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Discernment in the life of St. Arnold Janssen

Author: Eryk Koppa SVD
Subject: Discernment
Language: English, Spanish
Year: 2022

During my course of Spanish at the Center for teaching foreigners in Mexico, I came across a song based on the poem “Wayfarer” of Antonio Machado. And the phrase that remained stored in my memory was: “The path is made by walking.”

This phrase comes to my mind when I think about the attitude and task of discernment of our Founder St. Arnold Janssen. In his life was the attitude of discernment very closely related to his relationship to the Holy Spirit.

He prayed the hymn “Veni Creator Spiritus” not only once a day. Quite often he invoked the light of the Holy Spirit in order to know and discover which paths he should follow.

Discernment means to know what God wants from us.

Discovering, understanding what God wants from us is not an easy task at all. We can see it from many examples of the Bible and history. Probably we all know it quite well from our own experience. Discerning what God wanted from Arnold Janssen was neither an easy task for him.

The time of struggle which had passed from the moment where he discovered the need for establishing a seminary for foreign missions in Germany until the moment when he understood (discerned) that he has to be the initiator of this work – was very long.

The significant thing is that St. Arnold during this time was not only entertaining the idea, passively waiting and doing nothing. On the contrary: he walked his path by searching, asking, talking to different people – and above – turning to God in prayer.


The path is made by walking.

Inside of our maternal house in Steyl there is a rather little path, yet, very significant. From the room where St. Arnoldo lived, which is today a chapel (Oratorium), there is a small staircase leading to the upper church of the house. Climbing these stairs one comes to a small door, through which one enters the church – just at the side of the main altar.

This was the path of st. Arnold. Our Founder often went through this path, especially when he wanted to discover what God wanted from him, what God wanted from the Society of the Divine Word, from the Arnoldus Family.

Father Arnold passed this path, entered the church and there he remained in silence with God, listening, praying, discerning…

And this was not just a way of doing things – this was a necessity, something essential. Because he knew well that only in this way – being rooted in the holy triune God and guided by the Holy Spirit – he could fulfill his mission: to discern, know and fulfill God’s will.

The path is made by walking.


Eryk Koppa, SVD
Eryk Koppa, SVD

Fr. Eryk Koppa, SVD was born in Strzelce, Opol, Poland. His first missionary destination was Mexico. After several years on the mission, he was sent for a BA in Moral Theology. At the end of the course he returned to Poland where he was appointed formator and prefect of the seminary, between 1998 and 2007. Besides being a formator, he was elected Provincial Councilor between 2003 and 2007. In the period 2007-2013 he acted as provincial secretary. He was elected Provincial of Poland in 2013 and General Councilor in 2018.

One Response

  1. The Eighteenth General Chapter of 2018 on Spiritual
    Renewal the role of the Holy Spirit is introduced by the question:
    ‘What does the Holy Spirit want from each of us and as a Society?’ There
    is no doubt that ‘the Spirit draws us, persuades us, and even compels us
    to embrace the challenges of our faith-commitment as Divine Word
    Missionaries”- (IWD, 2018, No. 6, 9.)

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