Jesuit and Quaker Discernment

Comparisons of Discernment Processes in the Early Jesuit and Quaker Communities

By Bruce Bishop, North Valley Friends, Newberg, OR – 2009

Two long-standing faith communities within Christian faith and practice share a commitment to spiritual discernment. The Society of Jesus, commonly known as the Jesuits, and the Religious Society of Friends, known as Quakers or Friends, were each grounded in the spiritual experience of their founders, Ignatius of Loyola and George Fox. Their initial spiritual encounter changed their own lives and perspectives, and became the “norm” by which they taught their companions how to hear and discern the movement of God. Because each initial encounter was unique, and their personalities were distinct, the teachings and practices of each tradition have distinctive characteristics. While they both focus on the same goal of hearing and obeying the leadership of the Holy Spirit, they have differing strengths and weaknesses. The goal of this paper is to briefly outline what each of these traditions can offer to the other, perhaps creating a stronger foundation for spiritual discernment.

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