Discernment Reflection: The Continuum of Discernment


This semester we have two new seminarians from Sacramento at Mt Angel. This is the (I think) the second time we have had men join in the middle of the year. It’s something we aren’t used to, and it has made me think a lot.  As I get to know my new brothers well I realize just how much of a process of discernment is and how the beginning and the end look different.  I remember when I was at the beginning looking at guys where I am know thinking it must be nice to be done discerning or coming to points where I thought I was done discerning. Which made me realize discernment, while on going, isn’t the same thing at all times.

It is true that at this point I am not struggling with the question “is this God’s will for me?”  just four months from diaconate I’m pretty sure it is and it seems the Church, through the seminary, is as well.  But let’s not loose sight of “pretty sure” perhaps I won’t be recommended or called to orders. So what is it that I am discerning now? That’s a good question.  Let’s take the long road to get there.

Discernment of the priesthood starts out in a very subjective way. “Is God calling me?” “Should I go to seminary?” “Diocesan or religious priesthood?”  these are basic questions and then there is the doubt, the questions, the hesitations. So it’s all about the person and is what he hears a call and what to do with it. From there he brings in the Church by seeking counsel talking to a vocations director and perhaps from there enters seminary. Where he is formed and known. In the early years it is still subjective but less so, the Church starts to form an opinion.  Then a sense of surety, that one is called to the priesthood. The discernment shifts, “what needs to be done to be a good priest” “Where do I need to change to be a holy and good priest” “What gifts do I have and I do I incorporate them into ministry”. It seems a little subjective still but is more directed toward ordination. All along the seminary and diocese is discerning as well. “Does he seem inclined to pastoral ministry? “Does he sustain a spiritual life which corresponds to his vocation?”

These are just some of the things that go on as one progresses in his discernment. So the real message, point isn’t to share where I am at with  my discernment. But rather to let you know that it’s a process and where you are at is okay, as long as you don’t stay there!  Like many things in life, discernment is about moving or else you fall backwards. You’re not going to  have the answer definitively in a fixed amount of time.  Nor is moving forward a solemn and irreversible commitment to priestly ordination. So take courage where you’re at in this moment and move a step forward. Perhaps you need to call a vocations director or perhaps make a retreat or perhaps to own that you’re next step is to join a diocese or religious order and discern with them.