Set the Mind on the Spirit

I was walking along the trails of the Motherhouse and took in a hearty breath of the cool, crisp beginning of fall air. As summer tapers off and humidity breaks, the consoling caress of the gentle breeze reminded me of the Breathe of God, calm and peaceful yet constantly at work in us.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8: 5-6

Where have we set our minds? Each moment, the Lord communicates His love to us. He desires to lead us closer to His heart. Sometimes we allow it and sometimes we are too busy, too noisy to notice Him, to hear His voice.

Cardinal John O’Connor loved repeating the words that the newly canonized St. Teresa of Calcutta once said to him at the Mass of his episcopate ordination, “Give God Permission.” We can give God permission when we live according to the Spirit.

As we bid farewell to summer (for many, it is already a distant memory) and perhaps, begin new tasks, projects, classes or transition to new jobs, apartments, etc. let us consider if we are allowing ourselves at each moment to be led by the Holy Spirit.

How do we hear Him? How are we made aware of His presence? How do we know if we are allowing for the mystery of God to unfold … If we are giving Him permission?

Many of you have begun (continue) to ask (beg?) the existential question, ‘Lord, what is your will for my life?’ ‘How have you created my heart to love?’ And with that begins the most epic journey with the Lord to the deepest desires of your heart. These questions speak of a desire to give God permission, to live according to the Spirit and “set the mind on the things of the Spirit.”

We discern God’s will not to accomplish a goal, rather to draw near to the Lord – and more accurately, allow Him to draw us to Himself.

One way to open ourselves to His loving Spirit, in addition to frequenting the sacraments – Mass, Confession – devotion to Our Lady, and daily meditative prayer, is the Examen prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola – a beautiful dialogue with the Lord, where we can speak with Him about our day. The discipline of the daily Examen prayer allows us to become attentive to the movements of the Holy Spirit in our lives and sharpens our discernment.

At some point in the day (my suggestion is toward the end of the day) St. Ignatius proposes reviewing the day: How did I allow the Spirit to lead me today? Or where did I thwart the movement of the Spirit?

First, placing ourselves in the loving gaze of the Father, we enter into the five steps of the prayer – a helpful acronym – G.R.A.C.E.:

Gratitude – Give thanks for the gifts the Lord has given throughout the day.
Request – Ask God for His light; that we may see He sees. This allows the review to be a prayerful dialogue with the Lord, a work of grace.
Account – Take an account and review the day hour by hour- When was my heart stirring? Where was the Spirit leading? How did I respond? How may have I failed to respond?
Contrition – Trusting in His great mercy, go before the Lord with a contrite heart, seeking His forgiveness for the times we failed to give Him permission.
Encouragement – St. Ignatius ends on a note of looking forward and being prepared for a new day while being encouraged by what we learned through the previous steps.

This daily prayer increases our awareness of the Lord’s presence, His voice, His gentle promptings, His love, His mercy, His invitation in the daily activities of our life. It helps us to live according to the Spirit and cultivates in us a discerning heart, so that we can keep our minds set on the things of the Spirit.

May we “Give God Permission,” and allow the gentle Breath of God to lead us toward the Father, ultimately finding in ourselves who He created us to be.

Veni Sancte Spiritus!
In the Heart of Jesus,
Sr. Grace Dominic, S.V.