How to Discern

We know God has a general plan for all of us. We know that it is God’s will that we keep the commandments, pick up our cross each day and follow His Son, and that we obey the Church. But all of us, I think, sense that God is asking more: “What more can I do?” Our Lady is so closely united with the Holy Spirit that with her help, we may become more sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s movement in our lives. She will help us to find the “more” that our souls desire. Discernment is the process by which we seek to discover precisely what God wishes us to do in a given situation. So, discernment is a life-long process. We should constantly seek to follow God’s will and to give Him the most glory possible in our daily lives. The biggest, most momentous discernment we do in our lifetime is vocational. In any discernment we follow four basic steps. Depending on the type and size of decision we are making, these four steps can be quite brief. In larger areas, such as vocational discernment, these steps are more involved.

1. LISTEN – Receptive prayer – Mass, Adoration, Rosary… all with an “open heart.”

2. DEVELOP OUR OPENNESS – “Lord, whatever You want me to do, I will do it. I trust in your holy Will for me. JUST TELL ME!” Our Lady is key in this stage because she is a perfect example and guide in this step. Ask her to show you how to be open and follow God’s will.

3. SHARE WITH A COMPETENT PERSON – Spiritual Director, Confessor, Vocation

Director/Directress. Make sure this person is competent. While a peer might listen well, he/she might not be the best to give advice due to lack of experience in vocational guidance.

4. CONCLUSION – DECIDE and ACT with the Church. Result: peace and certainty. Pretty good deal, yes?

In all of these steps, Our Lady is our Model and Guide. She is our Mother. She understands our self-will and hesitation, our doubts and fears, our lack of faith and trust in the Lord. Through her powerful intercession as Spouse of the Holy Spirit, Mary will be constantly at our side to comfort and encourage, reassuring and assisting us. Mary always says, “DO whatever He tells you.” Notice that she doesn’t say “Think about what He tells you” or “Consider what He tells you,” but “DO whatever He tells you.” Mother knows best!

Sin is a prime obstacle in discernment. How do we overcome this obstacle?

  • PRAYER – Primarily the Eucharist and the Rosary. When Bernadette was asked, “Which would you rather: to receive the Eucharist or to see Mary?” she answered, “What a silly question! The two always go together!” A close relationship with God in prayer helps us to identify temptation and resist anything that would take us away from God.
    - Daily unite yourself with our Eucharistic Lord in spiritual communion when you are unable to attend Mass. Attend Eucharistic adoration if it’s available. Visit a Church and spend time with Our Lord present in the Tabernacle.
    - Pray the Rosary. Spending a few minutes each day to meditate on Mary’s “yes” will help us to follow her lead in all the decisions of our life. She will teach us how.
  • LOVE – Loving=giving. If we love, we will more easily recognize and DO His will. “Love casts out all fear.” – 1 John 4:18. Love will help us to say yes and not be daunted by the difficulty.
  • SACRAMENTS – The Eucharist has already been mentioned. Frequent Confession, of course, is a powerful way to obtain Sacramental grace to strengthen us from the sins that have already weakened us, and to resist temptation to future sin.
  • “My Immaculate Heart is your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.” – Our Lady of Fatima. Entrust yourself to her.