HOW PARTICIPANTS CAN PREPARE FOR THE TEN-WEEKS & BEST PRACTICES
HOW TO PREPARE
FOR THE TEN-WEEK
TRUE HEART COURSE
ASPECTS OF TRUE HEART’S
DESIGN & BEST PRACTICES
1. PLEASE GET REGISTERED 2-3 WEEKS BEFORE COURSE START
We learned in our beta run of the program, that it is a best practice to have most, if not all participants, paid & signed up for the course prior to its beginning. Vocation directors might solicit names from pastors across their diocese on a regular basis to identify potential participants. Reach out to your pastor or vocation director to find the dates they will run the programs this year in your diocese.
2. SIGN-UP SCHEDULE FOR COURSE: PARTICIPANTS/COHORT LEADERS
i. Purchase the course ONE WEEK prior to the diocese’s start time for the course. This will insure they have access to the program’s materials for week one.
ii. TRUE HEART has an exercise of a Whole-Life Confession at the end of Week Six. Early in the course, share with your cohort leader or vocation director if when you have scheduled a time for the Whole-Life Confession. This is a key event for TRUE HEART and one you will find amazing and hopeful.
iii. The TRUE HEART program concludes with an 8-hour all-night vigil in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. All cohort members from across a diocese are invited to participate in this capstone event. Where ever you are in your discernment, this evening with Christ will transform your heart and lead you to a greater clarity on how Jesus is calling you to be a disciple. Confirm with your cohort leader or vocation director in Week Seven, your participation in the All-Night Vigil. Be not afraid! You will be amazed at the graces you receive.
3. BEFORE THE PROGRAM BEGINS.
ESTABLISHED DATES FOR ALL-NIGHT VIGIL & WHOLE-LIFE CONFESSION
All-Night Vigil: Before the launch of a new course, your cohort pastor or your vocation director will set the dates/locations for the All-Night Vigil. Put this date into your calendar. See the short explanation for the All-Night Vigil on the next page so you have it on your radar and know you are moving towards this capstone event of the ten-week program.
The TRUE HEART All-Night Vigil is an opportunity for you to conclude the TRUE HEART diocesan priestly discernment program and gather the graces of the ten-week journey.
As you have been contemplating diocesan priesthood these weeks, perhaps some clarity has been given to you.
Nonetheless, it is common in the history of Christianity for an individual to do a “night vigil” when beginning an important mission.
Your contemplating diocesan priesthood for ten weeks is a mission you undertook.
And from this point forward, no matter your final choice, you seek to give your life to serve Christ, the Eternal King.
Entry into knighthood in medieval times began with an all-night vigil in the chapel of a castle or a major church. Your diocese will choose an appropriate Church or Chapel for this TRUE HEART capstone experience.
Whole-Life Confession: Your cohort pastor leader or vocation director will let you know in the first meeting that the exercises leading up to Week Six will be the material for you to make a Whole-Life Confession. That confession can be made in Week Six but ensure you make it at least a week prior to the Whole-Night Vigil.
Set a date on your personal calendars for the event with a priest of your choosing. Get it cleared that the priest of your choosing will do this great sacramental service for you. If you pastor cohort leader can make himself available for confessions with members of his cohort group, that would be a bonus. It helps develop that trusted relationship and also ensures the WLC, one of the most valuable discernment tools, is experienced by all doing the course.
4. TRUE HEART DRIP-SYSTEM FOR COURSE CONTENT
This course was designed and created by Fr. William Watson, S.J. Discerning Diocesan Priesthood course is set up on a DRIP SYSTEM. This element is mentioned on the course description page.
You can advance week by week and the next week's lessons are opened on a 7-day cycle. (Another reason to sign up a week before the course start date).
Using the wisdom of St. Ignatius from the Spiritual Exercises, the drip system invites a measured and thoughtful engagement with the spiritual lessons--moving ahead slowly so the spiritual exercises have time to become heartfelt.
WATCHING VIDEOS: The course is also designed to require you, the participant, to watch the videos before advancing so know ahead of time even though this is mentioned on the course description page.
5. COHORT LEADERS—PROVIDE A ONE-HOUR MEETING WITH PARTICIPANTS WEEKLY
Your cohort pastor will host a one-hour group meeting weekly, for you and your cohort members, to look back over the course material from the previous week. Here is the structure we have encouraged cohort leaders to follow:
a. Open with a short prayer of your choosing.
b. Give each man the opportunity to answer each question without any interruptions. You can ask the men what lessons they would like to discuss and you might pick a few yourself, especially those focusing on discernment. But note: Not all the lessons need to be processed by discussion. Pick those that hold the most potential for discernment insights for the individuals and your group.
c. When you have gone through the cohort once, ask the men if anyone had anything to add based on what you heard. Again, let men respond without interruptions.
d. Allow time for general back and forth after the first two rounds, asking the men of all that was shared, what was the most helpful for them at this point in their lives and the course. Allow discussion to flow freely.
e. Close with a prayer
6. WEEKLY 45-MINUTE IGNATIAN MEDITAION & EUCHARIST ADORATION
Each week of TRUE HEART ends with a 45-minute Ignatian meditation based on a Gospel passage. The content of the meditations fit the course materials.
Please engage these meditations as suggested in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. In the beta-run of TRUE HEART, most pastors had the men do the vigils in their parish before or after the weekly meetings. This was a great community builder for both pastors and participants. See if you can have your leader and participants agree to this “best practice” opportunity for your TRUE HEART course.
A few years ago, I asked Curtis Martin, founder of FOCUS, what was the greatest tool for evangelization FOCUS missionaries have found. His response was: “Father, without a doubt, Eucharistic Adoration.” We had set our weekly vigils and our all-night vigil before I heard Martin’s comments, but we were grateful to know that our intuition on the value of Eucharistic Adoration was confirmed so convincingly. Be Not Afraid!
Here is how the TRUE HEART Course describes the Weekly Vigils:
The Night Vigil meditations are modeled on Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. You use your senses (imagination, smell, sight, etc.) to enter the Gospel stories and “see” them in your mind’s eye. They provide a step-by-step way to enter the Gospel stories. However, feel free in praying them differently if you find them too scripted for your prayer style. We recommend doing them at night to model some of St. Ignatius’ most important moments in his conversion process. People find them very powerful ways to integrate the daily prayer experiences and draw close to Christ. We know you will benefit from them profoundly, and these will prepare you for the Night Vigil that concludes the TRUE HEART journey. I ask that you spend a full 45 minutes on these night vigils. You will benefit greatly in slowing down and being able to hear the voice of God speaking to you in these living Gospel stories of His Son, Jesus.
7. FRATERNITY AMONG THE COHORT MEMBERS
The course coordinator for the diocese or the Vocation Director has been asked to hold an in-person or virtual meeting with all the participants ahead of starting a TRUE HEART course. We also suggest as a “best practice” that all participants have each other’s email so they can communicate in and across cohorts during the course for building fraternity. The meeting can be virtual, especially in larger dioceses. The friendships the men in your class will experience, in and across cohorts, can become one of the most potent elements of your vocational discernment. Knowing you are part of a community of discerners can be an echo of the fraternity you will experience as a future priest.
8. THE TRUE HEART PLATFORM HAD A THREE-YEAR DEVELOPMENT CYCLE
SSI took three years, running beta tests in Latin America and North America, to create the weekly/daily structure for True Heart and all its exercises. Extensive work and refinement have already gone into the method to ensure a dynamic result for multiple ages.
Our feedback reveals that when applied as described, the individual daily exercises, and taken as a whole, have profound effects in participant’s lives. So, trust the structure. Our test subjects were 16 years to 35 years, so we know TRUE HEART has been successfully designed to hit a sweet spot for a wide range of adult males. TRUE HEART’s “programable” elements are tuned in this rendition exclusively for discerning diocesan priestly vocations.
9. TRUE HEART WEEKLY METHOD/STRUCTURE
* THREE QUIET PERIODS: These daily periods are invitations not so much to do something, but rather to open space for the Lord. Each period is a technology fast at the beginning of the day, the end of the day, and for an extended period of time during the day. The individuals are welcome to use these time periods however they would like, as long as it is without technology. Ideally, they will find themselves more able to pray both during these periods, and outside of them as well.
* THREE SPIRITUAL EXERCISES: There are two brief exercises for the beginning and end of each day, with the primary exercise laid out on the course material. Participants are encouraged to spend 15 minutes with this primary one at some point during the day.
* THREE PRAYER TIMES: Similar to the above, there are brief prayers for the beginning and end of each day, with the primary prayer period dedicated to True Heart prayer meditation on Creation, Presence, Memory, Mercy, and Eternity. There is an mp3 link on each day that participants can use to lead them through it the TRUE HEART Meditation.
10. SPIRITUALITY MATURITY & THE EXERCISES OF TRUE HEART
Doing the True Heart program requires no previous prayer life or prayer routines. The lessons are simple and anyone should be able to engage them and gain some measure of grace and self-knowledge. Recall that out test groups were aged between 16-35 and we refined the exercises so they would be easily intelligible to this age range.
Each participant will gain something based on the work of the Holy Spirit and what St. Ignatius suggested for all spiritual progress—a generosity of spirit in opening one’s heart to God. So, be generous in opening your heart to Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit.
This work of generosity is greatly enhanced by taking the times each day the schedule provides for quiet. One of the greatest challenges in the modern world to the working of God in anyone’s life is the lack of quiet. Be Not Afraid!
St. Ignatius constantly mentioned the need to ASK GOD FOR HELP AND ASSISTANCE when needed. God loves to respond to our Asking! Please develop the habit of asking God for help.
We have encouraged cohort leaders and vocation directors for men doing this as a course with other men for diocesan priestly vocation discernment to do all the lessons as you are able. Our research shows that the more exercises done and done faithfully daily, will lead to much clearer and more reliable discernment on how God is calling you to serve him in your life.
 Perhaps you might consider it an is a spiritual form of an Outward-Bound solo adventure. On the organization’s website, there is a quote from the American author, Caroline Myss: “Always go with the choice that scares you the most, because that’s the one that is going to require the most from you.”