Musings on Discernment: Its Value and Relevance
The month of March is devoted to St. Joseph who is considered as the saint wearing many hats! Apart from being the Foster Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, he is also the Patron Saint for married couples. Incidentally, the month of March is also one of the memorable days of my life. This is when my husband and I made our marriage vows to our Lord God, through the priest, who officiated and invoked God’s blessings upon us during the Sacrament of Marriage. In our previous posts on our social media page and on the website, we had given you some snippets on what we have labeled as “ABC’s of Marriage”, and in another instance, a blog article about St. Joseph being the favorite go-to-saint for people seeking for Mr. and Ms. Right! Based on accounts, some women and even men sought God’s help on this, through St. Joseph’s intercession, and it worked wonders for them.
As we continue to go through the journey of our marriage life, it would be prudent to touch on the topic regarding the gift of “discernment” which is a very important process when entering into any vocation or any form of relationship. Discernment is helpful not only in building and nurturing the relationship among couples but also in their relationship with God. Praying is one of the important spiritual activity of discernment where couples are guided to decide together on the next paths of their relationship.
Just like in our everyday lives, some of us are called and chosen or have not really been chosen at all even among the few, despite how much we desire it. Probably, that’s just how our lives are. What we desire and aim for is not what’s God’s plan for us. Or perhaps, we have decided and acted on impulse or some spur-of-the-moment thing, which we have not really thought and meditated about it, that much. We have not been able to discern what God wants from us.
Ahh, discernment — it is one of the missing keys to a happy and successful life—that’s how relevant it is. It is the ability to comprehend and evaluate clearly and rationally, with spiritual guidance of the Holy Spirit. I had just graduated from college then looking to land a job when I first came to learn “discernment” from a friend who was connected with a catholic lay organization. She invited me to attend one of their recollections which I obliged and liked. Eventually, my rare visits to the “centers” became increasingly frequent, hence it gave me an opportunity to meet new friends and acquaintances. Some of them wanted me to ponder about joining them and suggested me to discern if the same was suitable for me. Honestly, I admired their remarkable faith in God, their way of life particularly on how they managed to undertake their professional work while at the same time searching for sanctity in the “middle of the world”, so to speak. While the calling to join the group appeared favorable to some of my friends as far as their spiritual and personal lives are concerned, it’s just that their way of life was not meant for me. It’s either I lacked or I didn’t have the gift of discernment and commitment needed at that time, perhaps. I realized thereafter that it was not my calling to be with them. Indeed, “many are called but few are chosen.” But no regrets. I have learned so much from them, remained friends with them (even without communications), and still supportive of the work.
Discernment may not only refer to vocational discernment, at least traditionally, i.e., vocations to married life, single life, and religious/priestly life – with which I was familiar with. However, its usefulness at present is not limited only to choosing vocations. It can also be applied in some other norms, in our day-to-day lives from simple to challenging tasks, most particularly in making major commitments and decisions. One day, we may wonder and ask ourselves, “What is really God’s will for me?” For teens pursuing a college degree or/seeking for employment, they would reckon: “Which degree should I get or which job should I apply for/accept after graduation? The same is applicable when one is looking for a boy/girl friend, “Will she/he be the right man/woman for me, for life? While there is nothing wrong in dating, young teens should take extra caution on this, particularly in this time and age. Rather than building a beautiful relationship with another person, there have been instances where people have been used for selfish interests and for the sake of a certain “experience” which are absolutely unacceptable not only in the eyes of man but more so in the eyes of God. Same thing with those people considering marriage or religious life, they should follow a certain pattern of discernment. Not everyone of us is given the ability to judge well. It will take time to think, pray and discern on these life-impacting instances. As such, it is prudent that we learn how to discern, if not, try to seek God’s help to grant us this gift of discernment. It is an internal struggle, hence the need for guidance from the Holy Spirit to provide God’s light to help us discover what are His plans for us, i.e., to align our will with God’s will. We should try our best to practice it, because that’s how discernment process works: formulating options and evaluating the pros and cons carefully to achieve a wisely discern situations instead of hastily acting major life’s decisions on impulse.
In one of his previous messages to the youth, Pope Francis encouraged young people to listen to the Holy Spirit when making bold decisions even to the extent of taking risks just to follow God because that would be the start to helping build a better world. The Holy Father likewise emphasized the need for discernment, in one of his talks with the Bishops, that it is a gift of the Holy Spirit to the Catholic Church, hence should be adopted. It was noted that humility and obedience are two requirements of discernment. The Holy Father encouraged them to “cultivate an attitude of listening, growing in the freedom” to give up their “point of view (when it is partial and inadequate), to assume that of God.” He further stated that it is in the “intimacy of prayer” that a bishop “grows his inner freedom to make good decisions”.
In his Amoris Laetitia on Love in the Family, Pope Francis offers another form of discernment coupled with gentleness and mercy. He wanted to impress upon us all that we should be a discerning church, a community that has a personal and spiritual form of insight, a community that practices the virtues of attentiveness, empathy and love not only in words but deeds towards our brothers and sisters. Some of us may now be conscious that the Holy Father is a very pragmatic and unconventional Pope. He knows what’s going on around us, he was able to experience the sad reality of life with people who are in need, hence the said exhortation.
Undergoing a discernment process and responding to God’s call, we would be able to live and spread the Gospel more effectively and courageously, far and wide. Each one of us can help spread the Good news in our parish communities. This is one undertaking where we can pray to God to give us strength and the courage to serve and participate in parish activities. We should be cautious though that when we decide to contribute our time and talent to our parish, we have to make sure that it’s for the good cause not only for ourselves but for the entire community as well, otherwise it’s not true discernment.
Once we are called and chosen, we can pray to and trust the Holy Spirit to help us choose the right path and accept wholeheartedly if it’s God’s will and that’s how and where discernment plays its key role. As mentioned earlier, making hard decisions would entail many areas for consideration, thus would require deep thought and constant prayer. Regardless of the magnitude of our choices, including the mundane activities in our lives, the practice of discernment would be valuable and relevant. It’s a good and fruitful day-to-day spiritual habit which will make us become more and more attuned to God’s will.
We can seek help from the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, who themselves prayed without ceasing. Both of them are the ultimate example of openness to the will of God. Let us seek their intercession to accompany and help us to be ready to obey God’s will. This we ask and humbly pray, in Jesus Mighty Name. Amen.