The Healing of Families, by Fr. Yozefu-B. Ssemakula, the best, most complete, most anointed and most powerful book on healing generational spiritual problems in years, by an expert who works with the world's foremost deliverance ministers. We all have issues in our families. In some cases, they are severe. Fr. Yozefu offers explanations -- and remedies, focusing on how to pray effectively for the most stubborn, threatening familial and personal illnesses and problems. Our highest recommendation! Step-by-step prayers for deliverance.  (354 pp)  $21.00  w/healing card



It's a question we all have. Namely, this thing about "discernment." What does that actually mean? How do we discern?

There are things to discern in our lives. There are situations to discern. There are job offers to discern. There are questions about where we should live. There are relationships. There are friends and potential friends. There are antagonists, competitors. There are religions.

And then, of course, there is mysticism: claims of miracles, apparitions, weeping statues, the occult, and the like. How do we tell which may be real and which are artifacts or deception?

As we have said before, a feeling of ease and peace is often a good marker, for sure. That seems obvious. So does the flow of a movement toward something without the electricity of too much frenzy -- the feeling of moving toward a zone of comfort.

Is this then a simple set of guideposts?

No. But there are helpful tips. As a newspaper recently pointed out: "Discernment, or to use the full expression 'discernment of spirits,' is the attentive interpretation of what St. Ignatius called the 'motions of the soul.' These interior movements consist of thoughts, emotions, inclinations, desires, repulsions and attractions. Discernment of spirits involves learning to be sensitive to these movements, reflecting on them, and understanding where they come from and where they lead us."

St. Ignatius identified the two sources of such movements the “good" and the “bad” spirits.

"The interior movements initiated by these spirits are called 'consolations' or 'desolations,'" notes the article. "In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius sets forth fourteen rules for discerning how and under what circumstances consolations and desolations arise in our souls and these are called the  'Rules for the Discernment of Spirits.'"

In those rules we learn how the saint taught that both a good spirit and a bad one can send consolation or desolation! It would be great if it were easy to tell a spirit by the immediate effect. It is not. But there are some basic patterns, asserts a website devoted to Ignatian spirituality.

"For instance, as you would anticipate, the good spirit usually brings love, joy, peace, and the like; the evil spirit characteristically brings confusion, doubt, disgust, and the like," it says. "Another pattern: when you are leading a seriously sinful life, a good spirit will visit you with desolation to turn you around; an evil spirit will keep you content so that you will keep sinning. Another clear pattern is the opposite of this: when you are seriously serving God, the spirits change roles. The evil spirit clouds your day with desolation to lead you away from God, while the good spirit fills your day with trust and love of God. And a final, easily grasped pattern: a spirit that works in light and openness is good, while a spirit cloaked in secrecy and deception is evil.

"Some basic practices are also easy to figure out. When you have made a good decision to serve God better and after awhile go into desolation, you should not change the decision; it’s hardly a good spirit moving you. When you are feeling down, you would do well to pray a little more and increase the help you give to others. When, without warning or any preparatory activity, you are consoled with the love of God above all things, you can trust that it is a good spirit (particularly if it comes with tears). But when you are thinking or praying and grow consoled or disconsolate—well, test those movements. They could come from either spirit, as we have seen."

We are constantly sent interesting cases for consideration.

"For your discernment," wrote a viewer from New York. "I have been researching my family tree (Irish, Scottish and English, mostly) for several decades, following the lead of my late mother who left many unanswered questions. Some people seemed to be stubbornly hidden from the records.  Recently, although I and one other relative had had some recent successes, we were mostly looking at dead ends. Then about two months ago, I began to pray for my dead relatives at Mass. I was moved by my great-great uncle who died in 1871 at the age of 17. I had recently discovered that information. At Mass I prayed for him one day, particularly at Communion. I began praying for all of them, by name, over the weeks.

"Then a strange thing happened: Paths that had seemed blocked began to open up. Information began to pour in, from computer searches, mostly, or visits and phone calls to research institutions. It must sound as if  that's natural, but it was different. I had been conducting similar searches for these relatives for years, to no avail. Suddenly, I was choosing the right tools, using the right websites, the right phone calls were being made and answered by people who were helpful, which was not always the case.  I was making the right decisions on how to proceed, and how to spend my meager financial resources to access records. The result was major success in discovering who came before me. I have added four surnames to the family, representing a whole generation further back than I had ever gone. I know from which counties my ancestors hailed, at what churches many of them received their sacraments, where they lived, at what they worked and how they died. Just two weeks ago I ate lunch in a little diner at the same street address occupied by my great-great-grandparents during the Civil War. Different building, same address. Until recently I didn't even know in which city they lived. My mother's notes described my g-g grandfather as 'elusive.' No more. Some would say this was all a coincidence, and I was just seeing the results of our efforts. It doesn't feel that way. I repeat, this vast flood of information all began when I started to pray for their souls at mass. Never to them, but for them. Now I have many new names on my prayer list."

That sounds properly discerned.

But it's tricky business -- discerning the possibility of spiritual influence -- or interference. If such events lead us into obsession or trying to communicate with spirits -- draw us in -- we would discern that as potentially dangerous.

Noted another viewer (as far as discerning the occult), "I read a passage about the lies of alternative healing, by Sister Emmanuelle (a French nun in Medjugorje), who had been heavily involved in the New Age herself and talked about the healings being false. She said that if your knee was bothering you and you went to an acupuncturist or other healer, you might get relief in your knee but you find later that your marriage is starting to fall apart or you've become depressed."

We'll not enter into a debate on alternative medicine here. The point: another avenue of discernment is that by the fruits you will know it or them (the lasting fruits).

So many cases!

And a variety.

"I live about an hour from Gettysburg in Howard County, Maryland," wrote Timothy Charles Gehringer after we ran an article on this historic place. "Although I don't go there often, I can attest to the spiritual unrest there, one of the reasons I don't go as often.

"My wife and I were driving to West Virginia a few years ago and drove past the Antietam battlefield.  

"At the time we didn't know where we were but after we drove through we looked at each other and said did you feel that? It was hard to describe the feeling that came over us, one of sorrow, awareness, awe but blended in a way I have never felt since. We still talk about the sudden and intense feeling we experienced.

"We took our children to Gettysburg about ten years ago for a history lesson and it turned out to be right before July Fourth, so it was during the dates when the battle was actually fought. We were standing on top of Little Round Top looking down at Devil's Den and started to talk to these two bicyclists. They said the previous day that they were biking through Devil's Den and it was a blistering hot July day when they hit this one area where it got very cold. The went back and forth through it to see if it was real and it was. Suddenly they said they saw a line of what they thought were re-enactors marching through the field and stopped and watched, they start pedaling away and decided to look back because something didn't seem right and the two gentlemen said the soldiers disappeared.

"We went back a couple weeks ago because of the 140th anniversary and did the complete tour, although this time I brought along some relics and holy oil just in case. This time it was a pleasant and moving experience."

Good spirits -- angels, perhaps -- had replaced unsettled ones.

[resources: The Spirits Around Us]

[Retreats: Louisiana and Indiana]

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[see also: The Discernment of Pope Francis]

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