by Fr Nino Vinciguerra
Over the last few months we have been discussing the various stages of Parish Renewal. In this next stage we enter into what I consider the most critical and important part of the Renewal process – Discernment.
Discernment is a word that we hear frequently in our Church but what does it actually mean and why is it so crucial? The secular meaning is ‘the ability to judge well’ but the Christian understanding is far richer and deeper and less about judgment and decision making than listening for the voice of God and where He wants us to be.
It is important to recognise that discernment is not about judgement; rather, it is a continuous process discerning at each moment what God is asking of us, and how we act upon what God is asking at this moment. (Section 2 Parish Renewal Handbook)
So many times, with the best of intent, we are driven in various directions by our own experiences and needs and, dare I say, by our egos and personalities. Imagine how this can be amplified when we are participating in a group trying to make decisions. What a jumble! No wonder we sometimes get ourselves tied up and confused and frustrated.
Discernment though is our ‘spiritual friend’, especially when we gather in prayer with each other. It is a time to let go of ourselves and let God enter the space we create for Him.
Discernment is a primary function of the Christian life: to discover in our lives what is ‘of God’ and what is not, what is to be fostered and what is to be fought, what is of grace and what is of sin, what is to be proclaimed and what is to be denounced. The Lord Jesus and the Spirit are, in the practice of discernment, the two hands of the Father’; therefore, discernment is spirituality in the concrete. (Section 2 Parish Renewal Handbook).
None of us alone can know the best way forward but we instinctively know that there is great hope when we come together to share, communicate and collaborate. Even then, we need to be always conscious that our purpose in collaborating has to be God and focused on building a loving missionary Church that He wants for all – especially those that live on our margins physically or spiritually or maybe even both.
On our website you will find some resources on Discernment and I encourage you and the members of your parish to pray and reflect on the ways that Discernment can become part of the spiritual habit of your parish and yourselves personally.
God bless you.