Through the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us - Luke 1:78

Trang chính Tài Liệu




 Julian Elizaldé , S.J.

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Some years ago (1996... ) we organized regional retreats in which we devoted three days to communal discernment. You may remember. The purpose of this communal discernment was, not so much to reach a decision, to make a choice, as to listen to each other, in a prayerful atmosphere, helping each other to serve better. This exercise was meant to help the groups in their sharing so that all members “become involved” in each other’s mission. This is what being an “apostolic community” means, as different from a “community of apostles”. 

A more simple model of communal discernment was offered in the formation courses for group guides. The purpose of this exercise is learning “how to reach an apostolic decision”, “how to make a personal or a communal choice”.  In a four-day formation course we dedicated one whole day (from four to five hours) to this activity. This outline could be more suitable for the workshop. The main steps are: 

1.- Defining the nature of the choice: what kind of decision we have to make? What are the alternatives?  

In one hand, the group needs to know the needs and aspirations of the people being helped: what are they asking for? What are their explicit requests and needs? What are, we think, the implicit and deeper ones? What are their qualities, resources...? 

In the other hand, the groups needs to know the situation of the one who is making the choice (you, me, the group...): what is our general purpose and plan of action, the steps being followed? Which are our resources and qualities? What limitations do we have? 

The communal discernment can be applied only to positive alternatives and choices. Withdrawing from a group, giving up a program, closing down an activity... are negative decisions and, as such, cannot be the object of communal discernment. You can try to pray and share about it. No signs from the Lord will be significant. When a negative decision is considered, the first step of communal discernment is reformulating the negative nature of the choice and “finding out the positive elements” involved in the situation, and in the decision making. For instance: the one who is about to leave the group may wish to find better ways for fostering the growth of the person or of the group; instead of closing down a program we may consider making a better choice between two or three service projects... 

In the process of defining the nature of the choice the feelings involved are not excluded. On the contrary, these feelings are welcome: the feelings of those involved in the apostolic work, as well as the feelings of those making the communal discernment; even when they are not part of it. 

2.- Indifference, or inner freedom. Indifference means the inner freedom the Spirit gives us as a result of an unconditional love towards God our Father and the desire to serve Him best. In order to make a good communal discernment it is important to be indifferent regarding each one of the alternatives involved. 

This “inner freedom” will be more or less at hand depending on the amount of feelings involved. 

This is a delicate moment in the process of communal discernment. This is, evidently, a step where prayer is needed. How much, for how long? It depends on the inner hurts, attachments, fears...  

3.- Alternating group sharing and personal reflection and prayer. The group may need to go over and deeper the first and second steps: defining the nature of the choice and becoming indifferent. It is the time to consult “the experts”, to do some extra “homework”, to find pertinent questions, to clarify the issues, to bring feelings to the open, to specify the areas of deeper prayer. 

4.- Decision making: there is a moment when the nature of the decision is clear and the alternatives well defined. If the decision involves only one person, he/she is given time to reach it.  

If the decision involves the whole group and a consensus is reached, the groups feels the presence of the Spirit. However, most of the times, there is no full consensus; only main tendencies appear, with some one prevailing. It is enough because it will allow the whole group to make a decision. Once the decision is made, hopefully all the members accept it and make it their own. 

5.- The confirmation: with the passing of time and the outcome of the decision, it is possible to perceive the Spirit’s confirmation. 

Of course, the whole process in done in a “prayerful atmosphere” and at vital moments of the communal discernment, the need for personal prayer may arise. The Spirit works through the community, when the community prays. But, most of all, the Spirit works inside each one of us. We need to pray along the whole process. 




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