For weeks now the opposing camps have been trying to fathom what Pope Francis was about to say in anticipation of his document on family life.
No doubt the discussion will continue now that it has been released.
However, what caught my eye prior its release was the guidance that was sent to the bishops of the world to prepare them for the release of Amoris Laetitia.
The Bishops were asked to stress discernment and dialogue.
- Francis “wants to express himself in language that truly reaches the audience — and this implies discernment and dialogue.”
- Discernment, it says, “avoids taking truths and choices for granted; it has us examine and consciously adopt our formulations of truths and the choices we make.”
- “Like his predecessors, Pope Francis asks that as pastors we discern amongst the various situations experienced by our faithful and by all people, the families, the individuals,”
- “Discernment … encourages us to grow from good to better,” it states. “One of the characteristics of discernment, according to St. Ignatius of Loyola, is the insistence not only on taking the objective truth into account, but also on expressing this truth with a good, a constructive spirit.”
- “Francis shows us two types of persons for whom dialogue is not possible because both ‘boil down’ or reduce to themselves,” it states. “Some reduce their own being to what they know or feel (he calls this ‘gnosticism’); the others reduce their own being to their strengths (he calls this ‘neopelagianism’).”
- “For the culture of dialogue, the inclusion of everyone is essential”
- “The Pope suggests that we explicitly dwell on this way of understanding the Church, as the faithful people of God,” it states.
- “The Pope’s vision of society is inclusive. Such inclusion involves the effort to accept diversity, to dialogue with those who think differently, to encourage the participation of those with different abilities.”
Writing in his new apostolic exhortation, the pope strongly advocates for the worth of the traditional, life-long Christian marriage but speaks respectfully of all models of family life.
He also persistently asks the church’s pastors to shift away from models of teaching focused on repetition of doctrine in favor of compassion and understanding for peoples’ struggles, and how God may be calling to them in the depths of their own consciences.
“Discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits,” states Francis. “By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and of growth, and discourage paths of sanctification which give glory to God.”
In this context it may be helpful to review what the key elements of Vincentian Discernment are as presented by Sr. Loretta Gettemeier, DC:
Definition of Discernment
Before we go any farther, perhaps it would be well to clarify what is meant by “discernment.” There are various definitions, but for our purposes, we will use the following very simple definition: Discernment is a prayer-filled process through which each of us can discover the difference between what is my will and what is God’s Will.
Imitation of Jesus
· What would Jesus do in this situation?
· How does this decision help me to serve others?
· Does this decision promote my own self-interest?
· Am I willing to look at all the choices before me?
· Am I willing to name and let go of fears?
· Am I willing to set aside my preconceived ideas?
· Am I willing to trust God…to accept a ‘yes’ or ‘no’?
· How is God speaking to me through events / people?
· What do those I trust: family / friends / advisors think?
· After pondering the event in prayer: what is God trying to tell you through this event?
· Is the decision reasonably clear?
· Is the decision rooted in peace?
· Is the decision just?