Sunday, March 3, 2013

Discerning with the Institute - Another Perspective

The Institute of the Incarnate Word will not require any discernment prioring to entering. "Not sure? Don't worry." They will say, "We are different than other orders or the diocese. We don't make you wait. Come and discern here."

They will make young Men feel special by telling them that God may have chosen them for the priesthood. They may even create a sense of urgency telling you "God doesn't want you to wait… he wants you to hurry… saints answer promptly." They wrote a whole book on that.

Neither are they going to require you to fill out an application or do any sort of formal interview process that might slow things down. Some that enter do, but the majority do not fill out or supply any paperwork until after they have already quit school, quit jobs, broken off relationships, and entered. They do not even ask whether you have any canonical impediments to ordination before they let you enter.

Once you are a member of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, any steps toward discernment are still discouraged. What you will be told daily from day one is that you must "persevere in your vocation" even though most there have never discerned what theirs is.

If questions come about you not being sure about your vocation you will be told "You shouldn't worry about discerning your vocation right now. Your superiors will decide for you if you have a vocation. They have a lot of experience in this".

If the question continues to bother you will be told "You just need to practice obedience. You need to stay busy, accept your cross, and not think about it too much, the devil is crafty and will try to steal your vocation" And so on. There is no mention of the "D" word after entering.

If it comes up during spiritual direction, they will tell you not to worry about it and, in addition to the above, to wait for your 30 day spiritual exercises retreat (which comes every other year.) That's where you are supposed to discern your vocation.

Then when you get to the the 30 day retreat and the state of life comes up, they will say "if you are here then you have already discerned your vocation and we are going to skip this part." (really???) So when you get to the part about following the devil or following Christ, the explicit assumption is that following Christ is following them, and leaving is following the devil. One's vocation is never discussed.*

That is how you can go from "I want to serve God better" or "I want to find out my vocation" to spending years at a seminary without ever having actually discerned anything.

(*Note: this is with regard to the spiritual exercises they give to those already inside the order. We are not sure how they approach the spiritual exercises for those not belonging to the order, but based on the feedback we have received they do pressure attendees towards vocations during these retreats, contrary to St Ignatius' instructions.)