The way in which the discernment process is followed at the forthcoming Plenary Council will be critical to the success of the Council in reshaping the Australian church.

In his wonderful book “Let Us Dream” Pope Francis says: “To enter into discernment is to resist the urge to seek the apparent relief of an immediate decision, and instead be willing to hold different options before the Lord, waiting for new possibilities […flowing from the banks of your thinking and imagining]. You consider reasons for and against, knowing Jesus is with you and for you. You feel inside yourself the gentle pull of the Spirit, and its opposite. And over time, in prayer and patience, in dialogue with others, you reach a solution, which is not a compromise but something else altogether.” (Page 21)

 Discernment through dialogue/conversation is much more than mere talk or discussion or debate or argument. It is at its best when the participants are together actively seeking to submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. A spirituality of conversation will emerge for participants as they give themselves to this discernment process. St Ignatius believed that spiritual conversation awakens self- knowledge and love in people, bringing their interior life into the sunshine and enlarging their vision of what could be. People are opened up to God’s vision.

Spiritual conversation therefore requires on the part of each participant a willingness and ability:

  • to listen at depth for meaning, for understanding and above all for catching the driving desires underneath the other’s words. Each person listens for what is happening within themselves and between each other.
  • to refrain from pre-empting the outcome, by leaving behind prejudices and personal attachment to a particular point of view, for example.
  • to be transformed through this encounter with others.

The success of the discernment process at the Council will be aided by the work already done by Br Ian Cribb SJ in providing formation in discernment to members and in facilitating sessions on spiritual conversation.

19th September 2021