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Who Cares How we Decide?

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

Synodality is a mindset, a viewpoint, a principle and a practice. As a result, to unleash the Spirit of Synodality requires some time putting on the mindset and allowing it to influence leadership. So, let's start putting on the synodal mind with this statement: How we do what we do is as important as what we do. That's not a widely accepted axiom these days where results or outcomes matter far more than how they were achieved. But, for the Church, how we lead, govern, decide, accompany, teach, heal, and preach shows what we believe about Jesus (and therefore the Trinity), about the Church’s identity and about the Church’s mission. To be authentic, that is for the talk and the walk to match, is what Jesus desires not just for us as individuals, but for us as the People of God, the Church. So HOW we do what we do is as important as what we do.


On the #synodjourney enters discernment in common. It’s a how, a practice Pope Francis believes more authentically expresses the following beliefs:

  • That the Church belongs to Christ. It is His Bride[i], and an extension of His ministry until he comes again.[ii]

  • That Christ gave the Spirit as the guide for the Church.[iii]

  • That the Church would have to listen to and follow the Spirit in order to remain true to Christ throughout the ages.[iv]

Pope Francis teaches “The image of the early Community of Jerusalem is the point of reference for every other Christian experience. Luke writes in the Book of Acts: ‘And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers’ (2:42). The community persevered in prayer…They remind us that the Church’s existence has meaning if it remains firmly united to Christ, that is in community, in His Word, in the Eucharist and in prayer---the way we unite ourselves to Christ. … The Pope added, “Everything in the Church that grows outside of these ‘coordinates’ lacks a foundation. To discern a situation, we need to ask ourselves about these four coordinates: how in this situation these four coordinates are present…”[v]


And now we get to the why of it all. And we all need to be convinced about these "why's" if synodality is to take root.


Why is discernment important? Because it is a form of prayer that links us to Christ, seeks the voice of the Spirit and thus influences the way in which decisions are made and implemented.


Why is discernment in common important? Because it calls for this prayer practice to become the way in which leaders lead: listening to the People of God, listening to the signs of the times, listening to the Deposit of Faith and their own experiences, and then sifting the messages all the while prayerfully waiting, continuing to listen carefully for the voice of the Spirit speaking now. This way is Jesus’ way.


Discernment in common is also important because Jesus said, “Now they have come to know that everything You have given me is from You.”[vi] Discernment in common, a foundation of synodality, enables this statement to be as true in our time as it was in Jesus'.

A third reason why discerning in commion is important is that the Church is to be about co-creating the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. She is to be that shining city on a hill[vii], the outward sign of Christ’s abiding presence with us[viii]. And for that to ring true, to be authentic, how she leads, governs, decides, implements and evaluates her work is as important as the work itself. This is why discernment in common is important!


Pope Francis sees discernment in common as a pillar of synodality because it places the Holy Spirit in the center. In his discourse that preceded the opening of the Synod on Synodality, the Holy Father said, “In the one People of God, therefore, let us journey together, in order to experience a Church that receives and lives the gift of unity, and is open to the voice of the Spirit…Without the Spirit, there is no Synod.”


Why is discernment in common so important? Because it is the type of prayer that centers the voice of the Spirit, calls for the People of God as temples of the Holy Spirit to speak truth with love, and calls us all to listen for the Spirit’s voice coming to us through one another, through the signs of the times, through the Deposit of Faith, through our Bishops, and always, through our shared prayer.


Why is discernment in common so important? Because it centers unity and decision-making with the Spirit, given by Christ to us, so that the Church might continue Christ’s work until he comes again.


Why is discernment in common so important? Because it offers those called to lead the Church, lay and ordained, input that is thoughtful, prayerful, from diverse sources and grounded in the belief that the Spirit is trying to speak to them now. It offers this rich set of voices for them to use to hear the Holy Spirit and then to choose direction. Once widely used, it is also a sign of unity and an instrument of peace. And, finally, discernment in common provides for a way to evaluate the degree to which each local Church is in fact a shining light on a hill…doing God’s will, God’s way for God’s purposes…here and now.


Why is discernment in common so important? Because it tells all the world that the Church is a living body, led by the Lord, the giver of Life who proceeds from the Father and the Son…that she is walking with that Spirit today: creative, open to change, comfortable with chaos, and dedicated to being Christ’s transformative presence in the world.


That’s why.


Want to learn more about discernment and discernment in common? Check out Resources for Discernment.


Looking for help practicing discernment in common. Contact one of our consultants.


Who cares how we decide? Jesus does. And it's His Church. That's who cares.



Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash


[i] Ephesians 5:22-23 [ii] Catechism of the Catholic Church 1076 [iii] Acts 1:8-9; John 14:12; John 16:5-7 [iv] Acts 15 [v] “Pope Francis:‘The Church is the work of the Holy Spirit.’” Catholic News Agency. November 25, 2020. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/46706/pope-francis-the-church-is-the-work-of-the-holy-spirit#:~:text=The%20Church%20is%20the%20work%20of%20the%20Holy%20Spirit%20whom,which%20he%20began%20in%20May. Accessed 12-17-22. [vi] John 17:7 [vii] Matthew 5:14 [viii]Catechism of the Catholic Church. 775

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