Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Neuhaus on Discernment

I'm an unabashed fan of the ecumenical magazine First Things. Do check out this comment on discernment by Fr. John Richard Neuhaus, posted on the "On the Square" portion of their website (on August 31st). I just came across it today during a dry Evidence class.

"We are all uncertain about what God wants us to do. That is to say, we do not know for sure. Of course it seems silly, when you’re well past middle age and have spent your life doing what you believe you’ve been given to do, to get up in the morning or suddenly stop in the middle of the day’s work and ask, “Is this what I’m supposed to be doing?”

"I mentioned this to a young man who is discerning whether he has a call to the priesthood, and he was shocked, perhaps scandalized. He said, in effect: “You mean after all these years of being a priest, of writing books, of editing and lecturing, of organizing so many projects, you still aren’t sure you’re doing what God called you to do? How am I ever to know that God is calling me to the priesthood?”

"The answer is that we act in the courage of our uncertainties. I am fond of pointing out that the word decide comes from the Latin decidere, to cut off. You face choices—whether to be a priest, whether to go to this school or that, whether to marry a certain person, whether to pursue this line of work or another—and then you decide. And, in deciding, you have cut off the alternatives and pray you have decided rightly. But you do not know for sure. Alternatively, you are trapped in the tangled web of indecision."

His comments seem related to what I was trying to express in my post about Burdens of Proof. If you refuse to budge from whatever doctrinal/ecclesial position in which you've landed, unless persuaded beyond any reasonable doubt, then ecumenical dialogue is without meaning. Imagine if we refuse to ever leave an unhappy job or seek further eduction unless we are convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that the alternative we are considering will in fact work out, be better, be worth it (etc.)! We would forever hunker down in our trench, forsaking the possibility that we may be called to higher or more challenging things. We always have doubts; it's human.

Post Script. While on the topic of discernment, I recommend this post on a friend's blog (now an inactive blog).

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