September 15, 2019

Over the past several weeks we have been inviting you to join us for a parish conversation around our future. We had our first gathering last Monday night and nearly 150 people attended. Our second one is today (Sunday afternoon, 12:30 pm-4:00 pm).

First I want to thank those of you who came last Monday night and those who will come this afternoon. To enter into this conversation about where we are as a parish today and where God is calling us into the future is exciting. I am grateful for your participation and what will unfold for us.

I wanted to share with you some thoughts around discernment. I have been using that term quite a bit over the past several weeks and I think it will be helpful to both unpack the meaning of the word in our context, and describe what the next steps are in our parish process.

Discernment is a term that is often used around big decisions in the life of Christians and the life of the Church. For example, when young men begin the process of exploring priesthood, or young women explore religious life, or a man or woman begins thinking about marriage, they begin reflecting and praying about where God is calling them.

We also use discernment in the smaller, every day decisions of our lives. We may not label it that way, but when we ask for God’s guidance, when we ask God to show us what God wants us to do, that’s entering into discernment.  

Discernment is about listening to God, and so it takes time. We have to be willing to wait and not rush the process.

As I try to listen to the Lord, how do I know what God is calling me to? How do I decide between two or more courses of action? What are the criteria, in other words, for trusting that my discernment is leading to the best decision and that I am truly responding to what God is calling me to?

One of the best ways is to look at the fruits of the Holy Spirit that St. Paul describes in Galatians 5:22. As I contemplate my decision and a particular path, does it fill me with love, peace, and joy? Does it prompt in me thoughts of kindness, patience, generosity, and faithfulness?

It is also helpful to enter into the process where we “try on” the decision and are attentive to the feelings that emerge. St. Ignatius of Loyola described this process as paying attention to whether a particular path brings us consolation or desolation. In our process, for example, if I am discerning if God is calling me to work with High School Youth Ministry, I would acquire as much information as I can about what that would involve, and then spend some time acting as if I have made the decision to pursue that path.

Does that “choice” bring me consolation? Am I experiencing a sense of peace and joy? Or, does the choice unsettle me and bring on discomfort and doubt and unsettledness (what St. Ignatius would call desolation)?

Over the next couple of weeks we will be sharing the results of our conversations around specific parish ministries, events and activities that have value for our parish. We’ll use our various forms of communication to describe these ministries, events and activities. I ask you to take some time to discern whether God is calling you to commit to one of these.

Then, at the Masses on the weekend of September 28-29, we will take some time to make a commitment to one or more of these.

My prayer is that all of us are open to this process of discernment over the next two weeks. If we are, I am confident that the Lord will lead us and guide us in the direction God desires for our parish.

God Bless,

Fr. Gary Lazzeroni