17 October 2012

Theses On Discernment

Tomorrow evening, I'm presenting a brief talk on discernment to a group of men and women interested in religious life.  Here are a few theses upon which my remarks will be based:

  • Good discernment is affective -- it grabs the heart and the mind in union with each other; but at the same time, it's also reflective and does not give in to compulsiveness.  Even those saints who experienced great conversations took time: Paul spent a decade in Arabia, while Francis wandered around the outskirts of Assisi for some time.
  • Nevertheless, one doesn't know if religious life is right unless one tries it; there is an element of "jumping in."  If someone is really interested in religious life, he or she should have a trusted spiritual director (not connected with the institute!), who can help them listen to the Holy Spirit's movements in one direction or another.  
  • Discernment is a two-sided process -- on one hand, it is necessary for us to seek the will of God for us in our lives; on the other, the Institute itself is involved in a process of discernment.  Let us always remember the Holy Spirit works through the process of discernment in a variety of ways -- not just through our own personal experiences, nor always in a way which affirms our best-intentioned conclusions.
  • We can trust in the Will of God for us -- God is never outdone in generosity and we are compelled to believe this -- especially if we are discerning.  At the same time, we must always be aware of that which is around us -- God has led us into a particular time and space.   Thus, the spiritual vertigo, resistance from one's self, family or friends and other challenges bear watching.  These challenges themselves must be discerned.

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