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Discernment is a spiritual awareness of who God is and realizing the many ways He is guiding you, not just the practice of deciding. Discernment is the relationship between our heart and our intellect. Within the human heart there are a variety of feelings, motivations, and ideas. It is only when a person evaluates these feelings and ideas in the light of his or her relationship with God that discernment is achieved.

The practice of discernment involves realizing if something is true in the light of God’s will. Discernment consists of considering our thoughts and feelings motivations while asking “What does God want for me?”

Try not to think of discernment as a formula to figure out but rather a way of being in relationship with God who loves you and guides you on your journey of faith.

In this Gospel of Mark (1:14-20), the people Jesus encounters by the Sea of Galilee are go about their daily lives. They needed to discern the question to follow Jesus or not? We know that some took the action to leave their daily activities of fishing and followed in the way of Jesus. We too have a to choose every day of our lives. Will we follow Jesus? Will we be active in cultivating a relationship with him through a life of prayer, lifelong learning, and service to others, especially the poor and lonely?

Discernment is a journey much like the one that the first disciples embarked on when they heard the Lord Jesus say, “Come and follow me….” Notice how the disciples first heard what the Lord was saying to them. Through a life of prayer, we strive to hear that the Lord is saying to us. This is the beginning of discernment, listening in prayer. In the Gospel of John at the Wedding of Cana the mother of Jesus instructs the stewards to follow the guidance of Jesus with the words: “Do whatever He tells you.” (John: 3:5)

Remember, to use the tools for discernment. In striving to discern the Lord’s will in your life it is important to respond by using the following tools:

  • Pray every day.
  • Attend Mass every Sunday and during the week when possible.
  • Spend time visiting and praying before the Blessed Sacrament.
  • Seek out spiritual direction from a trusted priest.
  • Read the lives of the saints and see how they responded to God’s invitation.
  • Visit the sick, feed the hungry, reach out to those on the margins.
  • Ask our Lady to pray for you to know and follow what her Son is asking of you.
  • Keep a spiritual journal of your thoughts and prayers.
  • Pray the Rosary.
  • Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
  • Pray the Stations of the Cross.
  • Read the Bible.
  • Make a pilgrimage to a holy shrine.

St. John Henry Newman’s Prayer for Discernment
“God, you have created me to do you some definite service. You have committed some work to me which you have not committed to another. I have my mission – I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told in the next. Somehow, I am necessary for your purposes. I have a part in the great work. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for nothing. I shall do good. I shall do his work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place. Fulfill your high purposes in me, I am here to serve you, to be yours. Amen”

Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

St. Paul of the Cross on listening to God:
“When you are alone in your room, take your crucifix, kiss its five wounds reverently, tell it to preach you a little sermon, and then listen to the words of eternal life that it speaks to your heart; listen to the pleading of the thorns, the nails, the precious Blood. Oh, what an eloquent sermon!”

St. John Paul II on Importance of following a vocation:
“This, in fact, is a vocation: a proposal, an invitation, or rather a concern to bring the Savior to the world of today, which needs him so much. A refusal would mean not only rejecting the Lord’s word, but also abandoning many of our brothers and sisters in horror, in meaninglessness, or in the frustration of their most secret and noble aspirations, to which they neither know how to nor are able to respond alone.” (Homily, December 20, 1981).

St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta:
“God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.”

St. Ignatius Loyola:
“We [need to be] aware of our temptations and fears, the consolations and lights given to us by God, and the various movements that happen within us?”

St. Ignatius Loyola:
“Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening life in me.”

Fr. Jean Jacques Olier (1608-1657)
O Jesus, living in Mary, come and live in your servants, in the spirit of holiness, in the fullness of your power, in the perfection of your ways, in the truth of your virtues, in the communion of your mysteries. Rule over every adverse power, in your Spirit, for the glory of the Father. Amen.