Attentive & Discerning
Pupils at SSPP are growing to be attentive to their experience and to their vocation; and discerning about the choices they make and the effects of those choices.
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry. (Psalm 34:15)
If being grateful is the starting point in the spirituality of St Ignatius, then being attentive to your experience is its foundation. In the months Ignatius spent convalescing from the wounds he received at the battle of Pamplona (May 1521), he began to pay attention to his experience in a very systematic and reflective way.
Sometimes, we wake up and wonder where time has gone and whether we have made (or are making) the most of our lives. We ask whether we have made the best choices and given time and energy to the people and things that matter. Being attentive takes practice. It is much easier to allow ourselves to be swept along in the tide of everyday life, from one thing to the next, taking little time to notice anything.
Ignatius tells us that we should take time to notice the big and the small things of each day; we need to be aware of and understand the responses of other people; we need to be attentive to the stirrings in our hearts. In this way, we become much more sure-footed in coping with the things that life and other people throw at us.
Once we develop the habit of being attentive, we can begin to discern what is good for us and what is not; and what God calls us to be, and to do (our vocation). Being attentive brings the possibility of taking back control of our own lives.
Teaching children the practice of attentiveness is a great gift that we can pass on to them from the Ignatian tradition. Learning to be attentive and reflective will make a big difference to their lives.
The art of discernment is perhaps the most distinctive feature of St Ignatius’ spirituality. Christians, and good people of all walks of life, have always sought ways to make better decisions with integrity.
How do you know the right thing to do? How do you know the good thing to do? Sometimes it is obvious, but often it is not. Discernment is a way of approaching decisions by being attentive to my lived experience, by noticing the impact my past choices have had on me and others, and then seeking the better way forward. Discernment is about choosing the better over the good.
For the Christian, discernment is about taking the time, and making the effort, to notice when and where God calls. And God does always call. Maybe so gently that we barely notice. In the Lord’s Prayer we say, ‘Thy will be done’ but go off without really believing that God has a will for me. But he does. By being attentive and discerning, I can discover God’s will and unique calling for me.
The start of the Spring term begins that slow walk back to the light and warmth of summer. At this time, the days are still dark and cold, but by the end of the half term we are starting to see the shoots of new life.
In this half term, we move into our ‘Dreams and Goals’ PSHE topic. This is a very reflective time for our children to consider what they want to get out of life. They need to be alert and attentive to others, whilst still ensuring they make choices and decisions to help further their own goals.
Mental Health Week also falls in this half term.
So much of the protection of our own mental health, comes from the decisions we make. Whether we allow ‘life’ to get on top of us, or use setbacks as fuel to come back even stronger. There is no shame in moments of weakness or in asking for help, but by teaching our children to be discerning, they can try to become informed as to what is really important in their lives.
Questions for reflection . .
Are opportunities built into the school day and week which allow us to be attentive?
Do we have opportunities to learn the art of discernment?
Is the Ignatian practice of reflection and discernment used by teachers, school leaders and governors to make important decisions?