The start of this month marked the start of our “Prediscernment Prayer Night” series. As I’ve explained in previous issues, these evenings give young men and women an opportunity to pray to the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament about their own call, whether that be to marriage, holy orders or consecrated life. These events will also help me network with people who need accompaniment on the journey and invite them to post-pandemic events like retreats and dinners for discernment.
“Prediscernment” is not a word that rolls off the tongue, in fact it may not be officially a word at all! But let me remind you why I like to use that term when it comes to working out God’s will for our life. The seminary or the religious house of formation is where formal discernment happens. Often, we think that the decision to go to seminary means that we are completely sure that priesthood or religious life is our vocation, and this is not the church’s expectation. I want men and women who are serious about their faith and open to God’s call to seriously consider entering the seminary or other formation, and to let them know that they do not have to have it all figured out by the time they decide to apply. The two biggest signposts I look for when considering one’s fitness for formation are 1) a consistent desire for what the seminary or religious house offers (more resources and to be formed with men or women who share this desire), and just as importantly 2) they need to have demonstrated the maturity necessary to enter into the program.
I tell men and women that I work with who are considering entering formal discernment that they don’t need to wait until they are sure they are going to make it to the end, but to enter once they are willing to commit two years to that discernment process. During that two years they will be given the resources that they need to discern well whether or not God is calling them. If they go into the program with that intention and after two years they discern that they are not called, they will leave a better Catholic and they’ll be ready to bring the gifts that they developed back into their parishes and their life in the diocese. They will also have the peace of mind that they discerned well.
This is why I am dedicated to this idea of “prediscernment,” which by the way, is a term I have happily borrowed from Father James Wehner, the Rector of Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. About half of the men who enter seminary do not get ordained. Far from proving that the system is broken, I believe this proves that the system works. I do not take the gifts of the People of God for granted. I know that our seminaries and houses of formation have their doors open because of the generosity of people like you, and I want you to know that it is good that not everyone gets ordained or takes vows, because that means that the church and the men and women discerning are taking it seriously! Using this word prediscernment is really just a way I can start a conversation, I can tell a young man or woman what the church wants to provide for those who take their call from the Lord seriously, and I can invite them to discern well if they have a desire and the maturity to take the time to discern.
Prediscernment Prayer Nights: Each event is from 6 – 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Tuesday, Feb. 23 at St. Alphonsus McComb; Wednesday, Feb. 24 at St. Mary Basilica Natchez; Tuesday, March 2nd at St. Joseph Greenville; TBA – Immaculate Heart of Mary Greenwood.
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