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Q & A with Father Anthony

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   Give the Gift of Discernment

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What do I need to consider in being accepted into a discernment program?

Discernment is necessary; because without it our actions would not have the consistency reason can give them. Discernment must take place in a climate of faith. It is the perception of God's action and his call. Discernment is, in itself, a grace. It is definitely more than a fruit of mere intellectual examination and reflection.

Discernment is, therefore, more subject to the pattern of grace than to the laws of pure reason. For example, God can in one moment enlighten a soul and let him see his call, much like a person can receive the grace of faith from one moment to the next with no apparent natural explanation. People can study the Catholic faith for years, argue with the best of theologians, and still not believe; then in a visit to a church, God can do in a moment what man had been fruitlessly seeking for years. Discernment is not always a laborious process grinding to inevitable results. Sometimes it is a flash of recognition, which we test, but we know it is true.

Discernment should be a prelude to action. Of itself we should say it has no value unless it leads to action: not everyone who says, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom; but only he who does the Father's will. Endless dawdling will only waste the precious time you have to serve God.

A person that is discerning can begin by attending a weekend retreat, vocation evenings or joining a discussion group of other young men or young women who are also discerning a vocation. This can be invaluable in helping one to come to greater clarity about God’s call to the religious life.

A candidacy program is a time of formation, so the candidate does not have to be perfect, but he does need to have a good foundation on which the formation in the program will build. The basic foundation includes: sufficient physical health, a maturity corresponding to his age, emotional stability, enough strength of character to fulfill his or her duty and commitments, sufficient intelligence to handle college studies, at least a basic spiritual life, and stability in living the moral demands of his Christian life.

Age matters too. Some programs don’t accept older candidates, and some ask you to finish college before joining, so checking with your diocese or the order you are considering is important. Most programs will also do psychological testing before accepting a candidate.

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