What is discernment about?

Do you ever feel inspired to live a life that’s relevant? To use your gifts and make the most of your potential? When you get to the end of your life don’t you want to feel like your life mattered? We might use words like “fate” or “destiny” to refer to this sense of meaning or purpose. In the Church we use the word vocation. Vocation comes from a latin word “vocare” which means “to call”. We believe that God calls each person. Our vocation is our response to that call. 

The discernment process is a purposeful stance looking at, understanding, entering into, and experiencing a particular vocation. One cannot discern from a distance – literally one needs to jump out of the boat and walk toward Jesus with faith and hope that they are hearing the Lord call their name in a particular way.

There’s a myth that says that God only calls priests or nuns or brothers. The truth is, God calls each of us. See, at our baptism we become part of the Church; not the building “church” but church as in people: the Body of Christ. We become part of a bigger picture. At baptism we enter into a relationship with God and the Church. God’s call is to know, love and serve God and the Church.

Obviously there are many different ways that we can answer that call; and so we really need to pray, reflect and question how God is calling us to live out our vocation. That process of praying, reflecting and questioning is known as discernment.

Discernment means to separate apart, cutaway or distinguish. So look at all your different experiences, what do these tell you about yourself? Listen to your community, are there needs that need to be met? What are the gifts or charisms your friends and family recognise in you? What are the passions and desires on your heart? Discernment is to sort through all these things, and to distinguish themes. These themes might suggest where God is leading you. The only way to really know is to dare to bring these to God in prayer and honestly ask: “where are you calling me?”

In the midst of the questions, the reflecting and prayer; we might sense God leading us towards a certain state of life. In the church we recognise four states of life, or ways of living out our vocation.