Scientific method of discernment

The Scientific Method of Discernment

The scientific method can be a useful tool in teaching your students how to approach discernment. They might feel overwhelmed by the idea of figuring out what God is calling them to do and not know where to begin. Applying what they have learned about the scientific method can provide guidance and help the discernment process seem more approachable.

You can help your students instill in their lives the basic conditions for cultivating a vocation to fruition:

Question: The scientific method begins with a question, and the steps that follow all work toward answering this question. Discernment seeks to answer the question, “Who is God calling me to be?”

Research: In order to answer your question, you must have a broad understanding of the possibility of results. We can help young people with this step by teaching them about the different vocations, sharing stories of the saints, providing spiritual reading, inviting a religious sister, brother, or a priest to speak to the class, etc.

Hypothesize: Make an educated guess about the answer to your question. Prayer and knowledge of oneself can help provide a young person with a working theory about the vocation they might be called to.

Experiment: Design an experiment that provides you with empirical data, sensible, tangible results; repeat it multiple times to achieve consistency. Encourage your students to get out there and explore their vocation hypothesis! They
can experiment by going to QV and FIAT events, hanging out with religious sisters or brothers, priests, and seminarians, visiting seminaries or convents, going on a retreat or day of recollection, spending time with other discerners, or talking to a priest or religious about their life.

Analyze: Carefully consider the meaning of the results of your experiment and how they fit into your research. In order to fully benefit from their experiments, your students should make time to reflect on the concrete steps they’ve taken to explore their vocations, bring their experiences to God in prayer, and discuss them with a spiritual director to see if these experiences bring them peace.

Conclude: Did the experiment prove the hypothesis true? Sometimes the hypothesis is proven partially true or even false. In these cases, return to the hypothesis and begin again, incorporating this new data. Did your students gain some clarity? Great! If not, tell them not to worry. What they’ve learned will be a great help to them as they move forward. Help them keep in mind that part of their hypothesis might be true even if they have found part of it to be incorrect. For instance, one might feel called to religious life, but not to that order, or feel called to enter seminary but not yet. They just need to adjust their hypothesis and try again.