A great article on Six Principles of Discernment from Msgr. Charles Pope.
These principles are most often applicable to discern about a course of action, but many of them can also apply to discerning the promptings and urges that the faithful often sense in their walk with God, and which cause them to wonder, is this of God or just me?
Disclaimers. – None of these principles should be read in an absolute sense. They all admit of limits and distinctions. They are merely principles that guide further reflection. In a brief blog, not everything can be said about them, and you may wish to use the comments to elaborate some of your own thoughts and distinctions. Secondly, while not every principle applies to every situation, as a general rule, these principles ought to be used together and in tandem. It would be wrong merely to use one principle, and think discernment is complete. Generally these are all part of a process and their evidence should be considered collectively.
Principle 1 – State of life. There are many different states in life, some permanent, some long-lasting, some only temporary. We may be single, married, a priest, a religious, young, old, healthy, or fragile in health. We may be a student, a parent, rich or poor. Being clear about our state in life can help us discern if a call is from God or not.
For example, a young woman may sense a call to spend extended hours before the Blessed Sacrament. Of itself this is surely a good and fine thing. But what if she is the mother of four young children? Would God ask this of her? Probably not. Perhaps one hour will be more in keeping with her state in life. On the other hand a single woman, may be free to do this, and it may even be a part of her learning of her vocation to the religious life. Other things being equal it is more likely we can be open to this call being of God in her case.Continue Reading.
State in life helps to do a lot of sorting out. A priest is not going to hear from God to leave the priesthood and marry the pretty woman in the front pew. An elderly and feeble man is not going to hear a call to go to walk the Camino in Spain, etc. We can be pretty clear that such notions are not of God. Yet other calls that seem to be in keeping with one’s state in life are something to remain open to, and apply other principles that follow.