Prayerful Discernment

Last week, I posted a link to Sr. Patricia’s McCarthy’s wonderful column in Rhode Island Catholic, marking the 50th anniversary of Pope John XXIII’s encyclical for the world, Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth). Like many other Catholics, I was feeling a little out of sorts. Uncertainty will do that.

What a difference a week makes. Yesterday most of my catechetical colleagues and I were up at the crack of dawn to watch the inauguration (am I the only one who smiles at that term?) of our new pope, Francis. When we got to work, albeit a trifle bleary-eyed, we couldn’t talk of anything else. Those of us in ministry were not the only ones mesmerized.  Everybody wanted to know everything that was happening in Vatican City. The media were positively giddy with excitement.

Watching our gracious, gentle but determined Pope Francis being driven around St. Peter’s Square, stopping periodically to kiss children and climbing down to hold a man with cerebral palsy, I couldn’t help smiling about all the speculation that had gone on about who would emerge from the conclave as pope. Very few pundits had Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio on their “A” lists. He looked a little surprised himself, standing on the balcony of St. Peter’s last Wednesday.

Yet, in retrospect, everyone realized that no one else could have emerged.  No one else would have been the right one. That was because the Holy Spirit had the vote that counted. The cardinals just had to figure out which man the Spirit had in mind.  That’s called prayerful discernment.

You don’t have to be a cardinal to practice prayerful discernment.  You don’t have to sit in what looked like rather uncomfortable chairs in the Sistine Chapel.  And you certainly don’t have to be selecting a pope.  You might be wondering about a relationship much closer to home, which school to choose for your child, what to do about a job offer that might force you to uproot your family or a decision you have to make for someone who is dependent on you.  Very little in life is not important enough for prayerful discernment. It’s a good habit to develop.

Just for curiosity’s sake, I Google-d the term and came up with some interesting results. Here’s something from Joe Paprocki  on the Loyola Press website.  That seems appropriate, considering we have our first Jesuit pope here. However, you can find many other resources on prayerful discernment.  Try it. You know it works.

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