Preparing for Lent – Building a Kingdom of Love with Msgr. John Esseff Discerning Hearts Podcast


Msgr. Esseff teaches the importance of fasting, almsgiving and the Liturgy of the Hours during the season of Lent.  He shares his experience of fasting in a desert found in Peru. From this he learned the importance of FASTING and PRAYER.  Msgr. Esseff challenges us to discern what the Father in Heaven is asking us to do this Lent through fasting, so we can purely and perfectly follow His Holy Will.  And he describes ALMSGIVING, and story from an experience he had with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity Sisters.

The Church prepares a spiritual retreat for all of us during Lent.  The Holy Spirit is transforming you in a radical way so that you become more like Jesus Christ…the day by day exercise of Morning Prayer, the Eucharist and Evening Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving, and the other moments of contemplative prayer aids in the transformation…our ego decreases and Jesus increases in our minds and in our hearts.

Pray the Liturgy of Hours

Morning Prayer
Mid-morningPrayer
Mid-dayPrayer
Afternoon Prayer
Evening Prayer
Night Prayer
Office of Readings

BTP-LOT14 – The Journey of Prayer – The Life of St. Teresa of Avila – Beginning to Pray with Dr. Anthony Lilles – Discerning Hearts Podcast

The Journey of Prayer – The Life of St. Teresa of Avila – Beginning to Pray with Dr. Anthony Lilles

Dr. Anthony Lilles and Kris McGregor discuss the transformative journey of prayer as experienced and taught by St. Teresa of Avila. Dr. Lilles highlights St. Teresa’s autobiographical work as not just a recount of her life but as an instructional guide on the spiritual journey toward deeper communion with God through prayer.

St. Teresa’s teachings emphasize the progression through different stages or degrees of prayer, which she explores more deeply in her masterpiece, “The Interior Castle.” This progression reflects a soul’s journey from initial efforts in prayer, characterized by personal exertion and devotion, towards the profound experiences of mystical prayer, where God takes the initiative and intimately unites with the soul.

The focus of this episode is on St. Teresa’s use of vivid metaphors, like drawing water from a well and the soul as a garden, to describe the nurturing of spiritual virtues through prayer. These stages of prayer, from vocal and meditative prayer to the more advanced states of recollection, quiet, and ultimately union with God, are accessible to all baptized Christians as part of their spiritual heritage and call to holiness.

Dr. Lilles also addresses common challenges and misconceptions about spiritual progress, emphasizing the importance of humility, confidence in God’s grace, and openness to the transformative power of divine love. He encourages listeners to engage deeply with St. Teresa’s writings and to recognize the universal call to a profound spiritual life grounded in prayer.

This episode serves as a compelling invitation to deepen one’s prayer life by following the path laid out by St. Teresa of Avila, understanding prayer not just as a practice but as a journey of love, transformation, and intimate union with God.


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

For more episodes in this series: The 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.


Discerning Hearts reflection questions for this episode:

  1. How does St. Teresa of Avila’s metaphor of drawing water from a well resonate with your own prayer life and efforts to nurture spiritual virtues?
  2. Reflect on the progression from vocal prayer to mystical prayer in your life. Have you experienced moments where you felt God was taking the initiative in your prayer?
  3. St. Teresa emphasizes humility in prayer. How do you understand humility in the context of your spiritual journey, and how can you cultivate a more humble approach to God?
  4. Consider the metaphor of the soul as a garden. What ‘flowers’ or virtues are you currently watering through your prayer, and what steps can you take to cultivate them more fully?
  5. St. Teresa describes different stages of prayer, including the prayer of quiet and union with God. Have you encountered these states in your prayer life, and how have they transformed your relationship with God?
  6. Reflect on the challenges and barriers you face in deepening your prayer life. How can St. Teresa’s teachings help you overcome these obstacles and grow in intimacy with God?
  7. Prayer is both a personal journey and a way to draw closer to the community of the Church. How does your prayer life connect you with the wider Church, and how can you use your experiences to support and encourage others in their spiritual journeys?

An excerpt from Chapter 11, discussed in this episode:

“I speak now of those who begin to be the servants of love; that seems to me to be nothing else but to resolve to follow Him in the way of prayer, who has loved us so much. It is a dignity so great, that I have a strange joy in thinking of it; for servile fear vanishes at once, if we are, as we ought to be, in the first degree. O Lord of my soul, and my good, how is it that, when a soul is determined to love Thee—doing all it can, by forsaking all things, in order that it may the better occupy itself with the love of God—it is not Thy will it should have the joy of ascending at once to the possession of perfect love? I have spoken amiss; I ought to have said, and my complaint should have been, why is it we do not? for the fault is wholly our own that we do not rejoice at once in a dignity so great, seeing that the attaining to the perfect possession of this true love brings all blessings with it.

We think so much of ourselves, and are so dilatory in giving ourselves wholly to God, that, as His Majesty will not let us have the fruition of that which is so precious but at a great cost, so neither do we perfectly prepare ourselves for it. I see plainly that there is nothing by which so great a good can be procured in this world. If, however, we did what we could, not clinging to anything upon earth, but having all our thoughts and conversation in Heaven, I believe that this blessing would quickly be given us, provided we perfectly prepared ourselves for it at once, as some of the saints have done. We think we are giving all to God; but, in fact, we are offering only the revenue or the produce, while we retain the fee-simple of the land in our own possession.

We resolve to become poor, and it is a resolution of great merit; but we very often take great care not to be in want, not simply of what is necessary, but of what is superfluous: yea, and to make for ourselves friends who may supply us; and in this way we take more pains, and perhaps expose ourselves to greater danger, in order that we may want nothing, than we did formerly, when we had our own possessions in our own power.”


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.

SD6 – Dealing with Dryness in Prayer – Spiritual Desolation: Be Aware, Understand, Take Action with Fr. Timothy Gallagher – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Dealing with Dryness in Prayer – Spiritual Desolation: Be Aware, Understand, Take Action with Fr. Timothy Gallagher

In part one of this conversation, Fr. Timothy Gallagher and Kris McGregor engage in a profound discussion on the nature of prayer, particularly in the context of suffering and spiritual desolation. They both point out the importance of prayer as more than just verbal communication with God, making note of its holistic nature, which involves the entire being united in love and longing for God.

Fr. Gallagher also shares examples of finding communion with God through suffering, citing St. Therese. He offers guidance from St. Ignatius to navigate spiritual desolation, encouraging listeners to embrace prayer and suffering for spiritual growth.


Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions:

  1. Engagement in Prayer: How do you respond when faced with obstacles in your prayer life, such as illness or physical limitations?
  2. Unifying Suffering with Prayer: In what ways can you unite your daily suffering with prayer, following the examples of St. Therese and others?
  3. Value of Small Acts of Love: Reflect on how you can incorporate small acts of pure love into your daily life, as emphasized by St. John of the Cross and St. Therese.
  4. Facing Spiritual Desolation: Have you experienced periods of spiritual desolation? How can the teachings of St. Ignatius help you navigate such times?
  5. Growth Through Challenges: Consider how both spiritual consolation and desolation contribute to your spiritual growth. How can you embrace challenges as opportunities for deeper connection with God?

You can find this book here

From  Setting the Captives Free: Personal Reflections on Ignatian Discernment of Spirits:

“A first form of dryness may result simply from lack of formation in prayer. Persons of good will desire to pray and make sincere attempts to do so. Because these persons, how- ever, have never received formation in prayer, they flounder, unsure of how to proceed: their prayer is dry. The need here is exposure to classic and effective forms of prayer: lectio div- ina, Ignatian meditation or imaginative contemplation, the Liturgy of the Hours, and so forth. Once these persons learn how to pray, the floundering will cease, and this form of dry- ness will be overcome.21

Dryness may also arise from negligence in the life of prayer or from an inconsistency between a person’s prayer and life. If such persons weaken in fidelity to prayer, no longer dedi- cate consistent time to it, or no longer prepare in the way they find helpful, dryness may result. Likewise, behavior contrary to the Gospel may also cause prayer to feel dry: the dishar- mony between prayer and life will render prayer more dif- ficult—more dry.22

Yet another experience of “dryness” may result from solid growth in prayer. A point may arrive when God now calls such persons to a more simplified form of prayer. The ear- lier, more active and discursive methods no longer assist as before, while the new and simpler way of praying is not yet firmly established. This is a healthy “dryness” and a sign of growth. Competent spiritual direction will greatly assist such persons to negotiate this blessed passage in prayer.”


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

The Sacrament of Healing – Building a Kingdom of Love with Msgr. John Esseff – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Msgr. Esseff reflects on the Anointing of the Sick, known as one of the Sacraments of Healing.  He speaks of his personal experience with the sacrament and the importance of having it readily available for the faithful.  Msgr. Esseff also addresses particular issues related to laying on of hands.

 From the USSCB:

Jesus came to heal the whole person, body and soul.

In the Church’s Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, through the ministry of the priest, it is Jesus who touches the sick to heal them from sin – and sometimes even from physical ailment. His cures were signs of the arrival of the Kingdom of God. The core message of his healing tells us of his plan to conquer sin and death by his dying and rising.

The Rite of Anointing tells us there is no need to wait until a person is at the point of death to receive the Sacrament. A careful judgment about the serious nature of the illness is sufficient.

When the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is given, the hoped-for effect is that, if it be God’s will, the person be physically healed of illness. But even if there is no physical healing, the primary effect of the Sacrament is a spiritual healing by which the sick person receives the Holy Spirit’s gift of peace and courage to deal with the difficulties that accompany serious illness or the frailty of old age.

~from the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults en español

Pray

Learn

Act

Scripture: Mark 1:40-45

40 And a leper came to him begging him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

CHGD2 – Gertrud von Le Fort’s The Eternal Woman – The Importance of Symbolic Language – Climbing Higher, Going Deeper w/ Kris McGregor – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Kris McGregor and Vivian Dudro

Episode 2 – The Importance of Symbolic Language – Gertrude von Le Fort’s The Eternal Woman –  Climbing Higher, Going Deeper w/Kris McGregor and Vivian Dudro

Kris McGregor, along with Vivian Dudro, continues their discussion of The Eternal Woman by highlighting the importance of the introduction, urging listeners to approach it slowly and prayerfully to grasp von Le Fort’s dense but insightful writing. The discussion emphasizes von Le Fort’s critique of simplifying theology for a broader understanding, advocating instead for elevating communication to convey truth more effectively, akin to Christ’s teachings.

Von Le Fort is praised for her precise but accessible language, despite her deep philosophical background. The episode explores her focus on the symbolic aspect of male and female, particularly the female, in relation to God’s creation and communication. It discusses how von Le Fort views the physical world and its symbols as mediums through which God communicates metaphysical realities, using symbolic language intrinsic to human expression and understanding.

The conversation also touches on modern philosophical shifts that have obscured the intrinsic meanings of symbols, contributing to a cultural disconnect from these deeper truths. Von Le Fort’s work is positioned as a call to rediscover the symbolic language lost over time, particularly concerning the essence of womanhood and its spiritual significance. The hosts discuss how von Le Fort uses Mary, the mother of Jesus, as the epitome of the feminine symbol, embodying both reception and nurturing, which are crucial for understanding human’s relationship with the divine.

This episode underscores von Le Fort’s aim to reorient readers towards a more profound comprehension of the symbolic meanings embedded in the creation, particularly the distinctions and roles of men and women, without reducing them to mere biological or psychological terms. It calls for a re-engagement with symbolic language to foster a deeper connection with God and a more authentic understanding of one’s identity and purpose.


Key Points to Ponder

    1. Symbolic Language as a Medium of Divine Communication: The episode highlights von Le Fort’s exploration of symbolic language as a crucial tool through which God communicates with humanity. This symbolic language is not only a feature of religious texts and rituals but is also embedded in the creation itself, particularly in the symbolic aspects of male and female.
    2. Rediscovering the Lost Language of Symbolism: There’s a call to rediscover the language of symbolism that modern philosophical shifts have obscured. This rediscovery is essential for understanding the deeper truths about God, creation, and the roles of men and women.
    3. Mary as the Ideal Symbol of the Feminine: Mary, the mother of Jesus, is discussed as the epitome of the feminine, embodying reception and nurturing. Her role transcends biological and social functions, symbolizing a deeper spiritual truth about humanity’s relationship with the divine.
    4. The Significance of Sexual Differentiation: The discussion touches on the importance of recognizing and understanding the symbolic significance of sexual differentiation. This differentiation is not merely biological but carries deep metaphysical meanings related to God’s creation and communication.
    5. The Role of Women and Men in Symbolizing Divine Truths: Both hosts delve into how women and men symbolize different aspects of divine truths. While discussing the unique contributions of women through their receptivity and nurturing capabilities, they also explore how men embody bravery and protection, reflecting different facets of God’s nature.
    6. The Danger of Ideological Confusion over Gender and Symbolism: The conversation warns against the modern ideological confusion that blurs the distinctions between genders and undermines the symbolic meanings embedded in our created nature. It stresses the importance of embracing our God-given identities to fully understand and live out our relationship with God.
Gertrud von Le Fort

Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions:

Individual Reflection Questions:

    1. Reflecting on Symbolic Language: How does the symbolic language found in Scripture, Liturgy, and the natural world deepen your understanding of God’s communication with humanity? Consider examples from your own experience where symbolic language has illuminated aspects of your faith.
    2. The Role of Mary as a Symbol: Reflect on Mary’s role as the epitome of the feminine and the ideal disciple. How does her example of receptivity, nurturing, and obedience to God challenge and inspire your own journey of faith?
    3. Understanding Theological Complexity: Gertrude von Le Fort critiques the oversimplification of theology for broader understanding. Reflect on a time when a deeper exploration of a complex theological concept led to a significant growth in your faith. How does this encourage you to approach theological studies in the future?
    4. Sexual Differentiation and Symbolic Significance: How do you understand the symbolic significance of sexual differentiation in the light of Catholic teaching? Reflect on how this understanding influences your views on sexual differences, identity, and the complementarity of men and women in God’s plan.
    5. Combatting Ideological Confusion with Faith: In a world where ideological confusion often blurs the distinctions between genders and undermines symbolic meanings, how can your faith guide you in affirming the truth about God’s design for humanity? Consider ways in which you can bear witness to these truths in your own life and community.

Group Study Discussion Questions:

    1. Exploring Symbolic Language in Faith: As a group, discuss examples of symbolic language in the Catholic faith that resonate with you personally. How do these symbols enrich your understanding of divine truths and your relationship with God?
    2. Mary’s Symbolic Role: Reflect on Mary’s role as not only the mother of Jesus but also as a symbol of the Church and the epitome of the feminine. How does this dual role of Mary inspire your group’s understanding of discipleship and the unique contributions of women in the Church?
    3. Challenges of Theological Simplification: Share thoughts on the balance between making theology accessible and oversimplifying complex doctrines. Can you think of instances where a deeper understanding of a challenging theological concept significantly impacted your faith or the faith of someone you know?
    4. Sexual Differentiation and Spiritual Symbolism: Discuss the significance of sexual differentiation as presented in the podcast. How can recognizing the spiritual symbolism of masculinity and femininity enhance the Church’s mission and the Christian community’s unity?
    5. Addressing Ideological Confusion with Faithful Witness: In light of the podcast’s discussion on the modern ideological confusion surrounding gender and symbolism, how can your group actively promote a faithful understanding of human dignity and God’s design within your parish or community? What practical steps can be taken to support individuals struggling with these issues in a compassionate and truthful manner?

Suggested References for Further Study:

The Symbolic Significance of Femininity and Masculinity:

Podcast Mention: Discussion of Gertrude von Le Fort’s exploration of the symbolic aspects of femininity and masculinity, as well as their spiritual and metaphysical implications.

Reference to Theology of the Body:

  • Pope St. John Paul II’s Insight: In “Theology of the Body,” Pope St. John Paul II offers profound theological and philosophical reflections on human sexuality, complementarity, and the symbolism of the body as a divine mystery, echoing von Le Fort’s thematic discussions.
  • Reference: Pope St. John Paul II. “Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body.” Pauline Books & Media, translation by Michael Waldstein, 2006.

Ethical Dimensions of Human Relationships:

Podcast Mention: Touches on the importance of understanding the ethical and moral dimensions underpinning human relationships, hinting at a deeper, symbolic understanding of our interactions.

Karol Wojtyła’s (Pope St. John Paul II) Philosophical Foundation:

  • Insight from “Love and Responsibility”: Wojtyła addresses the ethical and moral considerations of human relationships, offering foundational insights that support the podcast’s discussion on the symbolic aspects of relationships.
  • Reference: Wojtyła, Karol (Pope St. John Paul II). “Love and Responsibility.” Ignatius Press, 1993.

Unique Gifts and Vocation of Women:

Podcast Mention: Emphasizes the unique contributions and vocation of women, as discussed by Gertrude von Le Fort and echoed by the podcast hosts.

Alice von Hildebrand’s Perspective:

  • Complementary Insights in “The Privilege of Being a Woman”: Von Hildebrand champions the beauty and strength of femininity, challenging contemporary misunderstandings, in parallel to von Le Fort’s discussions.
  • Reference: Von Hildebrand, Alice. “The Privilege of Being a Woman.” Veritas Press, 2002.

LSB4 – Call From Seclusion – The Life of St. Benedict – The Holy Rule of St. Benedict with Fr. Mauritius Wilde O.S.B – Discerning Hearts Podcast

Call From Seclusion- The Life of St. Benedict – The Holy Rule of St. Benedict with Fr. Mauritius Wilde, O.S.B.

Fr. Mauritius Wilde and Kris McGregor continue their discussion about the life of St. Benedict. They delve into his journey of detachment from earthly ties, including his parents and his immersion into solitude.

Fr. Mauritius also highlights a significant encounter where Benedict forgets the date of Easter, suggesting a detachment even from the Church’s calendar, leading to a deeper understanding of the Easter mystery. This experience is likened to an analog versus original experience, where Benedict transitions from outward knowing to inward experiencing.

The discussion expands to the broader significance of Easter and the importance of active participation and interior understanding within the Church. It concludes with reflections on gratitude towards the Church, personal contribution to its vitality, addressing problems respectfully, and continuing prayer.


Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions:

  1. Gratitude for Church Gifts: Reflect on the aspects of the Church that you’re thankful for and how you’ve benefited from them.
  2. Personal Contribution to Church Life: Contemplate how you can actively contribute to making the Church more vibrant and alive in your community.
  3. Addressing Church Challenges: Consider any issues or problems within the Church and how you can respectfully and constructively engage with them.
  4. Deepening Prayer with the Church: Reflect on how you can deepen your prayer life in alignment with the Church’s teachings and traditions.
  5. Living the Mystery of Easter: How can you live out the mystery of Easter in your daily life beyond just celebrating it as a yearly ritual?
  6. Active Participation in Church Life: How can you actively participate in the life of the Church, both spiritually and practically, to foster its growth and renewal?

From the Life of Our Most Holy Father St. Benedict by St. Gregory the Great:

St.-Benedict-9

 CHAPTER I.

“Now when it pleased Almighty God that Romanus should rest from his labours, and that the life of Benedict should be manifest to the world for an example to all men, that the candle set upon a candlestick might shine and give light to the whole Church of God, our Lord vouchsafed to appear to a certain Priest living far off, who had make ready his dinner for Easter Day, saying to him: “Thou hast prepared good cheer for thyself, and My servant in such a place is famished for hunger.” Who presently rose up, and on the solemn day of Easter went towards the place with such meat as he had provided for himself, where seeking the man of God, amongst craggy rocks, winding valleys and hollow pits he found him hid in a cave. Then after prayers, and blessing the Almighty Lord, they sat down, and after some spiritual discourse the Priest said: “Rise, and let us take our refection, for this is Easter Day.” To whom the man of God answered: “I know it is Easter, because I have found so much favour as to see thee.” (For not having a long time conversed with men, he did not know it was Easter Day.) The good Priest did therefore again affirm it, saying: “Truly this is the day of our Lord’s Resurrection, and therefore it is not fit that you should keep abstinence, and for this cause I am sent that we may eat together that which Almighty God hath bestowed on us.” Whereupon blessing God, they fell to their meat. Their discourse and dinner ended, the Priest returned to his Church.”


Father Mauritius Wilde, OSB, Ph.D., did his philosophical, theological and doctoral studies in Europe. He is the author of several books and directs retreats regularly. He serves as Prior at Sant’Anselmo in Rome. For more information about the ministry of the Missionary Benedictines of Christ the King Priory in Schuyler, NE

SD5 – The Journey Through the Dark Night – Spiritual Desolation: Be Aware, Understand, Take Action with Fr. Timothy Gallagher – Discerning Hearts Podcast

The Journey Through the Dark Night – Spiritual Desolation: Be Aware, Understand, Take Action with Fr. Timothy GallagherBA6 - "Refuse to Accept Discouragement" - Begin Again: The Spiritual Legacy of Ven. Bruno Lanteri with Fr. Timothy Gallagher

Fr. Timothy Gallagher and Kris McGregor continue their discussion on spiritual desolation and introduce the concept of the “dark night”. They distinguish between the two, with desolation being a common experience and the dark night a specific phase in the spiritual journey.

Fr. Gallagher also addresses the role of doubt in the spiritual journey, pointing out that doubts can have various meanings and should be discerned individually. He stresses the need for fidelity to prayer and trust in God’s guidance.


Discerning Hearts Reflection Questions:

  1. Distinguishing Spiritual Desolation and the Dark Night: How does Father Gallagher differentiate between spiritual desolation and the dark night, emphasizing their distinct characteristics?
  2. Ignatius and the Initial Spiritual Journey: How does Ignatius’ early experiences reflect an initial step in the spiritual journey, moving beyond external heroism to a deeper understanding of spiritual life?
  3. Navigating Confusion and Doubt in the Spiritual Journey: How do confusion and doubt affect individuals on their spiritual journey, and what practical advice does Father Gallagher offer to navigate through these challenges?
  4. The Role of Doubt in Spiritual Experience: Father Gallagher discusses various forms of doubt and their implications, distinguishing between doubt in the existence of God and doubt within the context of one’s prayer life. How does he characterize these distinctions?
  5. Practical Wisdom for Discernment: What practical insights does Father Gallagher provide for navigating spiritual desolation and the dark night in the context of Ignatian spirituality? How does he emphasize the importance of discernment and spiritual direction?
  6. Timing and Generosity in the Dark Night: Father Gallagher shares insights on when a person might experience the dark night and suggests a general profile of individuals called to this phase. What role does generosity and dedication play in this process?
  7. Understanding Prayer as a Gift and Grace: How does Father Gallagher use Ignatius’ vocabulary to convey the idea that prayer is a gift and grace from God? What role does the human person play in this divine-human cooperation?
  8. St. Therese’s Analogy of Different Saints: How does St. Therese’s analogy of different flowers illustrate the diversity of saints and their unique journeys? What message does this convey about God’s work in individual souls?
  9. Trust in God’s Guidance in the Spiritual Journey: Summarize the key message regarding one’s role in the spiritual journey: fidelity to prayer, trust in God’s guidance, and acceptance of individual differences in the spiritual life.

You can find this book here

From  Setting the Captives Free: Personal Reflections on Ignatian Discernment of Spirits:

“The dark night, therefore, is an experience of infused contemplative prayer felt as painful because it is purifying; it prepares the person for greater union with God through higher states of infused contemplation. The difference between this purifying experience of prayer and the discouraging lies of spiritual desolation is evident. The first is a gift of God; the second is a trap of the enemy. By accepting the first, we grow; by rejecting the second, we grow.”


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

Sloth Can Separate Us from God – Building a Kingdom of Love with Msgr. Esseff – Discerning Hearts Podcasts


Sloth Can Separate Us from God – Building a Kingdom of Love with Msgr. Esseff

Msgr. Esseff and Kris McGregor discuss the impact of sloth (self-reliance) on one’s relationship with God, drawing parallels with King David’s disobedience. Msgr. Esseff particularly critiques societal laziness, self-centeredness, and moral decay, urging a shift towards Jesus’ humble and sacrificial leadership. He also touches on global wealth disparity and emphasizes the responsibility to share with those in need.

Msgr. Esseff encourages prayer, repentance, and adopting a servant’s attitude, exemplified by Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, as a means to foster compassion and justice in society.


Discerning Hearts reflection questions for this episode:

  1. Self-Reflection on Sloth: How does the concept of sloth, characterized by self-reliance and disobedience, resonate with your own life and actions?
  2. Learning from King David: In what ways can King David’s experience, where self-reliance led to disobedience, serve as a lesson for individuals today, especially in positions of authority?
  3. Leadership in Society: Reflect on the prevalent laziness and self-centeredness in various leadership roles today. How can adopting Jesus’ humble and sacrificial leadership style bring about positive change?
  4. Wealth Disparity: Consider global wealth distribution and the responsibility to share with those in need. How can you contribute to addressing the disparities and recognizing Jesus in the poorest of the poor?
  5. Prayer and Repentance: In response to the discussion, how can Psalm 51 (“Have mercy on me, O God, for I have sinned”) guide your prayer and reflection on personal change and repentance?
  6. Humility and Service: Reflect on the symbolic act of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. How can adopting a similar attitude of humility and service positively impact your relationships within your family, church, and community?
  7. Recognizing Jesus in Others: How can the recognition of Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor influence your perspective on those less fortunate?
  8. Shifting Societal Attitudes: Consider how fostering an attitude of care and service to others, rooted in humility, can contribute to positive societal change. How can you embody these principles in your daily life?

Msgr. John A. Esseff is a Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Scranton. Msgr. Esseff served a retreat director and confessor to St. Mother Teresa. He continues to offer direction and retreats for the Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity. 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 Pope St. John Paul II to bring the Good News to the world especially to the poor. He continues to serve as a retreat leader and director to bishops, priests, sisters, seminarians and other religious leaders around the world.

In Conversation with Fr. Joseph Fessio – He Gave Us So Much by Robert Cardinal Sarah – Discerning Hearts Podcasts

In Conversation with Fr. Joseph Fessio – He Gave Us So Much: A Tribute to Benedict XVI by Robert Cardinal Sarah

Fr. Joseph Fessio

In this episode, Evan Collins interviews Fr. Joseph Fessio about a new book paying tribute to Pope Benedict XVI written by Cardinal Robert Sarah.  The book is celebrated for its deep spiritual insights and reflections on the lives of saints, particularly focusing on Pope Benedict XVI’s rich theological legacy and potential for canonization.

Fr. Fessio shares his personal connection to Pope Benedict XVI, describing him as a mentor and friend, and highlights Cardinal Sarah’s relationship with the late pope, drawing parallels between their spiritual and theological journeys. The book is described as a heartfelt tribute, offering a unique perspective on Pope Benedict XVI’s spiritual and theological contributions through Cardinal Sarah’s lens, including previously unpublished writings that showcase the depth of Benedict XVI’s thoughts on faith, spirituality, and the church.

The discussion also delves into the broader impact of Pope Benedict XVI’s work, emphasizing his humility, profound theological insight, and dedication to guiding the faithful toward a deeper understanding of their faith and the Church’s teachings. Fr. Fessio and Collins discuss the significance of the catechism, the importance of tradition, and the legacy of theological scholarship represented by figures like Ratzinger, de Lubac, and von Balthasar.

Throughout the conversation, both Collins and Fr. Fessio highlight the enduring relevance of Pope Benedict XVI’s teachings, his approach to theology as a means of encountering the divine, and the transformative power of his writings on individuals’ spiritual lives. The episode paints a picture of Pope Benedict XVI not just as a theologian but as a spiritual master whose life and work continue to inspire and guide the faithful toward a deeper relationship with God.


Discerning Hearts Catholic Podcast

  1. Spiritual Mentorship and Legacy: Reflect on the role of spiritual mentorship in your own faith journey. How has the guidance of spiritual leaders like Pope Benedict XVI or other mentors in your life influenced your understanding and practice of the Catholic faith?
  2. The Theology of Relation and Self-Giving: Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the importance of going beyond oneself in self-giving and forming relationships to truly find oneself in the image of the Triune God. How can you apply this theology of relation and self-giving in your daily life to grow closer to God and to others?
  3. The Richness of Catholic Tradition: The conversation highlights the depth and breadth of Catholic tradition, including the works of theologians like Ratzinger, de Lubac, and von Balthasar. How does engaging with the Church’s intellectual and spiritual heritage enrich your personal faith and understanding of Catholicism?
  4. The Liturgy as the Center of Spiritual Life: Pope Benedict XVI is described as a “homo liturgicus,” with the liturgy at the center of his life. Reflect on your own experience of the liturgy. How does active participation in the liturgy enhance your spiritual life and relationship with the divine?
  5. Encountering Christ in the Marginalized: The episode recounts Pope Benedict XVI’s profound encounter with a disfigured child, where he saw and affirmed her beauty and dignity. How does this story inspire you to see and serve Christ in the marginalized and suffering in your own community?

 

BTP-LOT13 – The Journey of Prayer – The Life of St. Teresa of Avila – Beginning to Pray with Dr. Anthony Lilles – Discerning Hearts Podcast

The Journey of Prayer – The Life of St. Teresa of Avila – Beginning to Pray with Dr. Anthony Lilles

Dr. Anthony Lilles and Kris McGregor discuss chapters 9-11 in St. Teresa’s autobiography. In them, St. Teresa explores the degrees of prayer, moving from ascetical prayer to mystical prayer. She reflects on struggles, the importance of renewing the gift of prayer, and introduces the idea of the prayer of quiet as a mystical gift from God. Dr. Lilles observes she makes use of an analogy to a garden, meant to highlight the transformative journey.

The discussion underscores the boldness and courage required in following the Lord and the need to find a sacred place of prayer, especially in challenging times.


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

For more episodes in this series: The 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.


Discerning Hearts reflection questions for this episode:

  1. Degrees of Prayer: How does St. Teresa of Avila transition from describing her life before conversion to exploring the different degrees of prayer in chapters 9-11?
  2. Struggles in Prayer: What struggles does Teresa face in her prayer life, particularly in chapter 9, and how does she overcome discouragement?
  3. Obedience in Sharing Mystical Prayer: Why does Teresa express reluctance to talk about the mystical prayer of quiet, and how does she connect it to obedience?
  4. Analogies for Prayer: How does Teresa use analogies, such as the garden metaphor, to explain the importance of devotion and personal engagement in prayer?
  5. Transformation in Prayer: Discuss the transformative journey from ascetical prayer to mystical prayer as Teresa introduces the prayer of quiet in chapter 10.
  6. Boldness and Courage: Why is boldness and courage emphasized in the context of following the Lord, drawing parallels with other saints like St. Augustine?
  7. Finding a Sacred Place: In challenging times, why is it crucial, according to Dr. Lilles, to find a sacred place of prayer and trust in God’s love and mercy?

An excerpt from Chapter 11, discussed in this episode:

“I speak now of those who begin to be the servants of love; that seems to me to be nothing else but to resolve to follow Him in the way of prayer, who has loved us so much. It is a dignity so great, that I have a strange joy in thinking of it; for servile fear vanishes at once, if we are, as we ought to be, in the first degree. O Lord of my soul, and my good, how is it that, when a soul is determined to love Thee—doing all it can, by forsaking all things, in order that it may the better occupy itself with the love of God—it is not Thy will it should have the joy of ascending at once to the possession of perfect love? I have spoken amiss; I ought to have said, and my complaint should have been, why is it we do not? for the fault is wholly our own that we do not rejoice at once in a dignity so great, seeing that the attaining to the perfect possession of this true love brings all blessings with it.

We think so much of ourselves, and are so dilatory in giving ourselves wholly to God, that, as His Majesty will not let us have the fruition of that which is so precious but at a great cost, so neither do we perfectly prepare ourselves for it. I see plainly that there is nothing by which so great a good can be procured in this world. If, however, we did what we could, not clinging to anything upon earth, but having all our thoughts and conversation in Heaven, I believe that this blessing would quickly be given us, provided we perfectly prepared ourselves for it at once, as some of the saints have done. We think we are giving all to God; but, in fact, we are offering only the revenue or the produce, while we retain the fee-simple of the land in our own possession.

We resolve to become poor, and it is a resolution of great merit; but we very often take great care not to be in want, not simply of what is necessary, but of what is superfluous: yea, and to make for ourselves friends who may supply us; and in this way we take more pains, and perhaps expose ourselves to greater danger, in order that we may want nothing, than we did formerly, when we had our own possessions in our own power.”


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.