Guest blogger Sister Mary Soher, OP, is currently the Co-Director of National Catholic Sisters Week. She is based at St. Catherine’s University in St. Paul, MN, and travels extensively to raise awareness about Catholic Sisters.
Just before the start of the Year of Mercy, I heard a gospel story that I do not remember having heard before. It’s the story of two blind men in Matthew’s gospel who asked the “Son of David” to have pity on them. When asked if they believed that Jesus could do that, they answered, “Yes Lord,” and Jesus said “let it be done for you according to you faith.”
It is a beautiful story, for them, but it made me wonder if I have enough faith. I let the thought roll around my mind and heart for awhile, and then a familiar gospel passage came to mind, that of the mustard seed.
Jesus tells his disciples, both then and now, that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we could tell a mountain to move and it would. I only need to have enough faith to let Jesus into my life, a seed-size amount, and then the wonders begin.
My discernment of religious life was sort of like that. I had an interest, a wondering about religious life, but I also thought I knew what it was and that it wasn’t for me. However, the thought, small as it was, would not go away – I needed to find out what was religious life really was about before I could decide if it would be life-giving for me.
I let the thought or call settle into my inner self and began the journey of learning more. Step by step, sister by sister, conversation after conversation, I began to see that there was indeed a direction for me to become my best self and develop a deeper and ongoing relationship with an incredibly merciful and loving God.
If there is the slightest bit of interest, of wondering, of longing, do not be afraid. Start a conversation, ask your questions, think about the responses you get and the feelings you feel. Have faith that whatever you need, God has already given to you all that you need and will continue to do so.
Something about the start of a new year gives us hope -- a chance to start again, make better choices, set up new, healthy patterns for our lives. At least that is how we start out. We may think of all the little and big things we want to change in our lives and make resolutions, but then life happens and those changes often don't occur.
Some good discernment can help us with that. We know we can't change everything all at once, and God doesn't ask us to. Also, although we may want to change something, we may desire even more a habit or attitude that is holding us back from attaining our truest desire. Perhaps this something has a hold of us.
Discernment can help us go deeper. Ask yourself, "What do I really want to change in my life?" Then pause and ask, "What is under that? What do I really want to change?" Keep going as many times as you need to get to the core. It is only by going very deep that you can find out what you truly desire.
Another path is to share with God all the things you might like or hope to change. Then sit in silence and ask God to show you which of these is the most important for you to change now. Be open to what God might show you. It might even be something that wasn't on your original list.
Discernment involves going to the deepest place in our selves and being open to the God of surprises who dwells within us and beyond us.
This week's reflection comes to us from Marilin Llanes. Marilin is a Bilingual School Psychologist in Chicago, and is currently a candidate for readmission.
Inspired by Psalm 46, God by my side, I am in awe by the depth and fidelity of God’s presence in my life. All along my diverse and winding path, God has been with me. My journey has been quite an experience of trusting myself enough to be able to trust the divine plan for me. I must admit that my path, at times, has been uncertain as to where I was being led. As I was moving along and letting be what was happening, I felt myself wavering between what seemed impossible and the real. Yet with God at my side, along with human and divine intervention, I realized the new that was coming to be. At this point in my life, the impossible has become a reality!
Today I embrace the now and rejoice in the gift of second chances, such as renewing my covenant with my Adrian Dominican Sisters. I welcome the invitation to new experiences in religious life, in ministry, and with our Global community. Being mindful that no matter what is placed on my path, in you, O Divine One, I find my strength, my hope, and my energy, and most of all I find my true self, Divinity alive in me. The path to joy is now. Amen.
This week's reflection comes to us from guest blogger, Katherine Frazier, Adrian Dominican Sisters Candidate.
When a very pregnant Mary and Joseph set out on a journey to Bethlehem, they did not know what the journey would hold for them. Taking a journey implies transformation. Not only is there the physical change of being in a new place, but there is also the spiritual changes that take place when we meet new people and see new places. Mary and Joseph were transformed by their journey, as they became a family with a newborn son. Taking a journey also means taking a leap of faith, in allowing ourselves to be open to whatever the journey brings us, no matter how surprising. For Mary and Joseph, they had to take a leap of faith that they and their expected child would be cared for once they arrived in Bethlehem.
This story of Mary and Joseph speaks deeply to my own process of discernment. Certainly, my discernment has taken me to new places, where I have been able to meet many new people. However, more importantly, I am finding that this journey is challenging me to think in new ways, whether in learning how to be a better community member or pondering how God is active in my life. And there is a leap of faith to the discernment process once we embrace our decision, even if the consequences are surprising. Finally, I come back to the fact that Mary was pregnant with the Word of God as she traveled with Joseph to Bethlehem. As a woman discerning a vocation with the Order of Preachers, I see in this image an example of my calling to carry the Word of God to the world, and the image gives me hope that my vocation can be carried out in ways that I have not yet imagined.
Waiting is so hard. We want to get things done, to check them off our list, to be sure about the next step. There is a quote I like, “Do you have the patience to wait until the mud settles, until the right answer arises by itself.” We do all our pondering and thinking, discussing and pro and con lists – and that is all good and necessary. But at some point discernment also involves waiting. We take a step and we wait as we live into a new reality.
Think of Mary. She took a huge step in saying, “May it be done to me according to your word.” And then she waited. Like any mother, she had to wait nine months to see her newborn, to learn how to be a mother, to learn how to love her particular child, and, finally, to let go as that child followed his mission in the world.
We say a ‘yes,’ big or little, and then we go forward step by step, learning what that yes really means as we go. What yes have you said to God that is still being formed in you?
This week's reflection comes to us from guest blogger, Sister Dot Dempsey, OP, in Chicago. Sister Dot serves on our Vocation Outreach Awareness Team.
So much is happening as we celebrate St. Andrew the Apostle, this 1st Week of Advent and at the beginning of the Dominican Family’s 800th Jubilee! So much to think about, celebrate and thank God for.
Jesus said to Simon and Andrew, “come after me.” We too have been called to the Order of Preachers. The motto for our 800th Jubilee is “Go and Preach.” Jesus sent the Apostles and we too were sent by Saint Dominic to find new ways of preaching.
As we begin this liturgical year, in this jubilee year, we invite you to “come and see”, to share the joy in following Jesus. We want to open our hearts and open doors, as we praise, bless, and preach the good news.
This week's reflection comes to us from guest blogger, Sister Dusty Farnan, OP.
I’m writing this reflection on the eve of Advent. Advent invites us into two important actions: to be alert and to be awake. What does any of this have to do with me or especially those of you who are pondering what path to take in life. Maybe you are wondering like Elizabeth how is it that the “Lord should come to me?"
I think it has a lot to do with you and me. Luke’s Gospel for the Last Sunday in Advent reminds me of when I felt the call from God to pursue religious life. I believe I felt like Elizabeth when Mary visited her. I had just witnessed the beautiful reception of a classmate of mind from high school who had become a Novice in Adrian Dominican Congregation. I was so moved by the ceremony and the giving of total self that my friend had made that it stuck with me for a long time. It was as if Jesus” leaped inside me” in a way I had never experienced before. I became alert and aware that Jesus was calling me to follow him more closely. And so I wrote to the Prioress of the congregation asking for admission. It’s now fifty years later.
Perhaps this advent you might be awakened to God’s voice calling you to a deeper relationship. May Advent awaken you to the God life already dwelling in you as a result of your Baptism. May you become more alert to the prompting of God’s call to you this Christmas season.
The blog for this week comes from Sara Fairbanks, OP. Originally from Vermont, Sister Sara is a professor of theology at Barry University, an Adrian Dominican Institution in Miami, Florida. Here is her story:
As a college student I had stopped going to church. I did, however, want a relationship with God. I was a history major. In my junior year my advisor wanted me to take a religion course on the Reformation because that particular split in Christendom had powerful political ramifications for all of Europe.
In taking the course, I learned that one of the great themes of the Reformation was the right of every Christian to read the Bible in his/her own language. At the time, the bible was mostly available in Latin, which most people could not read. At the end of the discussion, our professor, who was also a Presbyterian minister, challenged each one of you to pick up the Bible and read one of the gospels all the way through.
I did not even own a Bible! So I borrowed a Bible, and began to read the gospel of Matthew. When I got to the passage in the Sermon on the Mount, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you,” for the first time I sensed the presence of God with me, speaking these words directly to my heart, awakening me to a divine love that I had never known before, a love unsurpassed. I was in tears. This experience was totally unexpected. God’s love was real!
This awakening to God’s unconditional love was the foundation of my religious vocation. With the help of other faithful Christians, I gradually learned how to share my life with God through praying with scripture. In time, I began to see God everywhere in my life and to find God at the core of my very self.
“To take a long loving look at the real.” You may have heard this line before. It’s a famous definition of contemplation by William McNamara.
It’s hard to go forward well unless you know honestly where you are now. To look at our own lives from a contemplative stance requires humility. First, we choose to look. Then we take our time. It’s not just a cursory glance. We stop and truly notice. The challenge is to see our lives and our world with love. We tend to look with eyes of judgment and criticism, but at this moment we strive to see what is with love. And then we look at the real, at this moment – not at what we wish were reality, not at what we think should be, but at what actually is.
In some mysterious way, by taking a “long loving look at the real” of our l life at this moment, we can find a new freedom and we may just be able to discern more clearly the next step in our path. Today take a long loving look at yourself and your life.
Photo: “Eye C U” by Michael Gil on Flickr, creative commons license.
How do over three hundred people make big decisions in one weekend? Over three hundred of us had quite an intense experience this weekend. We attended part 1 of our General Chapter, a large meeting where we vote on recommendations and make decisions about the future .
At times we try and make decisions on our own, or in private prayer, or by talking with a few others. But sometimes decisions require more wisdom. At our table of 5 we discussed our thoughts and some of us changed our opinions as we listened to each other. Then two tables came together to form groups of ten people. To our own amazement, we completely changed out minds sometimes. The wisdom of the group - we learn more by opening ourselves up to the other, hearing different opinions and perspectives, and contemplating all we have received to try and truly hear the will of God. It was a sacred experience.
Are there other voices you need to hear from in your discernment?
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Get out your bell-bottoms and platform shoes, because DISCO is here!
Okay, so it's a little less dancing, a little more talking... Sisters Lorraine Réaume, OP, and Sara Fairbanks, OP, have a video series called DISCO (Discernment Conversations): Dancing with the questions of life!