Discernment 1: An Introduction

I’m reading this book called Discernment: Pray, Decide, and Don’t Worry. The authors are Bobby and Jackie Angel as well as Fr. Mike Schmitz. I’m reading it with another book entitled, Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life by Fr. Henry Nouwen. I’m finding both books enjoyable as well as thought-provoking. I’d like to cover some of what I’ve been reading over the next couple of weeks.

This is not merely an academic exercise. St. Monica will soon receive the results from the Disciple Maker Index. The parish will then embark upon our own discernment process. We will decide who we are, what we are, and what the Lord would have us do. I’m reading these books in preparation for that.

Fr. Mike opens Pray, Decide, and Don’t Worry by relating a couple of stories about when he was a young lad. He remembers the first time he saw the movie “Superman.” He thought it would be a cool idea to be able to fly. What seven-year-old boy wouldn’t? He also liked the way that “Superman” helped other people.

A few years later Fr. Mike saw the movie TV show “Baywatch.” He thought it would be great to be a lifeguard. What teenage boy wouldn’t – surrounded by all those young women? Fr. Mike was also attracted to the idea of being able to go out and rescue people in dire situations.

Still later, Fr. Mike watched the movie “Batman.”  He was impressed by Bruce Wayne’s discipline. Schmitz was attracted to Batman’s ability to stop criminals. Fr. Mike also liked the idea of saving lives and protecting the innocent. He thought it would be cool to be Batman.

Fr. Mike eventually realized that he wasn’t called to be Superman or Batman or even a lifeguard. When he finally got to an age where he tried to discern his vocation, he looked back at those ideas. He realized that they had a common thread. There was something about helping people that he found attractive. That was his “cry of the heart.”

Fr. Mike asks, “What is the cry of your heart? What excites you? What gets you out of the bed in the morning?” There are other, more difficult, questions to ask: “What is weighing on your mind? What are you avoiding? What do you bury deep in your heart or are wrestling with? What are you willing to sacrifice for? How do you define a great life?”

That’s quite a paragraph. We have seen so many examples of celebrities and athletes who are rich and famous. Yet many are also depressed and despondent. Accumulation of money or pleasure or fame is not a cry of the heart. To be fully human is to live for something and for someone. To be fully human is to have a life that has meaning and a purpose. A person without a purpose is existing. As St. Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is man or woman fully alive.”

In the opening chapter of the book Fr. Mike asks, “What are you looking for, what are you seeking, what matters to you?”

This is related to one of the five discernment steps that Fr. Mike, Bobby and Jackie Angel lay out in the book. The first step is seeking the question that God has put on your heart. You’ll never get an answer from God if you don’t know what questions to ask first.

Schmitz doesn’t answer those questions in Chapter 1. If you want to know what kind of answers he and the Angels give, I guess you’ll have to keep reading this blog.

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