Discernment is a critical need in our society andworld today. We see the results of decisions madewithout a process of discernment. We have the growth in knowledge but not ethicaland moral issues. In an instant world discernment is a witness. Built into patterns of nature and the universe –seed has dormant time before growing, caterpillarin chrysalis before emerging as a butterfly, if wewere to create a space of nothing something newwould evolve.
Think of a time in your life when you discerned avocational choice or a big decision in your life. How did you decide or know what choice tomake? Who was involved in your discernment? Can you remember how you felt? How do you feel about the choice now – hasyour decision changed in any way? How would you discern a similar decision now?
Discernment: discernere – toseparate, distinguishTo be able to distinguishbetween what is of God andwhat is notA process – takes time.Significant in an instantworld.An art and a skillCall of BaptismThe meeting place of prayerand action. (T. Green)Listening to the Music of theSpirit (Lonsdale, D)Involves the whole person andthe context in which he/shelives. Affective Intellectual Intuitive Communal(Thesing, 2003)Often the right brain can tellyou something you didn’tknow that you know. Thereis no conflict in the rightbrain (eg mandala)
Call / Vocation(Vocations and Vocation Discernment C.J. Jackson Rev Rel 63.3.2004) Central to how the Bible depicts the humanperson in relation to God. The patriarchs, theprophets, the apostles – all began their missionbecause of a call they received from God. Vocation – mission in life – describes thepersons they are called to be. Vocation is the way of life. The Reign of God
To Discern (Vocations AnonymousVocations Anonymous, , Sr Kathleen Byrant) Is to spend time listening Is to admit that we are powerless overour own ability to be certain, to be incontrol, to have all the answers Is to set out on a journey with God,confident that we will be cared for, thatwe will have all that we need, that wehave nothing to fear (Ps 23)
Is to really live by the choices we make andtake responsibility for the direction of my life,and for decisions I make Is to actively cooperate with God in co-creatinga future full of hope, meaning and promise (Jer29) Is to be alert, frightened, surprised, joyful androoted (sometimes all at once)The primary task of discernment is to sort out allyour impulses, attractions , fantasies anddesires…It is a lifelong task.
Prayer (Guided by the Spirit – F HoudekPrayerVocations and Vocation Discernment Rev Rel 63.3.2004Charles J Jackson) God is the centre and the starting point ofprayer. Prayer is a gift from God. Prayer is a radical response to life. Prayer is not part of life but all of life. Need a regular pattern of prayer and selfreflectionin life to be capable of discernment. Knowledge of deepest desire. (e.g. what attractsperson to this lifestyle / choice)
Preconditions for Discernment We can reflect on the ordinary events ofour life. We can describe what we experience. We have a habit of personal prayer. We know ourselves and our deepestdesire. We are open to God’s direction.Charles J Jackson Vocations and Vocational Discernment Rev Rel 63.3.2004
Attitudes for Good Discernment Openness (Ignatius – Indifference) Relax Space, Garden image Expectant attitude Inner freedom God’s will - vocation is from a community for acommunity Involves every aspect of life not just prayer(social, physical, emotional, intellectual)
Movements Movements towards God and also countermovementsdragging us back towardsselfishness, doubt, darkness. Affective level isimportant. Consolation – even though struggling – movedto greater trust and faith. Impulses to enjoy,grow, give and receive. Desolation – May falter and settle for the “lessgood”. Do not make a choice in desolation or goback on a choice made during a time ofconsolation.
Discerning the Spirits The challenge is to go deeper – myidentity with God is deeper than any ofthese movements. As we discern and payattention to our thoughts and impulseswe can decide to go with it, go against it,ignore it or feed it. Trace the course of the experience.
Steps in the Process Define the matter for discernment Gather relevant information Use your imagination. Notice how you respondat the affective level. Does it feel like it fits?Images, letter to God, drawing, dreams Open all possibilities Pay attention to what God is saying List cons and pros Keep checking in your heart
The Call - Pondering“Everywhere I go I sense the hunger for a calling, avocation. People experience a deep desire to be in touchwith the Mystery that continues to call us into life –whether they can articulate their longing clearly or not. Myown deepest desire always has been to be who I amsupposed to be; I want to live my life for the purpose itwas intended and to embrace the ambiguity of choice. Iwant to acknowledge that there is no certitude, yet liveconditionally as if there were. I want to live fully, withgenerosity and gratitude, and to break new ground, notalways follow the paths of others”.(J Conlon, Ponderings From the Precipice, p73)
The Call to CongruenceT he call to congruence is the call to live inharmony with the deepest, most integral part ofourselves and to live in balance with Earth. It isthe call to discover a deep resonance between theimpulses and vibrations of our own existence andthe aspirations of our lives…We are ever lookingfor a story that we can embrace – a new story, adeepening story – one that resonates with what weintuit to be true”. (J Conlon, Ponderings From the Precipice, p80)
Where am I?Things I cannot change – culture,education, genetic, gifts, etcThe Godseed How am I?Choices and control – accept, reject,relationships Who am I?Centre – where I truly am – dangerousgroundI am.Plant growing outward from centre.Inner Compass – Margaret Silf
We are cocreators in God’s dream for us God’s dream for us is a tender but all powerfulseed. We are charged with bringing the dreamto birth. Our increasing intimacy with God willinevitably foster the desire in us to become theperson God is calling us to be. Bringing God’s dream for us to birth is theamazing vocation of every believer.Inner Compass – Margaret Silf
Guidelines for Appraisal(5 C’s) C Is the choice consonant? Will it make thisperson’s life more in harmony with theMystery of All That Is? Will this choice be congenial with who thisperson most deeply is? Will this choice be compatible with his orher actual life field of people, events andthings? Does this choice fit the competence of theperson? Is this choice a compassionate decision,taking into account the ambiguity of thehuman condition and of this person’ssituation in it?Carolyn Gratton The Art of Spiritual Guidance
Friends of God and ProphetsAdapted from Mary Ann Schofield, Friends of God and Prophets, Training, Mentoring and Supervision, Vol 8.no.3 Oct2002…in discerning God’s action in our humanexperience, we need to ask: What God are welooking for? Is it the God of the politicallypowerful…Is it the God of the televangelists,preaching an ethic of success and wealth asproofs of God’s approval? Is it the currentlybest-selling, flag-waving, bumper-stickerGod…, Or is it the God of the prophets?
The true prophet sides with the poor, points outthe divine presence and power, always in thecontext of community, and with a view towardjudgment that moves people toward justice. Knowing what has to be done, alas, generallymeans that one’s life will be turned upsidedown. Conversion requires contemplation.
Cultural Considerations (Tui(Tui Cadogan) Any discernment process ( for tangata whenua) beginswith whanau and the necessity for their continuedinvolvement during any 'institutional' process isessential. It is necessary for formation staff to realisefrom the outset they are engaging with a whanau, hapu& Iwi not an isolated individual. The indigenous person needs to be seen in thecommunal context that nourishes the physical,spiritual, emotional and psychological well being. Wemust be careful not to presume that the dominantcultural norm is the only way. Also if the person decides not to take the process anyfurther or the institution decides the person is notsuited, it is whanau who pick up the pieces and if theperson does continue to final commitment, whanauprovide the appropriate cultural sounding board.
It is important for anyone accompanying a person fromanother culture to be aware of cultural differences inways of relating and expression. Right Relationships
Context – Life Experience(J. Keegan To Bring All Things Together. Spiritual Direction as Action for Justice, Presence) Life situation Deep listening to theworld affects life choices.Intrapersonal – inside ourselvesInterpersonal – between peopleStructural - institutionsEnvironmental – the Earth, UniverseGoing deeper:Interpretative – narrative, storyReflexive – metaphor, symbolWordless. Mystery of God
Generation X (1961-1980) A deconstructed world Changing family Responsible Postpone commitment Technology oriented Diversity Have grown up with criticism of Church Distancing from Institutional Religion, yet with searchfor spirituality and profound human values.Robert A. Ludwig Horizon Vol 22, no 3, 1997Joan Weber Horizon Vol 22, no 3, 1997
Cynical and Skeptical (Aids, violence) Need hope. Protective of leisure Fast paced Consumers Volunteers
6 Needs:1. To believe that life is meaningful and has apurpose2. Sense of community and deeper relationships3. To be appreciated and loved4. To be listened to and be heard5. To feel that one is growing in faith6. Practical help in developing faithWant to reconstruct Catholicism and the world.
What are the implications ofthese characteristics ofGeneration X whenconsidering the process ofdiscernment?
Millennial (after 1982) Horizon, Winter 2002 - Carey,McCarty, Know they are special (Children’s rights) Sheltered Confident Team-oriented Achieving Pressured Conventional Self-reliant
Instant communication and change Immediate access to information (abilityto process it?) Surge in Spirituality Experience is real and true (rather thanscientific method) Delay life commitments Looking for stability
Tolerance for diversity Relationships important Service-oriented Hopeful Ambitious
What are the implications ofthese characteristics of theMillennial Generation whenconsidering the process ofdiscernment?
Some Possible Implications Present different ways of praying Journaling Linking experience and faith Making space in world of noise andaction Making known all of the vocationsoptions Internet sites
Religious LifeRole of friendships, prayer,ministry, psycho-sexualdevelopment, motivation inthe person’s lifeBoth need to be clear aboutthe congregation’sexpectationsBe fair to the personExplain the two waydiscernment – both theindividual and thecongregationRole of autobiographyAccompaniment relationship(modelled by Jesus)Spiritual DirectionInitial Formation is a process ofdiscernment. (Schneiders)Program should allow forongoing discernment – individualand community.Clear roles throughout theformation process – spiritualdirector, formation director…HolisticDifferent prayer formsRegular EvaluationSpiritual DirectionAny formation personnel shouldbe in own process of ongoingformation.Explore options
Development in Prayer and SpiritualDirection Psychological development and exposureto congregational life Intellectual and experiential formation –come to an informed decision.Schneiders, Selling All
Religious Life Coming to aninformed decisionbefore God of what Ishould do here andnow. (Schneiders, Selling All) Need to discern:Call to theCongregation/InstituteCall to CommunityCall to Religious Life