The first session for the Juniors of Bahia took place at Mombitaba House, provided by the La Salette Missionaries and the Taizé Community of Alagoinhas in Bahia, Brazil. The meeting included seventy-two juniors and eight trainers.
The theme of the meeting was Consecrated Religious Life: Space for Dialogue and Discernment. Sr. Annette Havenne, SM, from the Conference of Religious of Brazil, gave a brief reflection on what identifies us as Consecrated Religious: that is, Community, Mysticism and Mission. She then asked: Where is dialogue and discernment in our life?
The Four Pillars of Education
She used the four pillars of education formed by UNESCO, known as the "intellectual" agency of the United Nations. They are fundamental principles for reshaping education:
1) Learning to know: to provide the cognitive tools required to better comprehend the world and its complexities, and to provide an appropriate and adequate foundation for future learning.
2) Learning to do: to provide the skills that would enable individuals to effectively participate in the global economy and society.
3) Learning to be: to provide self analytical and social skills to enable individuals to develop to their fullest potential psycho-socially, affectively as well as physically, for a all-round ‘complete person.
4) Learning to live together: to expose individuals to the values implicit within human rights, democratic principles, intercultural understanding and respect and peace at all levels of society and human relationships to enable individuals and societies to live in peace and harmony.
The Fifth Pillar – Christian Discernment
However, she said, these four pillars are still not enough to properly discern a vocation. We must also understand how the will of God works in our life within God’s plan accomplished in Jesus. We must learn to discern the will of God.
Sister Annette stated that is very important in Christian Discernment to differentiate between discerning and deciding. On the one hand, discerning involves not only myself but others of my family or community. It is a dialogical process involving ourselves, others and God. On the other hand, deciding often involves only ourselves. It fosters a closed attitude, a private process and then my decision.
Later Sr. Annette gave an introduction talking about what has to be the word dialogue and in this sense, we sought to understand various forms of dialogue, ie dialogue diático - where people talk about themselves, dialogue triático - where two or more people talk about a topic of common interest on the group's goal.
Dialogue presupposes an inner freedom and willingness to dialogue, respect for others and mutual trust. But when we talk specifically in the community of faith, we should direct our dialogue as follows: reading and reflecting on the Word, and sharing my experience of sharing in God's life each day.
The Difference Between Dialogue and Debate
Within the process of Christian Discernment, we must understand the difference between dialogue and debate.
• dialogue seeks a collaborator; debate revels in opposition;
• dialogue creates an open attitude; debate creates a closed, aggressive attitude;
• dialogue creates and expands each other’s viewpoint; debate tends to defend one’s own view;
• dialogue requires a temporary suspension of personal beliefs; debate requires protection of personal beliefs;
• dialogue seeks basic common understanding; debate involves a search for palpable differences;
• dialogue assumes that many people have pieces of the answer and that together they could find an acceptable position; debate assumes that there is a right answer and that someone has it;
• dialogue remains an open process; debate assumes a need for a conclusion.
It was also mentioned that the Consecrated Life is not a state or position in life but rather a dynamic, way of living and responding to daily life. Our life has meaning only when guided by solid Christian values. Spiritual intelligence is the ability to get out of ourselves and appreciate the broader meaning to our life, with the fabric of the Church and he needs. We should be able to state that the values of my Consecrated Life ands the very same values of the Gospel.
Memorable Comments and Phrases
Some comments that followed this presentation were:
• We need to re-define, re-signify our "mission";
• Our mission is not only our work, our apostolates and ministries; our mission is the build the Kingdom of God, whatever that entails;
• Our mission is not our career or profession; it’s our call from God;
• We need to get out of ourselves; out of pastoral sameness and heavy structures that can stifle creative fidelity;
• We also to let go of our superficial relationships with God, community and mission, letting go of any boundaries that define us but also protect us.
Some striking phrases we wish to remember:
• It is impossible for a Christian vocation to last without a reference to what God calls me to be and do;
• Our freedom is a freedom to discern;
• Discernment presupposes dialogue, changes in our point of view; we must listen to each other and capture and really listen to the other person’s point of view;
• The Consecrated Life is not a static state in life but a dynamic life open to the will of God;
• Often conflicts in the community is a sign that people have freedom of speech, but we need to attend to conflicts and reach a point of reconciliation;
• In discernment we must be clear about what is essential and what is not, what cannot be cganged and what is quite changeable.
(Reprinted with permission of the La Salette Brazil Website)