Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Book Review: Discernment

Every day I make many types of decisions, some big and some small. Most of them are small. For example I might have to decide whether to have eggs or cereal for breakfast. Or I may need to decide whether I will visit a parishioner before or after doing some domestic errands. We all have different types of decisions to make, some are easy and some are more difficult. Sometimes the decision is made for us before we can even think about it. I may have my day all planned out but if it starts to snow and the roads become icy I will probably stay inside the rest of the day.

If you are interested in a fulfilling spiritual life and are looking for a good book to read then you need to read Henri Nouwen's latest book called Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life (NY: Harper, 2013). Nouwen was a famous Catholic priest, author, and retreat leader. His books have sold millions and there are plenty of retreats that are based on his work. I have read three of his books so far and have thoroughly enjoyed every one of them.

Discernment is written in a typical Nouwen conversational style. He had a way of writing that was clearly understandable yet very deep as well. Various stories from his personal life seep through as well which make the book even more enjoyable.

This book is divided into three major parts: What is Discernment?; Discerning Guidance in Books, Nature, People, and Events; and Discerning Vocation, Presence, Identity, and Time. The book concludes with three appendices which were written by some of his close friends and students.

I found the entire book very enjoyable and read slowly on purpose, I wanted to savor every page! I underlined a lot of sentences too, food for further reflection and certainly for sermons too. Nouwen digs deep in the Sacred Scriptures as well as in the writings and lives of the saints and in our culture as well. His section on Discerning Guidance in Books, Nature, and Events was most interesting since we often do not look to those areas to read the "signs of the times" so to speak. Discernment is usually difficult because many people have to make decisions during difficult times such as whether or not to leave a job, whether or not to get married, or whether or not to get ordained or not. Nouwen recommends that we do not make hasty decisions nor should we drag our feet, but as we walk in the darkness we slowly try to seek out the light that guides our way.

For more information about Discernment click here