A spirituality of the Heart speaks to this era desperately in need of a listening heart – a discerning heart. Pope Francis says in Gaudette et Exsultate;

“Discernment is necessary not only at extraordinary times, when we need to resolve grave problems and make crucial decisions. It is a means of spiritual combat for helping us to follow the Lord more faithfully. We need it at all times, to help us recognize God’s timetable, lest we fail to heed the promptings of his grace and disregard his invitation to grow. Often discernment is exercised in small and apparently irrelevant things, since greatness of spirit is manifested in simple everyday realities.”

Firstly, Discernment is about listening, not decision-making. We listen to the deep ‘movements’, unconditionally and compassionately, without judgment – we let them be what they are. Discernment is listening to the voice of life within, within our brothers and within God’s people, listening to past voices of hurts, resentments, memories, in order to hear the call to healing, wholeness and new life that are present. Discernments calls us out of ourselves – to be bigger selves – the movement of self-transcendence.

We acknowledge the necessity of silence, of time and space for deep listening to take place – time to allow freedom to speak, for hope to be shared, for one’s reality to be acknowledged, and space to grow that creates interior personal freedom to respond maturely to life. When we are urgent, we cannot discern well.

Discernment, while personal, is never private and disconnected from the whole, but finds its context within the community, MSC Society and the Church. Discernment needs openness and honesty and requires us to drop our personal agenda so that we are not defended with judgement, cynicism or fear. Being open to God’s guidance, requires a personal shift from ‘ego-driven’ direction to seeking God’s Will. From an ‘ego-system’ to and eco-system – “eco” denotes the space is a home for all. 

We remember that God works within the human person. The desires of the Congregation, Province, and Church are included in the context of the person’s vocational discernment. In the discernment process we should not overlook our motto; “May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be everywhere loved, forever.”, rather than focusing narrowly on one’s personal vision.

We remember the words of Pope Francis to us gathered in Chapter,

“I encourage you “to return to your first and only love”. Keep your gaze fixed on Jesus Christ and learn from Him how to love with a truly human heart, to care for the lost and hurting members of his flock, to work for justice and show solidarity with the weak and the poor.”

The 2011 General Chapter said,
The Chapter recommends that Communal Discernment be used as a process for reflection and making important decisions within the Congregation so that we may discern the Will of God and be more obedient and responsive to the urgings of the Spirit and the cries of the people and societies of our day. We ask the General Administration to prepare material to assist us develop this practice.

The 2017 General Chapter said,
We recommend that all MSC gatherings of local communities, provincial meetings and international gatherings make use of the Communal Wisdom process of prayerful discernment. (That includes this Conference.)

  • Beginning with a half-hour of silent meditation on a passage of scripture or the Constitutions, followed by the sharing of one’s prayer with the group.
  • Such an exercise in prayerful sharing of our experiences helps form a spirit of accountability, a bond of charity and a path toward healing.
  • Such sharing will also help bond together men from different provinces and cultures.

[1] Address of the Holy Father, Pope Francis to the members of the 2017 General Chapter.

[2] Documents of the General Chapter 2011. Statements. §1. Communal Discernment.

[3] Documents of the General Chapter 2017.  Recommendations §2. Discernment.