I’ve been to 3 different universities in the past 2 months, part of teams directing Busy Person Retreats for students. We had great turnouts of young adults who chose to commit to prayer and meeting one of us for spiritual direction each day. I’m in awe at their openness and earnestness. There’s a real desire to grow spiritually and recognize better the place of Jesus and faith in everyday reality. They are reflective and articulate well their lived experience, but they seek guidance (as we all do, at times) in knowing how to discern God’s call and how God is leading them. Which brings me to the title of this blog.
Sometimes people refer to discernment simply as steps to take in order to make wise decisions. It can be that, but it’s so much more. At its heart, I believe discernment is not a process, but a relationship. It’s not an object to be obtained (knowing if one should take a certain job or not) or an action to be accomplished. Instead, it’s a way of being, with heart attuned to the Spirit of God who dwells within and without. It’s continuously listening to and trusting God, who helps us ponder and sift (“discerner” is a French word meaning “to sift”) what’s going on in our lives, and then move ahead with insight and confidence. We are called to be people of discernment, like Jesus, like Angela Merici.
Pope Francis said in his most recent encyclical: “Discernment is necessary not only at extraordinary times . . . we need it at all times, to help us recognize God’s timetable. . . . It involves striving for all that is great, better and more beautiful, while at the same time being concerned for the little things, for each day’s responsibilities and commitments. Only if we are prepared to listen do we have the freedom to set aside our own partial or insufficient ideas, our usual habits and ways of seeing things . . . and become truly open to accepting a call that can shatter our security, but lead us to a better life.”