Discernment and the Adult Catechumenate

It is always a joy when new things emerge that you did not anticipate. One might call these experiences synchronicity, others might refer to them as graced moments.

Recently, I was able to experience a week long training for Listening Hearts.The focus of this week is to practically learn how to ‘discern call in community”.This model and process for group spiritual discernment is a unique blending of Quaker, Ignatian and Benedictine spiritualities. While the background and process of communal discernment is clearly outlined in the book of the same name, the experience of practicing and experiencing it in a cohort of fellow pilgrims is beyond what can be expressed in the printed word. This is especially true in that each participant is asked to bring a real issue for discernment from their life to the training experience. Somethings cannot be role played – communal discernment needs to be experienced to be integrated into one’s heart and life. At the end of the time together, not only do you experience the reality of a genuine community of faith but you also have a sense of empowerment to train others in this pastoral skill. This is the first element of a coming together of two elements into a surprising third.

The second element is the Adult Catechumenate, the process of conversion and initiation into the Christian community that is rooted in the early church of the first three centuries. One valuable resource for this ancient yet ever new process is Go Make Disciples: A Handbook to the Catechumenate. One of the elements explored in this wonderful resource is the stages of the catechumenate that are experienced over time. Discernment is relevant to the catechumenate journey on a number of occasions: readiness to move from inquiry to enrollment, from enrollment to Baptism / Confirmation / Reception and after that to living one’s Baptism out in one’s vocation and daily life. While discernment is referred to in a variety of resources for the catechumenate, exactly “how to” go about discernment is not usually spelled out in the vast majority of resources offered for the catechumenate. This is where the Listening Hearts process is a real gift. It provides a practical pastoral way for discernment to occur in a small group setting within the catechumenate process.

A number of important things have been discovered by accident: X – Rays, Velcro, the Microwave Oven, and Play-Doh to name just a few. One of my most recent accidental discoveries is the integration of the Listening Hearts communal discernment process and the Adult Catechumenate process. Eureka!

Larry Ehren

Episcopal Priest, Catechist for Baptized for Life, VP Journey to Baptismal Living

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *