders Himself present to the soul by a certain knowledge of Himself which is more clear than the sun. I do not mean that we now see either a sun or any brightness, only that there is a light not seen, which illumines the understanding so that the soul may have the fruition of so great a good. This vision brings with it great blessings.”


Anthony Lilles, S.T.D. is an associate professor and the academic dean of Saint John’s Seminary in Camarillo as well as the academic advisor for Juan Diego House of Priestly Formation for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. For over twenty years he served the Church in Northern Colorado where he joined and eventually served as dean of the founding faculty of Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. Through the years, clergy, seminarians, religious and lay faithful have benefited from his lectures and retreat conferences on the Carmelite Doctors of the Church and the writings of St. Elisabeth of the Trinity.

DWG8 – Two Modes of Discernment – The Discernment of God’s Will in Everyday Decisions with Fr. Timothy Gallagher – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Two Modes of Discernment – “What am I to do?” The Discernment of God’s Will in Everyday Decisions with Fr. Timothy Gallagher

Fr. Timothy Gallagher and Kris McGregor discuss the first two modes of discernment. The first mode involves receiving clarity beyond doubting, where individuals experience an unquestionable sense of God’s call. Examples include Anne and Gary, who had unshakeable clarity in their vocations. Seeking guidance from a spiritual director is encouraged in such discernment.

The second mode, discernment through the attraction of the heart, involves recognizing spiritual consolation and desolation. Spiritual consolation is marked by an uplifting sense of God’s presence, joy, and increased faith, hope, and charity. Examples from the lives of individuals like Raïssa Maritain and St. Thérèse of Lisieux illustrate this. On the other hand, spiritual desolation is characterized by heaviness, doubt, and a sense of separation from God.

Fr. Gallagher reminds us of the importance of recognizing and rejecting spiritual desolation’s discouraging tactics. St. Ignatius’s own experience regarding the vow of poverty illustrates discernment through attraction, where sustained experiences of spiritual consolation lead to clarity in discerning God’s will.


Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions:

  1. Discerning God’s Call: How can we discern God’s will in our lives amidst the various choices and decisions we face?
  2. Spiritual Consolation and Desolation: What are some ways we can differentiate between spiritual consolation and desolation in our own spiritual experiences?
  3. Seeking Guidance: Why is it important to seek guidance from a wise spiritual director or mentor, especially during significant discernments?
  4. Recognizing God’s Voice: In what ways can we become more attuned to God’s voice and guidance in our lives, particularly during times of discernment?
  5. Patterns in Spiritual Experience: How can we recognize patterns in our spiritual experiences, such as consistent inclinations towards certain choices during times of consolation?
  6. Revisiting Spiritual Teachings: Why is it beneficial to revisit and deepen our understanding of spiritual teachings, such as those outlined in St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises?

From The Discernment of God’s Will in Everyday Decisions:

Three Times in which a Sound and Good Choice May Be Made

The first time is when God Our Lord so moves and attracts the will that, without doubting or being able to doubt, the devout soul follows what is shown to it, as St. Paul and St. Matthew did in following Christ our Lord.

The second time is when sufficient clarity and understanding is received through experience of consolations and desolations, and through experience of discernment of different spirits.

The third time is one of tranquility, when one considers first for what purpose man is born, that is, to praise God our Lord and save his soul, and, desiring this, chooses as a means to this end some life or state within the bounds of the Church, so that he may be helped in the service of his Lord and the salvation of his soul. I said a tranquil time, that is, when the soul is not agitated by different spirits, and uses its natural powers freely and tranquilly.

If the choice is not made in the first or second time, two ways of making it in this third time are given below.”


Father Timothy M. Gallagher, O.M.V., was ordained in 1979 as a member of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, a religious community dedicated to retreats and spiritual formation according to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  Fr. Gallagher is featured on the EWTN series “Living the Discerning Life:  The Spiritual Teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola”. For more information on how to obtain copies of Fr. Gallaghers’s various books and audio which are available for purchase, please visit  his  website:   frtimothygallagher.org

For the other episodes in this series check out Fr. Timothy Gallagher’s “Discerning Hearts” page

Remain In My Love – Building a Kingdom of Love with Msgr. John Esseff – Discerning Hearts Podcast


Remain In My Love – Building a Kingdom of Love with Msgr. John Esseff

Msgr. John Esseff and Kris McGregor discuss the concept of divine love and its expression through individuals. Msgr. Esseff emphasizes that it is not the individual’s love for God that matters most, but rather God’s love for humanity, demonstrated through the sacrifice of sending His son. He illustrates this with anecdotes of individuals, including children and married couples, who exemplify sacrificial love.

Msgr. Esseff argues that true holiness comes not from individual efforts to be virtuous but from allowing God’s love to flow through oneself. He emphasizes the importance of discernment in aligning one’s actions with God’s will, rather than pursuing personal agendas or virtue for its own sake. The role of parents in nurturing a spirit of sacrificial love in their children and highlights the transformative power of encountering the poor and suffering.


Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions:

  1. Understanding Divine Love: How does Msgr. Esseff differentiate between human love for God and God’s love for humanity, as discussed in the podcast?
  2. Role of Sacrificial Love: What examples of sacrificial love does Msgr. Esseff provide from the anecdotes shared in the podcast, and how do they illustrate the concept he is conveying?
  3. The Source of Holiness: According to the podcast, where does true holiness originate, and what implications does this have for personal spiritual growth?
  4. Discernment and God’s Will: What role does discernment play in aligning one’s actions with God’s will, as emphasized by Msgr. Esseff, and how can individuals cultivate this practice in their daily lives?
  5. Parental Influence and Family Life: How does Msgr. Esseff address the responsibility of parents in nurturing sacrificial love within their families, and what impact does this have on the spiritual development of children?
  6. Transformation Through Encountering Others: Reflecting on the anecdotes shared about encountering the poor and suffering, how can such experiences transform individuals’ perspectives on love and service?

From the Gospel of John 15:9-17:

Jesus said to his disciples:
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.”


Msgr. John A. Esseff is a Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Scranton. He was ordained on May 30, 1953, by the late Bishop William J. Hafey, D.D. at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton, PA. Msgr. Esseff served a retreat director and confessor to St. Teresa of Calcutta. He continues to offer direction and retreats for the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity around the world. Msgr. Esseff encountered St. Padre Pio, who would become a spiritual father to him. He has lived in areas around the world, serving in the Pontifical Missions, a Catholic organization established by St. Pope John Paul II to bring the Good News to the world especially to the poor. Msgr. Esseff assisted the founders of the Institute for Priestly Formation and continues to serve as a spiritual director for the Institute. He continues to serve as a retreat leader and director to bishops, priests and sisters and seminarians, and other religious leaders around the world.

IJCY3 – Navigating Vocation Discernment – Is Jesus Calling You with Fr. Paul Hoesing – Discerning Hearts Podcast


Navigating Vocation Discernment – Is Jesus Calling You with Fr. Paul Hoesing

Fr. Paul Hoesing and Kris McGregor discuss discerning a vocation to the Catholic priesthood, drawing lessons from the teachings of the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors. They discuss the importance of encountering Christ personally, desiring what God desires, and ultimately, trusting in God’s plan. Trust, they explain, is foundational to the discernment process, encompassing elements of faith, love, and hope.

Trust in God requires dependence on Him, especially during life’s storms and uncertainties. Exploring the biblical story of Peter walking on water as an allegory for trust, highlighting how Peter’s fear arose when he took his eyes off Jesus and how it related to the need to keep focused on Christ amid life’s challenges, understanding that He is always present to guide and support.

Additionally, they address common fears and doubts that may arise during discernment, urging listeners to bring these concerns to God and trust in His provision. They encourage a mindset of gratitude and openness to God’s leading, acknowledging that the discernment journey is a process that unfolds gradually, with each step guided by God’s hand.


Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions:

  1. Encountering Christ Personally: How have you personally encountered Christ in your life, and how has this encounter influenced your understanding of your vocation journey?
  2. Learning to Desire What God Desires: Reflect on your deepest desires. Do they align with what you believe God desires for you? How can you cultivate a greater alignment between your desires and God’s will?
  3. Trusting in God’s Plan: In what areas of your life do you struggle to trust in God’s plan? How can you deepen your trust in Him, especially during times of uncertainty or difficulty?
  4. Dependence on God: Consider moments when you have felt most dependent on God. How did He provide for you during those times, and how did it impact your relationship with Him?
  5. Keeping Focus on Christ: Reflect on instances when you’ve allowed fear or distractions to take your focus away from Christ. What steps can you take to keep your eyes fixed on Him, especially during challenging circumstances?
  6. Gratitude and Openness: How can you cultivate a spirit of gratitude in your discernment journey, even amidst doubts or fears? How does gratitude help to foster openness to God’s will?
  7. Trusting in God’s Timing: Are there areas in your life where you feel rushed or anxious about discerning God’s will? How can you surrender these concerns and trust in God’s timing?
  8. Prayer and Surrender: Take time to pray and surrender your fears, doubts, and desires to God. How does this act of surrender deepen your trust in His guidance and provision?

Based on “Is Jesus Calling You To Be A Catholic  Priest: A helpful guide”, published by National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Director.

Fr. Paul Hoesing serves at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary as President Rector

St. Athanasius of Alexandria – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson – Discerning Hearts Podcast

 

St. Athanasius of Alexandria – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

  • Born: 296 AD, Alexandria, Egypt
  • Died: May 2, 373 AD, Alexandria, Egypt

Dr. Matthew Bunson and Kris McGregor discuss St. Athanasius of Alexandria, declared a Doctor of the Church in 1568. St. Athanasius played a significant role in defending orthodox Christian doctrine against the Arian heresy. Born around 298 AD, he became Bishop of Alexandria and faced exile multiple times due to his staunch opposition to Arianism.

Despite persecution and false accusations, Athanasius remained steadfast in his defense of Christ’s divinity and humanity; in addition to Christ’s incarnation and its role in salvation, providing clarity on the Trinity and the nature of Christ. He also contributed to the spread of monasticism through his writings on the Desert Fathers, particularly St. Anthony. His life serves as a reminder of the challenges faced in defending the truth and the unwavering commitment required to uphold the faith.


Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions

  1. The Courage of St. Athanasius: How does St. Athanasius’ unwavering courage in the face of persecution inspire us to stand firm in our faith, even when confronted with adversity?
  2. Defending Truth in Today’s World: In what ways can we apply St. Athanasius’ example to our modern context, where the truth of the Catholic faith is often challenged or misunderstood?
  3. Embracing Orthodoxy: Reflect on the importance of understanding and defending orthodox Christian doctrine, especially in a world where relativism and skepticism abound.
  4. Sacrifice and Commitment: Consider the sacrifices St. Athanasius made for the sake of defending the faith. How does his commitment challenge us to deepen our own dedication to Christ and His Church?
  5. The Role of Monasticism: Explore the significance of St. Athanasius’ contribution to monasticism and its impact on Christian spirituality. How can we incorporate elements of monastic living into our own spiritual practices?


From Vatican.va, an excerpt from the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI  General Audience 2007:

“Athanasius was undoubtedly one of the most important and revered early Church Fathers. But this great Saint was above all the impassioned theologian of the Incarnation of the Logos, the Word of God who – as the Prologue of the fourth Gospel says – “became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1: 14).

For this very reason Athanasius was also the most important and tenacious adversary of the Arian heresy, which at that time threatened faith in Christ, reduced to a creature “halfway” between God and man, according to a recurring tendency in history which we also see manifested today in various forms.

In all likelihood Athanasius was born in Alexandria, Egypt, in about the year 300 A.D. He received a good education before becoming a deacon and secretary to the Bishop of Alexandria, the great Egyptian metropolis. As a close collaborator of his Bishop, the young cleric took part with him in the Council of Nicaea, the first Ecumenical Council, convoked by the Emperor Constantine in May 325 A.D. to ensure Church unity. The Nicene Fathers were thus able to address various issues and primarily the serious problem that had arisen a few years earlier from the preaching of the Alexandrian priest, Arius.

With his theory, Arius threatened authentic faith in Christ, declaring that the Logos was not a true God but a created God, a creature “halfway” between God and man who hence remained for ever inaccessible to us. The Bishops gathered in Nicaea responded by developing and establishing the “Symbol of faith” [“Creed”] which, completed later at the First Council of Constantinople, has endured in the traditions of various Christian denominations and in the liturgy as the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.

In this fundamental text – which expresses the faith of the undivided Church and which we also recite today, every Sunday, in the Eucharistic celebration – the Greek term homooúsiosis featured, in Latin consubstantialis: it means that the Son, the Logos, is “of the same substance” as the Father, he is God of God, he is his substance. Thus, the full divinity of the Son, which was denied by the Arians, was brought into the limelight.”

For more visit Vatican.va


For more from Dr. Matthew Bunson, check out his Discerning Hearts page.

Dr. Matthew E. Bunson is a Register senior editor and a senior contributor to EWTN News. For the past 20 years, he has been active in the area of Catholic social communications and education, including writing, editing, and teaching on a variety of topics related to Church history, the papacy, the saints and Catholic culture. He is faculty chair at Catholic Distance University, a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the author or co-author of over 50 books including The Encyclopedia of Catholic History, The Pope Encyclopedia, We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI, The Saints Encyclopedia and best-selling biographies of St. Damien of Molokai and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

Ep. 9 – A Sister of St. Thérèse: Servant of God, Léonie Martin – Bearer of Hope with Fr. Timothy Gallagher – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Fr. Timothy Gallagher OMVA Sister of St. Thérèse: Servant of God, Léonie Martin – Bearer of Hope with Fr. Timothy Gallagher – Episode 9

In this episode, Fr. Gallagher shares more letters exchanged between Léonie and her sister, Thérèse.

In this episode, Léonie has returned to the Monastery of the Visitation at Caen for a second time, hoping once again to enter fully into religious life.  Her beloved younger sister, Thérèse, who is now a Carmelite sister in Lisieux, sends spiritual words of encouragement during her time there.  Two years pass, and with great sadness, Léonie finds she must leave the Monastery. This marks her third failure to become a religious sister. Her family rally around her, but the question becomes once again, “What will become of poor Léonie?”


Fr. Gallagher says, “Léonie’s life holds a very important story because she was the forgotten one; she was the one who was in the last place; she was the one who was less gifted than the others. Today we would call her a ‘problem child,’ and we’ll see that she certainly was the source of great anxiety to her parents, especially to her mother, Zélie, who loved her dearly.”

As a child, Léonie suffered from severe illnesses and physical maladies that would plague her entire life. She also struggled with understanding social clues and interactions and with behaving appropriately. Conventional educational models of the day failed to meet her particular needs, and she was labeled “developmentally delayed.” Yet those who knew her well described her as having a “heart of gold.”

Who was Léonie and what were her struggles? Why has her cause of canonization begun?  Father Gallagher, along with Kris McGregor,  answers these questions and explains why Léonie is “a bearer of hope” in this landmark series.

Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions:

  1. Thérèse’s Other-Centered Love: How does Thérèse’s other-centered approach to love, as seen in her letters to Léonie, inspire us to reflect on our own relationships and interactions with others?
  2. The Role of Scripture in Encouragement: Reflect on the significance of Thérèse’s use of scripture in her letters to Léonie. How can incorporating scripture into our own words of encouragement deepen their impact and meaning?
  3. Finding Hope in Small Sacrifices: Thérèse emphasizes the value of even the smallest sacrifices in pleasing Jesus. How can we apply this perspective to our daily lives, recognizing the spiritual significance of seemingly mundane actions?
  4. The Importance of Perseverance: Despite Léonie’s struggles, Thérèse continues to encourage her to persevere in her vocation. How can Thérèse’s example inspire us to support and uplift others who are facing challenges or setbacks in their own journeys?
  5. Longing for Belonging and Unity: Reflect on Léonie’s deep longing for belonging and unity within her family. How does her experience resonate with our own desires for connection and community, both within our families and within the broader context of the Church?
  6. Finding Spiritual Fulfillment in Life’s Trials: Consider how the letters between Thérèse and Léonie demonstrate the power of love, faith, and perseverance in navigating life’s trials. How can we draw strength and inspiration from their example in our own spiritual journeys?

Marie

Pauline

Céline

St. Thérèse

St. Louis Martin

A resource used for this series

Images in this post of the Martin/Guerin family are used with permission from the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux website for strictly non-commercial use.  We encourage you to visit the website for more information on this remarkable family.


For more series Fr. Timothy Gallagher podcasts, visit here

Father Timothy M. Gallagher, O.M.V., was ordained in 1979 as a member of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, a religious community dedicated to retreats and spiritual formation according to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  Fr. Gallagher is featured on the EWTN series “Living the Discerning Life:  The Spiritual Teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola”. For more information on how to obtain copies of Fr. Gallaghers’s various books and audio which are available for purchase, please visit  his  website:   frtimothygallagher.org

SCS8 – Perfect Love and Perfect Union – St. Catherine of Siena with Fr. Thomas McDermott O.P. – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Perfect Love and Perfect Union – St. Catherine of Siena with Fr. Thomas McDermott O.P.

Fr. Thomas McDermott - Prayer and the Dominican Tradition 1

Fr. Thomas McDermott and Kris McGregor explore St. Catherine’s view on the stages of spiritual development, which culminate in perfect union with God. They discuss how her teaching departs from traditional paradigms, emphasizing the importance of spiritual growth and love of God and neighbor; especially St. Catherine’s imagery of the Christ Bridge, where the soul experiences intimacy and peace with God.

Fr. McDermott explains Catherine’s emphasis on suffering and the importance of God’s honor and the salvation of souls. They also discuss the concept of perfect union with God, acknowledging that true union can only be fully realized in heaven.

Throughout the discussion, they tell listeners of St. Catherine’s humility and her warning against intellectual pride, emphasizing the transformative power of love and correct knowledge of God. Fr. McDermott highlights Catherine’s belief in the transformative nature of grace and the importance of virtues in becoming Christ-like. He expresses optimism about a renewed interest in Catherine’s teachings, facilitated by recent translations of her works.


Fr. Thomas McDermott - Prayer and the Dominican Tradition 2

Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions:

  1. Stages of Spiritual Development: How does St. Catherine’s understanding of the stages of spiritual development differ from traditional paradigms?
  2. The Christ Bridge: What significance does Catherine attribute to the imagery of the Christ Bridge, particularly in terms of spiritual intimacy and peace?
  3. Embracing Suffering: Reflect on the concept of embracing suffering as discussed by Fr. McDermott. How does this align with Catherine’s teachings, and how might it challenge contemporary attitudes towards suffering?
  4. Perfect Union with God: Fr. McDermott explains the idea of perfect union with God as presented by Catherine. How does this understanding relate to our earthly experiences and our ultimate destiny in heaven?
  5. Humility and Intellectual Pursuit: Consider Catherine’s emphasis on humility and her warning against intellectual pride. How can we cultivate humility in our pursuit of knowledge and spiritual growth?
  6. Transformative Power of Love: Reflect on the notion that love transforms us into what we love. How does this principle manifest in our relationship with God and others?
  7. Relevance to the Church: Fr. McDermott highlights Catherine’s love for the Church. How can her teachings inspire a deeper appreciation for the Church’s role in our spiritual journey?
  8. Renewed Interest in Catherine’s Teachings: In light of recent translations of Catherine’s works, how might her teachings find new relevance and resonance in contemporary Catholic and Protestant communities?

St.-Catherine-of-Siena-book-200x300
This series is based on ‘Catherine of Siena’ by Fr. Thomas McDermott

For the entire Discerning Hearts series “The Life and Teachings of St. Catherine of Siena” visit here

Fr. Thomas McDermott, OP is Regent of Studies for the Dominican Province of St. Albert the Great and is the author of “Catherine of Siena: Spiritual Development in Her Life and Teaching” (Paulist, 2008) and “Filled with all the Fullness of God: An Introduction to Catholic Spirituality”. He obtained a doctorate in spiritual theology from the Angelicum and taught for several years at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis. He crrently serves as pastor at St. Vincent Ferrer, in Chicago, IL.