Relator: S.E. Mons. DOWD Thomas
In looking at Part II, our group looked to the overall structure in #3 to inform our work. We saw that part I looked at the concrete situation of youth today, while part II was meant to cause us to reflect on how to interpret that data (while part III will be the phase where we examine concrete suggestions for action).
A Christian interpretive framework must be rooted in a Christian worldview, which is essentially rooted in Scripture. With its many examples from Scripture, we saw the essential function of Chapter 1 as an attempt to provide concrete Biblical reference points for this overall hermeneutic.
Chapter 2 provides an overview of different vocations, beginning with the very broad (“the mystery of vocation that illuminates creation”) to vocations very specific to the Church (ordained ministry, consecrated life). We saw the description of the various types of vocations as “pearls on a string”, each description having its own value, but being even more valuable when properly related to each other.
Our group saw this basic dimension of human existence as important to highlight. It is alluded to in #88 when reference is made to vocation being characteristic of all creation. In short, there are people -- especially the weakest and most vulnerable -- whose vocation might not be to action, but to a more passive reception of the love of others. This is a great gift to the overall community, and we thought of Jean Vanier as a modern prophet to demonstrates that those with intellectual handicaps are not to be thought of as human failures -- they are gifts that help all develop their humanity by calling us to a love that is greater than efficiency.
The next layer in the vocational “pyramid” is the call to holiness, which by its very nature is universal. However, we recognized that the expression “call to holiness” can conjure images that obscure this universal meaning. For example, we felt that in many people's minds, the “call to holiness” sounds like a mere “call to piety” or worse, a call to mere pious practices.
- The call to holiness is ultimately a call to happiness and joy, not an external imposition
- The call to holiness means a call to become the best possible version of oneself
- The call to holiness includes a call to find one's best possible path in life -- it includes one's internal call, but also how to respond to the concrete situations of life around us
- Drawing on an insight from the Eastern church, the call to holiness is about incarnating attributes of God in our life, e.g. joy, mercy, justice, care for creation, etc.
The discussions of ordained ministry, consecrated life, marriage, and the single life led us to contemplate how these states of life are related to each other. We used this model as a visual aid:
In our discussions it became clear that, for many young people, a key aspect of discernment is the attempt to find an answer to a very practical question: “What am I going to do with my life?” Many would prefer a profession that gives them meaning and responds to their talents rather than one which merely provided sustenance.
Our group found chapter 3 of part II to be very wordy. Keeping in mind that the purpose of Part II is to provide an “interpretive framework” or “hermeneutic of vocation”, our group analyzed chapter 3 to see what key concepts it provided within all the verbiage.
- Discernment, in plain language, is the process of finding your best path in life, according to the internal gifts/talents one has, as well as the external environment/opportunities one lives in.
- Following one's “emotions” seems too superficial as a criteria of finding one's vocation. What we really should be looking to do is find and follow one's deepest desire, one's truest joys, one's inner peace.
- True discernment recognizes that a vocation is an invitation, not an imposition. It does not include the idea that if you've missed your “only” calling you've somehow missed the boat. All genuine vocations possess true good and God can bless them regardless of our specific choice of vocation.
- Following one's vocation does include an ascetic component, in that finally making a choice can mean renouncing other choices. People who want to keep all their options open can never really discern.
Our group found chapter 4 of part II to be very important. We recognize that accompaniment can come in many forms. Keeping in mind that the purpose of Part II is to provide an “interpretive framework” or “hermeneutic of vocation”, we sought to discern what are the elements of “true” accompaniment.
- As a first point, we wanted to highlight that true accompaniment respects that the discernment being made does not belong to the mentor, but to the person being accompanied. Manipulation can never be part of a true accompaniment. Members of our group, unfortunately, shared stories of this form of pseudo-accompaniment, some of which even seemed well-meaning (as opposed to predatory) but which was still inappropriate.
- With this in mind, we appreciated the emphasis in the document on the respect for the freedom and conscience of the person being accompanied. We would like these concepts to be more fully developed (see our modi related to this point).
- Accompaniment should be done in a climate of friendliness, trust and warmth. However, it should not be so friendly that objectivity is lost. The Irish notion of anim cara (“soul friend”) is a good image here. The mentor should also be free to offer "fraternal correction" when necessary, without losing the respect for freedom and conscience as mentioned before.
- We contributed a modus suggesting that the relationship between “spiritual” and “psychological” accompaniment be more completely addressed so as to show the unity between them while at the same time respecting the specific contributions of each.
- The role of the community in accompaniment is very important, in that a “calling” is often initiated and verified in the context of a community. It is not just the individual doing an individual discernment.
- It is important to emphasize that mentors should pray for those they are accompanying. They must carry them in their heart before God.
Our group wanted to highlight the centrality of the Eucharist in the process of discernment.
- The Eucharist is not just the offering of the consecrated species, but includes the offering of oneself to the Father. This is a fundamentally vocational dimension to the Eucharist.
- The Eucharist is what gathers the community that does the discerning alongside the young person.
- In the Emmaus story, it is in the Eucharist that the “eyes of the disciples are opened”.
- Many people do the prayerful element of their discernment in the context of the Eucharist.