Spiritual Discernment in ‘Christus Vivit’: Between Ulysses and Orpheus

Issue 1906

23 May 2019

Christus Vivit, Christ is alive.[1] This is the title of the post-synodal exhortation that Pope Francis directed affectionately “to young people and the entire People of God,” pastors and faithful. In it re-echo “the myriad voices of believers the world over” who had sent him their opinions, and the questions that many non-believing young people had shared with him (cf. CV 3-4).

The final chapter, the ninth, has as its title “Discernment.” Its 21 points have a diversified character, depicting concisely and significantly the “wonderful multifaceted reality that Jesus Christ’s Church is meant to be” (CV 207). In the first five points, by way of introduction, the Holy Father “takes up some reflections” from the exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate (GE)[2] and applies them concretely “to the way we discern our own vocation in the world.” The following 16 points are grouped under three subtitles: “Discerning Your Vocation” (we emphasize the word “your”), “The Call of the Friend” which is the central theme of the chapter and of the entire exhortation, and finally, “Listening and Accompaniment” in which Francis, turning to those who accompany a vocation and the processes of discernment, shares some elements that characterize his own personal way of leading such processes.

To appreciate the customary pedagogy of the famous polyhedron of which the pope often speaks, and to avoid it becoming a commonplace, it is good to remember that designing and constructing, say, an icosahedron is less easy than tracing a circle or inflating a round ball. This may recall some of the geometry they did or saw being done at school. This is what we should keep in mind as we set out to read a chapter such as this on discernment: here every face of the polyhedron, besides finding itself in relation to the others, besides letting the one center show through always from a different perspective, is also a base on which the figure rests solidly and therefore permits the rhythm of the thought to have a moment of pause and concreteness.

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