The art of daily discernment is a practice and a virtue that many of us tend to forget and at times ignore. By definition the act of discernment from the Latin meaning discernere means one’s ability to distinguish what is happening around them whether positive or negative and to move toward a sound resolution of the positive or negative situation. Within the context of our relationship with Christ it would mean our ability to either embrace Him in a personal relationship or distance ourselves from Him.
G.K. Chesterton once said:
The modern world is not evil: in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of virtues gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone.” –Orthodoxy, pg. 27-28
As a Father, one of things that I realized early on is that my children are in a constant state of discernment whether they realized it or not. Their spiritual development is a constant practicum of understanding right from wrong, how to respond to us as parents, what they can do and not do etc. It’s a continual maturation of their Catholic being with the central focus being an intentionally formed relationship with Jesus Christ.
This particular process came to fruition with my eldest son. Every so often my son and I would engage in conversation related to his discernment of the priesthood. It would begin with a simple question: Son how’s your discernment with the priesthood going? My son’s response would be a typical; “Dad, it’s there, it comes and goes.” Our conversations about the priesthood have been constant for a couple of years not bearing too much weight on the possibility but at the same time not letting it go. There have been times when my son has bluntly said: “I sense the Lord calling me to the priesthood” to other times where he wasn’t sure. This is the beauty of discernment.
“They Need Confession”
One of the most striking moments of our conversation about the priesthood, one that left me speechless, detailed my son elaborating a little bit further on the priesthood as follows:
“Dad at times when I’m serving at Mass I see the people out in the pew, all of them. It’s not that I am not paying attention at Mass, but I see their faces. They appear lost and in search of something. They’re looking for something. If I was to become a priest I know what I would want to do.” I asked him; “what is that?” “I would hear confessions sixteen hours a day because they need healing, they need confession.”
I had nothing else to say after that. For whatever reason, my son discerned quiet accurately what we all need if we are to come into full communion with Jesus Christ. It reminds us of our responsibility to discern the will of God in our lives and develop that personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Chesterton’s words echo strongly in light of our need for discernment and confession; “The modern world is full of virtues gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone.”