WHAT WE NEED TO DO
1. Gather relevant information
2. Carry out analysis and reflection
3. Present the information and analysis to group members
4. Spend time in personal prayer
“ Full information, of good quality and accessible to all, about the matter to be treated is needed. Good discernment depends on having a precise knowledge about the matter to be decided and about the result that is to be expected from such a complex and demanding process. In this way we avoid banalizing “discernment,” using the word as a way to justify either major or minor decisions.”
Fr. A. Sosa, Letter 27 Sep 2017
Discernment requires that participants have information that is reliable and relevant to the issue at hand. This inevitably requires some effort in gathering the necessary data. Such data include not only facts and figures, or expert inputs. Just as important, it should also include viewpoints, suggestions, feedback, and even affective responses of consolation and desolation, especially among those most affected by the issue at hand. Special attention should also be given to the voices and experiences of people at the margins. Quite often, such experiences are not expressed directly and verbally. Consultation thus includes making observations with a spirit of pastoral sensitivity, and listening with the heart.
After the data gathering, some preliminary analysis should be carried out. This can include examining the implications of the data, noting the significant or surprising points, observing recurrent themes, or making comparisons and projections. The processes of gathering and analyzing the data are often iterative: insights from the analysis sometimes point to the need for other information. However, since it is not possible to arrive at complete information and analysis, a time limit needs to be set for these steps. The greater the clarity in identifying the question to be discerned as well as the objectives, the more focused would be the data gathering and analysis. Needless to say, those carrying out the data gathering and analysis should do so in a spirit of indifference, openness, and docility to God’s Spirit.
A summary of the key information and main insights from the analysis should be sent to all those who have been asked to participate in the discernment. Adequate time should be given for each person to reflect on and pray with these inputs, as well as to seek clarification about the information where necessary. It is important to give these participants some guiding points for prayer, including specific questions to pray about.
3 Obstacles in Discernment in Common
"The greatest value of a picture is when it forces us to notice what we never expected to see."
John Tukey, American Mathematician
Gather relevant information
- Collation of basic facts and figures from reliable sources
- Inputs from subject matter experts
- Stakeholder mapping
- Interviews and focus groups
- Informal conversations
Carry out analysis and reflection
- SWOT -> Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats
- PESTLE -> Signs of the times: Political, Economic, Social (including religious and cultural), Technological, Legal, Environmental trends.
- Problem Tree -> Problem, Root causes, Consequences
- Impact analysis -> Short and long term impact of an event, and of the alternative actions
- Historical analysis -> Understanding the historical evolution of the issue
- Cost-benefit analysis -> Potential costs and benefits of an event or proposed action
- Pros and cons -> Listing the positive and negative aspects of each option, relative to the objectives that were established in previous step
- Pastoral cycle -> See, judge, act
- Lights and shadows -> What are the lights and shadows?
- General observation -> Examining the implications of the data, the significant or surprising points, recurrent themes, resonances and tensions; or making comparisons.
Present the information and analysis to group members
- Summarize the data and analysis into a brief report, and disseminate to group members
Spend time in personal prayer
- Scripture texts
- Guidelines for discernment of spirits
- Suggested process and questions for prayer
1) Do you feel biased about something. If so, what is the cause.
2) What brings you joy and hope here.
3) What is causing you confusion or distress
4) What do you feel as the main call from God.
- Write down the insights or fruits from personal prayer.