Here are some keys to discernment. Even if Arturo Sosa, Prefect General of the Society of Jesus, proposes them for reflection at the Congress othe the International Association of Jesuit Universities (IAJU), we can make good use of them.
We are in danger of turning discernment into a reassuring label, a way of speaking in tune we risk turning discernment into a reassuring label, a way of speaking in tune with a vocabulary that pleases the Jesuits or flatters the ears of Pope Francis. Discernment involves accepting the challenges that, from many angles, social life and science pose to us. Challenges that often rightly frighten us.
Discernment means taking risks…
Risk-taking does not arise spontaneously in institutions that have struggled to build their identity and have succeeded in constructing a style of education and knowledge-building. They are proud of this and, moreover, their environment recognises it by giving them great prestige.
To discern means to be open to the new.
The novelty to which we want discernment to open us is radically different from the innovation produced by scientific research or technological progress. This newness is given to us; it does not derive from premises established by ourselves or from the advances we have made along a path that we ourselves have decided, designed and marked out. Discernment, then, is to be prepared to be guided towards the new.
Discernment is learning to let ourselves be led
Discernment means letting go of the reins and allowing ourselves to be led where we do not know, without some roadmap to guide our steps. The Proposing discernment in common as a way of facing the future requires an awareness of the resistances born of the usual academic dynamics. It requires deliberately following a complex path that will change the usual approaches and methods of decision-making. It requires us to guard against the temptation to call the very thing we do ‘discernment’ because we are used to it and it suits us.
Discerning with Ignatius of Loyola as our guide
We have just concluded the Ignatian Year 2021-2022 in which we sought inspiration from the wanted to draw inspiration from the experience of Ignatius of Loyola to let go of the reins of our lives and open ourselves to the new, to see all things new in Christ, to be guided towards new horizons.
Seeing our life as a pilgrimage
Ignatius used the image of the pilgrim for himself. Following the same inspiration, we can consider the whole life-mission of the Society of Jesus as a pilgrimage. A body made up of many members with different and complementary functions sets out on its journey trusting in the spirit that gave it the initial spark, that has guided it for several hundred years and that promises to continue to do so if its members “let go of the reins.
Trusting the Holy Spirit
From this faith, which inspires the life-mission of the Society of Jesus and allows it to be in tune with so many of the allows it to be in tune with so many other people and institutions which, although based on other life options, feel the same way, we know that the Holy Spirit leads human history with his particular way of acting. He leads like a teacher who accompanies the journeys of his disciples in a spirit of gratuity, respecting freedom, patiently following the paths followed by each person, adapting to the conditions of each place, time and person. He does this through what we might call the pedagogy of grace, which opens our understanding to the signs of the present leading to that future which is the object of our desires and of so much effort on our part.
Discerning the signs of the times
The “signs of the times”, the signs that the Spirit gives us through his action in history, are manifested in the present. Learning to read the signs of the times thus means discerning this present which lights the way to a future that we receive as a gift if we choose the path that these very signs indicate.