February 1, 2016,

Dear Friends and Family of the Diocese of Eau Claire,

When I was in Haiti, I got to know Ethan Casey who served as a translator for our medical team. When I was a young priest I knew Ethan’s father, Dayle Casey. Dayle is now a retired priest who spent most of his ordained ministry in Colorado. Ethan is a writer and in 2012 wrote a book entitled, “Bearing the Bruise.” It is about Haiti.

Today, I had a phone conversation with Ethan. In the midst of our talk he said that he learned long ago that things work best when a person considers three steps. They are: Understanding, Judging, and Acting. Just as we may argue whether faith or works have priority in living our Christian faith, it is obvious that you never completely understand everything and must act. Also even an impulsive, knee jerk action carries some degree of understanding. At its best, understanding and acting inform each other. Like faith and works, you may wait forever hoping for certainty. At some time understanding and acting call us to go forward.

Perhaps the centerpiece of Ethan’s three step process is Judgment, I like to think of this as Discernment. Discernment brings the three qualities of understanding, judging, and acting into a comprehensive whole. Most importantly, Christian discernment asks God for help. The Holy Spirit is invited into the situation. The result usually is a judgment based upon the reality of understanding. Discernment brings a judgment while honoring timing. Finally, Christian discernment is a process of evaluating what we have done in an appreciative perspective of what worked and what didn’t and not being afraid to ask God why.

We Americans excel at organization. We like to pride ourselves on being realistic and yet willing to dream. Ethan describes this as “realistic optimism.” As we look to the future, let us recommit ourselves to understanding, judging, and acting. When we are guided by the Holy Spirit, the sky is the limit! With my love and best wishes, I am,

Your brother in Christ,