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Online Retreat: "Discerning a Life of Service in the Church" Week Two

This is the second week of a four week journey through the book which bears the title of our program, Catholics on Call. As you know, the focus of CoC is all about discerning a life of service in the Church, and we would like to invite you to take a step closer to God in these next weeks by praying and discerning how God is speaking to you right now.

Here’s how it works: Each weekday, over a period of four weeks, we will share a quote from a different section of the book.

Let’s spend some time every day (we recommend 20-30 min.) with each other in a kind of “cyber-communion.” Please read and reflect on the quotes from the book, and even share those reflections with each other through the message boad and the comment box.

This week’s quotes are from Bishop Robert Morneau’s article entitled “The Art of Discernment.” We will focus on his ten guiding principles in what he calls the “art of discernment.”

The Art of Discernment: Ten Guiding Principles



"1. Discernment is a prayerful process whereby experiences are interpreted in faith.
Experiences, if they are not to dehumanize, must be reflected upon and interpreted. It is possible that even a good experience-- a delicious meal, an excellent movie, a stirring liturgy-- can make us less human if we do not take the time to process it. What often happens is that we go from one experience to another without appreciating its value. This is the proverbial rat race.

2. Discernment must deal with many voices seeking to capture our minds, hearts and energy.
How can one hear the voice of God amid the many other “calls” that daily impinge upon our minds and hearts? The number of channels on radio and television, the number of e-mails and phone messages, the number of appointments and invitations so often confuse us and divide our limited energy and wandering attention. The challenge in discernment is to sort out which of these voices are congruent with God’s will and which are not.” (Catholics on Call, pp. 68-69)

Question for Reflection: What are the different "voices" you are hearing right now?

Go to the message board (for CoC alums only).

The Art of Discernment: Ten Guiding Principles



“3. Discernment is cultivated in a listening love that allows one to hear the felt-experience of good and evil movements within oneself, others and society.
From experience, we all know that neither the art of listening nor the art of loving is easy. Though God’s grace is offered, at times we lack openness to these blessings or fail in exercising the discipline needed to lead a listening, loving lifestyle. Our task is cultivation. By striving to be more sensitive to the inner movements of our beings, by making every effort to respond with care to what God asks, we will grow into mature disciples.

4. Discernment relies on two foundations: Jesus and revelation
We need a standard to evaluate the quality of an attitude or action. In the process of discernment, we need some criteria that indicate that we are on the right path. The life of Jesus and the word of God are two such criteria. If a decision or inner movement is harmonious with the ethics and sensibility of Jesus, then we have assurance that God’s grace is operative. If what we say or do is congruent with the Scriptures, again there is a strong degree of certainty that we are being faithful to our inmost nature.” (Catholics on Call, pp. 70-71)

Question for Reflection: How spiritually “harmonious” is your life right now?

Go to the message board (for CoC alums only).

The Art of Discernment: Ten Guiding Principles



“5. Discernment assumes that God is continually working in the depth of every individual and community.
God’s creative, redeeming, and sanctifying activities are always at work. We live in a divine milieu. We can assume that every hour of every day, God’s initiatives and interventions are present in our individual lives and among the nations. What we need are antennae to pick up the signals sent our way and to respond with commitment to the divine design.

6. Discernment respects the nature of time and is willing to wait freely for a decision that needs clarification, detachment, and magnanimity.
Another characteristic of discernment is largeness of soul. Spiritual maturity, like that of nature, often involves years of small, specific acts of renunciation that enlarge our souls and make them open to whatever the Lord might ask. Clarification, detachment, and magnanimity take time. No haste here; no hurry lest it ruin God’s precious work.

While appreciating the nature of time and the need for some clarity, there is the possibility of being too patient. Procrastination (too) is a desecration of time; procrastination is an alibi for hanging on to what we want.” (Catholics on Call, pp. 71-72)

Question for Reflection: In what part of your life, and our world, is God speaking to you today?

Go to the message board (for CoC alums only).

The Art of Discernment: Ten Guiding Principles



“7. Discernment is a gift (grace) given to those who are properly disposed to receive it because of obedience and surrender.
Mary, the Mother of Jesus... Abraham... Ghandi... St. Francis of Assisi... All of these individuals were obedient; the listened to the voice of the Lord. All of these individuals were willing to surrender their thoughts and ways to what the Lord desired. Of course, at the head of the list is Jesus, who was obedient, obedient even to surrendering to death on the cross (Phil 2:8). Discernment is a grace; so too are obedience and surrender.

8. Discernment blends faith and pragmatism: it searches out God’s will in radical trust and does it.
Discipleship is hard work; discipleship demands sacrifice. St. Paul models for us a pragmatic person of deep faith: he did the truth in love. Such is the call of every follower of Christ. When love is authentic, action is demanded. The loving person responds with active concern for the beloved.” (Catholics on Call, pp. 72-73)

Question for Reflection: How are you obediently and pragmatically responding to the needs of others these days?

Go to the message board (for CoC alums only).

The Art of Discernment: Ten Guiding Principles



“9. Discernment looks to consequences for its authenticity: decisions are of God if ultimately they lead to life and love.
Initially, decisions may appear to be antiflife, even antilove. For example, the decision to proceed with a family intervention in the case of alcoholism may be very disrupting, causing members of the family to walk away in bitterness. Yet, after thoughtful prayer, this may be the best thing to do, indeed the necessary thing to do. Life is complicated; decisions are messy. All that is expected is that one be as responsible and as prayerful as possible and then act. With God’s help there will be an increase of life and love.

10. Discernment leads to truth and, through truth, into freedom.
A central goal of the spiritual life is to be free, free from all the obstacles that prevent us from doing the will of God. But that freedom is impossible without living in the truth-- the truth of God’s love, the truth of our sinfulness, the truth of our salvation in Jesus... The art of discernment cuts through false theories and dead-end philosophies to point us to the light. Discernment is grounded in the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who opens our minds to the truth and empowers our wills to freely do the good.” (Catholics on Call, pp. 73-74)

Question for Reflection: Is it refreshing and authentic for you to be able to count on God to speak the truth to us in love?

Go to the message board (for CoC alums only).

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