I begin this series on Mysticism and Magisterium with the notion of “thinking with the Church” because discernment is so basic to the spiritual life. For a Catholic, every authentic spirit is characterized by its “ecclesiality,” which means that the Holy Spirit works in and through the Church and always leads to communion with the Church.
In recent years, the sacred magisterium has frequently recommended the sentire cum ecclesia in order to remind us that a true sense of faith implies “a profound agreement of spirit and heart with the Church” (Donum Veritatis [DV] 35). One’s personal faith must be the faith of the Church. It is “never an isolated act” of an individual or even a group within the Church. In fact, St. John Paul II told religious that by thinking with the Church they become “experts of communion,” and “architects” of God’s plan for unity within the Church (Vita Consecrata [VC] 46). We are one with Christ because we are of one mind and heart through our communion with the Church.Via Terry Nelson. Share
This ecclesiality runs directly contrary to the modern religious spirit, which is the worship the autonomous personal conscience. Most often today this radical autonomy takes the form of personal moral relativism, which is a private disregard for what the Church teaches, say, for example, in regard to its condemnation of contraception. More serious, however, is public dissent from Church teaching, especially by well-known figures, whose scandal harms the unity of the Church in a profound way.
Unfortunately, it is not only the progressives who have adopted this individualistic spirit. Even in the name of Tradition, some today speak of a pre- and post-conciliar Church, thus creating a rupture between the past and the present. In this way, they submit everything the magisterium has to say to a test that ultimately sets the Church against itself.
Finally, the autonomous personal conscience sometimes lays claim to a false discernment when it sets private revelation and presumed personal graces against the magisterium. The desire for union with God sometimes leads individuals to attach themselves to extraordinary manifestations of the “spirit,” but in such a way that weakens their attachment to the Church. Thus, Catholics continue to embrace New Age spirituality, or some dubious private revelation, or a personal insight even though they know that their conviction runs contrary to Church teaching or discipline.
The discernment of spirits is so important today because there are many voices competing for our attention, and it is all so easy to assume that that what we hear, or even what we think and say comes from God. We need to be careful, especially when we are tempted to think differently than the Church—to disregard or disparage her doctrine or choose a path that sets us at odds with the sacred magisterium. (Read more.)