James Chastek on Discernment 2


More of my own commentary following.

Q: Aren’t you making too much of this present mood of discernment? Isn’t it simply a way of urging people to be mindful about dedicating their life to God?

A: Always ask for what you want. If you want mindfulness, ask for mindfulness. If you want religious vocations, ask for them. If you want vocations for the sake of increasing acts of holiness, why not just ask for acts of holiness?

What if you want to make sure you are doing what you believe God wants you to do in life? Isn’t that very prayerful consideration what discernment even is?

Q: But isn’t that what we’re doing? We we’re asking for someone to choose something freely after discernment!

A: Why is this how it is happening? Why isn’t a bishop going out like Christ and calling men to join him?

Someone will have to help me parse this, I’m afraid, because I genuinely am confused about what Mr. Chastek is saying – and remember, I literally CAN’T ask him. Is he saying that the only person who should be trying to increase vocations is a Bishop who specifically asks men to join him? If that’s his point I don’t agree. What, then, is one to make of St. Bosco, never more than a Priest himself? And if he means anyone in the clergy, where does he think claims to discern the Priesthood come from? And why are we just talking about Priesthood for that matter?

I’m missing something.

Q: I think we all the the problem in “Bishops calling young men to join him”

A: But since that’s what the vocation is, isn’t this the problem we should be focusing on?

Once again, I’m just totally lost. I don’t agree that vocation “is” “Bishops calling young men to join him”. Vocation is the path in life that God is calling you to follow. Frankly it seems self-evident to me that such a thing requires discernment, considering how important it is.

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6 Responses to James Chastek on Discernment 2

  1. David says:

    Reading St. Aquinas and thinking it through a little, I think Chastek’s view really is radically different from the teaching on vocation of at least Aquinas.
    Aquinas does make clear that to take a sacramental, life-changing vow without a long period of preparation, as he puts it, or “modern discernment” is not wrong. But, he also makes clear that God does intend for us to take a particular life changing sacramental vow, and that is possible for us to know what God intends for us.
    In the linked post, I think Chastek is getting at what he thinks the real motivation for “discernment talk” is, to push a vocation to the priesthood without just telling young men that the priesthood is better, as the Church teaches. I disagree, but that’s how I take it. With what Chastek believes about vocation, it makes sense.
    What I take from Chastek that I agree with is, as there is almost always an uncertainty to discernment, we almost certainly will not receive a clear supernatural sign calling us to a vocation. And in the modern world for most, marriage is not a live option until later in life, while the priesthood or religious life are possible at a younger age and still take years for formation. So, to expect to discern our vocation “ahead of time” is not necessarily for everyone, and we can either be disappointed or tempted to fantasy. Rather, to focus on the spiritual life in general, and to grow in discernment before we are actually called to take vows would be better.

    • Rather, to focus on the spiritual life in general, and to grow in discernment before we are actually called to take vows would be better.

      That I definitely agree with. I don’t expect a sign from God, but I think it would be foolish not to pray for guidance either – something Chastek presumably would agree with me about.

  2. dpmonahan says:

    His argument is that vocational discernment is not figuring out a secret plan of God or a spiritual experience but a prudential decision.
    I’m not sure if I agree, but the standard theory of vocation is open to abuse. It allows for a charismatic priest to create something like a guilt complex, a burning existential question, which he can’t really answer. A good example is Steve Skojec’s account of his involvement with the Legionaries of Christ who tried to push a “vocation” on him.
    I think it is very simple, not mysterious. If you are single and living a fairly good Christian life, and you understand the temporal challenges and eternal rewards, what do you want to do? What are you attracted to? What would help you be a more holy? What is realistic for you? There are going to be some stable answers to those questions.

  3. Lucretius says:

    You should read his past posts on vocations to see where he is coming from.

    For example, I asked him a question a few years back in a comment about vocations, and he responded with this post: https://thomism.wordpress.com/2015/02/16/response-to-a-question-on-vocation-discernment/

    Keep in mind too that he’s been a teacher at Catholic high schools for some time now, so he probably has a lot of experience with any pathologies that young people suffer in discerning their future.

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