Dear Readers of The Flame,

Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7:20). The litmus test of authentic discipleship is how we bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit. And the key to bearing this kind of fruit is our relationship to Jesus. He is the Vine and we are the branches. By abiding in Him (remaining in His teaching, living in the power of the Holy Spirit) we will bear fruit (John 15:5).

I mention these basic truths of discernment because it is easy to forget what we are aiming for. Our goal is not to have the greatest prayer experience, the best worship time, the most power when we pray with the sick. Our goal is to become holy.

The means to this goal is the same for each person. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). By living in union with Him through prayer, the sacraments, a life of service, and obedience to the teachings of the Church, we grow in holiness.

Though this is the same for each person, it will look different in the life of each person. St. Francis de Sales, in his book, Introduction to the Devout Life, teaches that a life of devotion must be tailored to the vocation and character of each person. He says that it would be foolish for a bishop to pray all day in church like a monk or for a monk to be burdened with the cares and duties of one in pastoral work

Beyond that, our character needs to be taken into account. Certain kinds of prayer experiences may be good for one person and harmful to another. I recently spoke with a good person who began a thirty day prayer exercise on inner healing. This person and a friend began reading the same book at the same time. After the first day, the person I spoke with was so convicted about certain relationships she had with her family that she sobbed for two and half hours after reading the five minute prayer exercise! Truth be told, her relationships with her family were pretty good. The other person read the prayers and fell asleep! 

My conclusion was that the person I spoke with ought not to use that method for inner healing. She was too sensitive. It was counterproductive. And perhaps the other person needed to pray it with greater attention when she was less sleepy!

There are other admonitions about discernment in the New Testament. “See to it that no one captivate you with empty, seductive philosophy according to human tradition, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8) New Age practices that promise manifestations of power to heal through certain rituals that tap into a “universal life force” are not according to Christ but according to the elemental powers of the world.

Jesus Christ promises a life transforming relationship. This relationship is with God-Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This relationship will influence the rest of our relationships. We will become a more wise and loving people. As Christians, our hope is in a Person-Jesus Christ-not in techniques, New Age rituals, or empty philosophies according to human tradition.

St. John tells us, “Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God…this is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God.” We test ideas and practices by seeing if they acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:3)

We want to become God’s fruitful people. May the Holy Spirit help us to discern rightly and become holy.

Persevering in the power of the Spirit,

Fr. Bob Franco

PS: It was good seeing so many of you at Magnificat High School during our recent charismatic conference. If time permits, come to St. Teresa’s on Friday, September 16 for our monthly charismatic mass. It’s the one traveling mass that I don’t have to travel to!