Brian T. Olszewski, The Catholic Virginian

Speaking about vocational discernment, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich told more than 125 people at the Msgr. Charles Kelly Faith Formation Forum at St. Mary Parish, Richmond, that it is not a one-time matter.

“We’re talking about how we mature, how we grow in our faith. Discernment isn’t just about that one time when we make a life-long choice, but it’s about asking what God is calling me to,” said the archbishop of Chicago.

During the presentation titled “The Dynamism of Vocational Discernment in the Life of a Christian,” the cardinal interspersed stories about family, and being a seminarian, pastor, seminary rector and bishop, with Scripture and references to Popes St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis.

Cardinal Cupich asked, “What are the aspects of discernment that get us through moments of crisis? What kind of discernment does the Church have to have if we’re going to move forward?”

Throughout his talk, the cardinal emphasized how discernment starts and evolves.

“Discernment is not necessarily something that starts with us,” he said. “God is always doing something. Discernment is about being attentive to what God is doing.”

Discernment, Cardinal Cupich said, is not about “diagnosis.”

“Discernment begins with the condition that God is already moving in this situation in our lives. This gives us a sense of hope,” he said. ­“We’re not on our own; if we wait and watch, truth will emerge.”

The cardinal noted the significant role Jesus’ resurrection from the dead has in discernment.

“The Resurrection is a recurring event. It not only changed the course of history thousands of years ago, but continually does so,” he said. “The Risen Lord is always doing something new.” 

Referencing a conversation he had with someone from Hollywood who wanted to know what makes Pope Francis “tick,” Cardinal Cupich said one must look at how the pope views Christ.

“Pope Francis believes and has a palpable sense that Christ is alive and active in the Church,” he said. “He has a sense Christ is doing something in our time, that this is not an era of change, but a change of era. This is a watershed moment.”

Quoting from Vatican II’s “Church in the Modern World” (“Gaudium et Spes”), the cardinal said, “… conscience is man’s most secret core, and his sanctuary. There he is with God whose voice echoes in his depths” (16).

He noted that conscience not only refers to what one has done, but, “Conscience helps us discern the future: What is God is asking of you now?”

Cardinal Cupich suggested looking “for spirits that move us closer to God” — the “spirits” being gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit.

“Discernment is a gift of the Holy Spirit to let our conscience know what is good,” he said, noting discerning of “the spirits is important; we must be attentive to what the spirits are in our lives.”

The cardinal spoke about the “law of gradualism,” in which one’s relationship with God is an ongoing, gradual process. While noting that it was introduced in St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation “Familiaris consortio,” Cardinal Cupich said it was not a new concept, but rather part of “our spiritual heritage,” as seen in the lives of St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa of Avila. 

“It’s a journey in which we move forward embracing moral and spiritual development,” he said, adding, “God’s grace works step by step.”

Cardinal Cupich said there is a need in the Church for this kind of discernment.

“There is an opportunity for us today, as Church, to grow up, to seek another level of adult Christianity and adult spirituality,” he said. “That’s the real test before us in this crisis we are facing — how do we respond?”

He suggested that those who are angry with the Church channel it to “move forward.” “Realizing God is already acting to bring about a solution, we believe in a Risen Lord that is not going to abandon us,” Cardinal Cupich said.

The cardinal spoke the previous evening on the same topic at Immaculate Conception, Hampton, as part of the Bishop Keane Institute.