Pope: The task of the bishop is to "make the grace of the Spirit available to the flock"

Spiritual and pastoral discernment, gifts of the Spirit, were the focus of a long talk that Francis gave today to the bishops appointed during the year. The bishop is not the self-sufficient 'Lord father,' nor the feared and isolated 'solitary pastor.'" "A bishop's discernment is always a communitarian action".

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "The Shepherd is called to make the grace of the Spirit available to his flock," a task that requires discernment of what is needed for that purpose and one which can be addressed only in the awareness that "only those who are guided by God have the title and authority to be proposed as the guide of others. " Spiritual and pastoral discernment, gifts of the Spirit, were the focus of a long talk that Francis gave today to the bishops appointed during the year.

The Pope first stated that "only those who are acquainted with this inner teacher can teach and grow in discernment [this inner teacher] who, as a compass, offers the criteria to distinguish, for himself and others, the times of God and His grace; to acknowledge His passage and the path of His salvation; to indicate concrete means, pleasing to God, to accomplish the good that He predisposes in His mysterious plan of love for each and all. "

The bishop then "cannot take the possession of such a high and transcendent gift for granted as if it were a right acquired without falling into a non-fertile ministry. It is necessary to continually implore it as a primary condition for illuminating any human, existential, psychological, sociological and moral wisdom that we can serve in the task of discerning the ways of God for the salvation of those who have been entrusted to us. Therefore, it is imperative to continually return to prayer "to ask God for discernment. Recalling that discernment, "is a gift of the Spirit to the Church, to which one answers with listening", it is "the grace of the Spirit to the Holy People of God", it is "a gift received in the midst of the people and is oriented to their salvation" .

The bishop therefore "is not the self-sufficient master father, nor the fearless and isolated" solitary pastor "and his discernment" is always a communitarian action, which does not overlook the richness of the points of view of his priests and deacons, the People of God, and all who can offer him a useful contribution, even through concrete and not merely formal contributions. " "In a peaceful dialogue, he is not afraid to share, and even exchange, his own discernment with others."

Francis wanted to emphasize to the new bishops that "the mission that awaits you is not to bring your own ideas and projects, nor abstract, invented solutions that treat the Church like your own vegetable garden but humbly, without protagonists or narcissism, to offer your concrete testimony of union with God, serving the Gospel to be cultivated and helped to grow in that specific situation. Discerning therefore means humility and obedience. Humility in respect to your own projects.  Obedience with respect to the Gospel, the ultimate criterion; to the Magisterium, which guards you; to the norms of the universal Church, which serve you; and to the concrete situation of people, for whom nothing is to be taken from the treasure of the Church as it is more fruitful for their salvation today. " " Discernment is a remedy for the immobility of 'it has always been done this way' or 'we'll take our time. It is a creative process that is not limited to applying strategies. It is an antidote against rigidity because the same solutions are not valid everywhere. "

In his indications, the Pope "recommended" to be especially “delicate with the people's culture and religiosity". They are "not something to tolerate, or tools to maneuver, or a 'cinderella' to be kept hidden because they are reluctant to access the noble halls of higher concepts and reasons for the faith. Indeed, it is necessary to have care and dialogue with them, because besides constituting the backbone of people's self-understanding, they are a true subject of evangelization, which your discernment can not ignore. Such a charism, given to the community of believers, cannot be recognized, questioned and involved in the ordinary path of discernment made by the Pastors. "

We must strive to grow in "an inclusive and incarnate discernment, which dialogues with the consciences of the faithful — that are to be formed and not replaced in a process of patient and courageous accompaniment (see Amoris laetitia, 37). "

To convey to the faithful the truth of the faith and its promise "it is not, therefore, to banish obvious proclamations, but to introduce into the experience of God salvation by sustaining and guiding the steps to be accomplished. Therefore, true discernment, though definitive in every step, is an always open and necessary process that can be completed and enriched. It is not oes not reduce itself to the repetition of formulas that 'like high clouds release little rain' to the concrete person, [and] are often immersed in an inflexible reality of black and white. The Shepherd is called to make available to the flock the grace of the Spirit, who knows how to penetrate the folds of reality and to take account of its nuances to reveal what God wants to achieve at all times. I particularly like young people, families, priests, those who have the responsibility to lead society. In your lips you can look for and find the firm testimony of this Word, which is 'lamp for the steps and light for the way' (cf. Sal 118,105). "