Jesuit priest offers advice for ‘good and holy’ decision making

Lindsay Steele
Iowa City native Father Michael Rossman, SJ, speaks about decision making at Newman Catholic Student Center on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City on March 20. His talk occurred prior to the Newman Center temporarily closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

“What should I do?”

It’s a question people ask themselves “over and over again,” said Jesuit Father Michael Rossman, SJ, a graduate of Regina High School in Iowa City. “God desires for us to make good and holy decisions and he will help us do so, but we need to know how God speaks.”

Father Rossman, who serves as vocation promoter at Midwest Jesuits in Chicago, spoke at Newman Catholic Student Center on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City on March 20. His talk occurred prior to the Newman Center temporarily closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He offered a presentation and discussion on decision making in the Ignatian tradition.


He said that when it comes to making big decisions, God rarely sends a big sign. People need to process pieces of data until a picture begins to emerge and prayerfully reflect on that.

Faithful people tend to assume “it’s not what I want but what God wants.” This isn’t necessarily true. “Our holiest desires are going to be in sync with God’s desires for us,” Father Rossman said.

Ignatian spirituality identifies periods of consolation and desolation. These aren’t the same as good times and bad times; they reflect someone’s movement toward or away from a state of faith, hope and love, he said. Everyone experiences both. Decisions are best made in a state of consolation. He also warned about reversing decisions during states of desolation.

For people making a decision about a career path, Fr. Rossman suggested asking three questions: What gives me joy? Am I good at it? Does anyone need me to do it? If something seems to fit all three categories, imagine what life could be like in 10 days, 10 months and 10 years into the future and invite God into those thoughts. If the scenarios bring about feelings of anxiety and deflation, it might not be the right decision. If the scenarios bring about a sense of peace, it could be a positive, Holy Spirit-directed decision. “Look for deep-down peace, not just comfort,” Father Rossman said. If several scenarios seem possible, a pro and con list can be helpful.

When making any major decision, one might not sense absolute certainty. At a certain point, “you’re going to have to dive in,” he said. Some decisions may lead to other paths or serve as learning experiences — these are part of God’s plan, too. Even if people make decisions that are not God-inspired, God can help people get back on the right track.

After his presentation, Father Rossman answered questions from the audience. One woman asked about how parents can aid their college-aged and young adult children in making decisions, especially if the individual’s decisions seem ill-fated. “We can raise questions, but we cannot make decisions for them,” he replied.

Another audience member asked the priest to explain his discernment of a vocation. Father Rossman said he was inspired by the Jesuits he met while in college at the University of Notre Dame. They said they could imagine Father Rossman among them. The idea of becoming a Jesuit priest was uncomfortable in some ways, as he knew it meant giving up certain things such as the possibility of marriage and family. However, he felt a joy and excitement that he could not shake off regarding the possibility of becoming a Jesuit priest. “It was a happy inability to think about anything else.”

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