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Discernment Dash

Discernment Dash

Every baptized person is called to support vocations. Come pray for vocations and help build the vocation culture - have some fun doing it - and walk or run along side priests, seminarians, religious men and women, and faithful from throughout the Archdiocese.

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Andrew Dinner

Andrew Dinner

Young men are invited to join Archbishop Gustavo, priests and seminarians of the Archdiocese for an evening of prayer, discussion, and fellowship designed to help you find God's vocation for your life.

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Miryam Dinner

Miryam Dinner

Young Catholic women, come and spend time in prayer and contemplation with religious sisters. Share a meal, and hear their stories. Find help in discerning your call in this prayerful evening.

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Life Awareness

Life Awareness

This retreat is for single Catholic men and women ages 18-45 who want to spend time and pray with Archbishop, religious, priests, brothers, and young adults in formation. Come and discover the reason for your life in God's plan.

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"The Gift of Discernment"

Excerpt from the Preparatory Document for


On "Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment"

Making decisions and guiding one’s actions in situations of uncertainty and in the face of conflicting inner forces is the place for exercising discernment, a classic term in the tradition of the Church which applies to a variety of situations. Indeed, one form of discernment is exercised in reading the signs of the times which leads to recognizing the presence and action of the Spirit in history. Moral discernment, instead, distinguishes what is good from what is bad. Still another form, spiritual discernment, aims to recognize temptation so as to reject it and proceed on the path to fullness of life. The connection of the various meanings of these forms is evident, a connection which can never be completely separated one from the other.

With this in mind, the focus in the case of the synod is on vocational discernment, that is, the process by which a person makes fundamental choices, in dialogue with the Lord and listening to the voice of the Spirit, starting with the choice of one’s state in life. The question of how a person is not to waste the opportunities for self-realization is part-and-parcel of every man and woman. For the believer, the question becomes even more intense and profound, namely, how does a person live the good news of the Gospel and respond to the call which the Lord addresses to all those he encounters, whether through marriage, the ordained ministry or the consecrated life? Where can a person’s talents be put to good use: a professional life, volunteer work, service to the needy or involvement in civil and political life?

The Spirit speaks and acts through the happenings in the life of each person, which in themselves are inexplicit or ambiguous, insofar as they are open to different interpretations. Discernment is required to reveal their meaning and to make a decision. The three verbs in Evangelii gaudium, 51, used to describe discernment, namely, “to recognize,” “to interpret” and “to choose”, can be of assistance in mapping out a suitable itinerary for individuals or groups and communities, fully aware that, in practice, the boundaries in the different phases are never clearly delineated.


Above all, “recognizing” concerns how life’s happenings, the people one meets, and the words one hears or reads affect the interior life, namely, the various “desires, feelings and emotions” (Amoris laetitia, 143) and their diverse expressions: sadness, gloom, fulfilment, fear, joy, peace, a feeling of emptiness, tenderness, anger, hope, apathy, etc. A person feels attracted or pushed in a variety of directions, without enough clarity to take action, a time of ups and downs and, in some cases, a real internal struggle. “Recognizing” requires making this emotional richness emerge and ascertaining these feelings without making a judgment. It also requires capturing the “flavour” that remains, that is, the consonance or dissonance between what is experienced and what is in the depths of the heart.

At this stage the Word of God is of great importance. Meditating on it, in fact, mobilizes the passions as in all experiences which touch one's inner self, but, at the same time, offers the possibility of making them emerge and identifying with them in the events it narrates. The stage of “recognizing” focuses on the ability to listen and on one’s feelings and emotions, without avoiding the arduous effort of silence, a critical step in personal growth, particularly for young people who are experiencing with greater pressure the intensity of various desires and cannot remain frightened by them, and thereby, renouncing even the great advances to which they are drawn.


“Recognizing” what has been tried is not enough. The next step is “interpreting”, in other words, to understand what the Spirit is calling the person to do through what the Spirit stirs up in each one. Oftentimes, a person stops to recount an experience, noting that the experience made a “deep impression.” Greater difficulty is encountered in understanding the origin and meaning of the desires and emotions one experiences and verifying whether they lead in a constructive direction or whether they lead to withdrawing into oneself.

This interpretative stage is very sensitive, requiring patience, vigilance and even a certain knowledge. A person needs to be capable of taking into consideration the effects of social and psychological conditioning, which even requires the involvement of one’s intellectual faculties, without falling into the trap of constructing abstract theories about what would be good or nice to do. Even in discernment, “realities are greater than ideas” (Evangelii gaudium, 231). Likewise, “interpreting” cannot fail to confront reality and to consider the possibilities that realistically are available.

“Interpreting” desires and inner movements requires an honest confrontation, in light of God's Word, with the moral demands of the Christian life, always seeking to apply them in the concrete situation that is being experienced. This effort leads the one who does it, not to settle for the legalistic logic of the bare minimum, but instead to seek a way to make the most of one’s gifts and possibilities, which results in an attractive and inspiring message for young people.

The work of interpretation is carried out in an internal dialogue with the Lord, fully engaging a person’s abilities. The assistance of an experienced person in listening to the Spirit, however, is a valuable support that the Church offers, a support which would be unwise to disregard.


Once all the desires and emotions are recognized and interpreted, the next step in making a decision is an exercise of authentic human freedom and personal responsibility, which, of course, is always connected to a concrete situation and therefore limited. The choice is subjected, then, to the blind force of impulse, to which a certain contemporary relativism ends up by assigning as ultimate criterion, norms imprisoning a person in continual change. At the same time, a person is freed from subjection to forces outside oneself, namely heteronomy. All of this requires coherency with one’s life.

For a long time throughout history, basic decisions in life have not been made by the individuals concerned, a situation which still endures in some parts of the world, as previously mentioned in the first chapter. Promoting truly free and responsible choices, fully removed from practices of the past, remains the goal of every serious pastoral vocational programme. Discernment is the main tool which permits safeguarding the inviolable place of conscience, without pretending to replace it (cf. Amoris laetitia, 37).

A decision needs to be proven by facts to see whether it is a right decision. A choice cannot remain imprisoned in an interiority which is likely to remain virtual or unrealistic — a real danger accentuated in contemporary culture — but is called to be translated into action, to take flesh, to embark on a path, accepting the risk of a confrontation with the reality which caused the desires and emotions. Other desires and emotions will arise in this stage; “recognizing” and “interpreting” them will allow the possibility of seeing whether the decision is good or whether it is advisable to re- evaluate it. Consequently, “going out” is important, even with the fear of making a mistake, which, as previously seen, can be crippling.

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