Enzo Bianchi, founder of the monastic community of Bose, pointed out: “today this complex, challenging endeavour must first of all incorporate ecclesial life, the relations between the Churches and our present times”.
“There is an ever more urgent need for discernment. And while in the past the Church centred her reflection and action on personal discernment, today the time has come to seek and implement communal, ecclesial and therefore synodal, discernment above all.” It is the belief of Enzo Bianchi, founder of the monastic community of Bose, who stressed that today “this complex, challenging endeavour must first of all incorporate ecclesial life, the relations between the Churches and our present times.”
Brother Enzo Bianchi, whence does this urgency originate? Who should be its main agent?
There is an urgent need for discernment as has always been the case in Church life for the past two thousand years. But today We are faced with a new challenge, namely, the urgent need for communal discernment.
For two thousand years our focus was to seek, speak of and reflect on individual discernment, from Origen to the Desert Fathers, up to Ignatius of Loyola. Yet, we neglected communal ecclesial discernment. Today it’s a priority and when Pope Francis highlights the importance of discernment he refers to ecclesial discernment, encompassing the Church as a whole. In fact Discernment is the “sine qua non” condition for the synodal journey of the Church, a journey undertaken together. If not, there will be no convergence and no chance of reaching ecclesial decisions.
This urgent form of discernment should be extended to ecclesial life, to relations between Churches…
Its urgency is evident in the Catholic Church: such discernment is necessary inasmuch as we want the People of God to truly become a communion of ecclesial players endowed with full subjectivity of faith and evangelization. However, this can be seen also in the relations between the Churches. Moreover, also the recent difficulties arising in the relations between the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Russian Church, with regard to the Ukrainian Church, require an effort of discernment, that not only is done according to the will of God but also for the common good, what is good for my Church and for the other Church too. This journey, new under certain aspects, must urgently be undertaken. The very presence of Christianity and of the Church in the future of humanity and of the whole world is at stake!
Has Pope Francis’ choice of “Young people, faith and vocational discernment” as the guiding theme of the XV ordinary General Assembly of the Bishops’ Synod been motivated also by this urgency?
We should avoid assuming that everything revolves around young people and vocation, because it would mean betraying the intention of Pope Francis. The act of discernment involves the entire Church. It raises a set of challenges that include the presence of young people inside the Church – which are a missing part of it – and their progress along the various vocations they are called to undertake. But discernment is the primary thing to engage in. However, we should be careful not to place emphasis on vocation and on young people as if discernment were instrumental to the vocational choice. Discernment involves much more: both its ecclesial and personal forms are not always directed at vocation but at the common good, at what God demands of us, at the signs of the times we are called to interpret, at the urgencies and the realms we are called to address.
The form of discernment that the Pope calls us to reflect upon and celebrate in the Synod is much more complex.
With regard to discernment, a key figure is that of the spiritual father, that appears to be experiencing a moment crisis of. How can this situation be resolved? Is it because the faith community underestimates the importance of discernment or is it due to the fact that the faithful are not longer accustomed to this practice?
I think that the faithful are no longer accustomed to engage in a process of discernment. And unfortunately our directors of conscience have left us with negative memories. Thus, resuming the figure of the spiritual father – or better still, of the spiritual guide – has become a challenging task. People are afraid that someone will spy on our life, limit our freedom. And certainly many spiritual fathers are tempted to say to those who turn to them “to you, to whom the Holy Spirit says nothing, I have come to say…” as if the Holy Spirit spoke to them alone. These are the pathologies of this ministry that we must reflect upon. Yet we need to restore it because it a great ministry of vision:
It’s a matter of triggering questions, momentum, motivation. Without forcing, without imposing, without demanding something that goes against one’s freedom and conscience.
Individuals and communities appear to be increasingly less interested to engage in a personal and collective reading of history. Why has this happened and how can we help them recover the pleasure of reading the signs of the times?
It’s a question of helping them understand the importance of communion and solidarity with humankind and with history.
The problem is that today we are also faced with extremely narcissistic forms of individualism. This prevents us from undertaking actions together
With naturally include discernment, common aspirations, making joint efforts for the future, for our world and for the Church.
How can the trend be reversed?
It’s a long educational process but
We must have the courage to reject prevailing narcissism and help people overcome self-referentiality in view of a path of communion that is not egocentric and simply for personal wellbeing.
I am also concerned about a prevailing form of Catholic spirituality that I see as an indistinct Catholic, anthropological, form of theism, whose morality is aimed at self-centred wellness. That is no longer Christianity!
In Christianity Christ is at the centre, not self-wellbeing.
If not, the men of the Holy Scriptures like Jeremiah would have had no possibility of communion with God and of being true men of God. But today the spirituality of many spiritual fathers follows that direction, which is no longer Christian. Christ is no longer at the centre, as it has been replaced by self-wellbeing. A moralistic form of narcissism prevails.