Sometimes we think we’ve figured out a future direction, that we’ve discerned something, but than the other people involved don’t come to the same conclusion. It’s rather unsettling and can be very confusing. You can decide that you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, but if they decide they don’t want to be with you, you obviously can’t force a relationship! This is true for a friendship, a job, and even a religious congregation. Discernment is a two way process – we do all we can to be faithful to God’s desire for our life, and then we hold it lightly. We need to leave God, the other person, and even ourselves free.
We are coming up to a General Chapter, a meeting held every six years in which we make decisions about our future direction and elect new leaders. We have been actively engaged in discerning for almost two years. No doubt many of us sisters will arrive with a strong sense of where we need to go in the future. And no doubt these ideas will not all be the same. We now will be called to discern together, to hold lightly the ideas that we bring and to hear the voice of God in the other.
Discernment is always bigger than “me and God.” What are the other voices you need to attend to in your own discernment?
At dinner the other night, one of the Sisters said, “My spiritual director asked me, ‘So what does Lent mean to you?’ So now I want to ask each of you.” We each shared our thoughts. It was a good discussion and here are some of the meanings we had:
- It’s like a second chance, a deeper commitment than what I did for Advent.
- A time to slow down and get closer to God, to take time to listen to God.
- A time to take on new practices so I grow in my faith and as a person.
- A time to be more aware of others.
- I try to ask God how God wants me to pray in a new way, what God wants me to give up, and what God wants me to give.
We reflected that sometimes these Lenten practices are for a time of six weeks and other times doing them can lead us into a new life pattern. All of us had the desire to grow, to become more who God made us to be.
What does Lent mean for you? What is God saying to you these Lenten days? Jesus prepared for his public ministry by spending forty days in the desert listening to God and being very aware of all the inner and outer temptations facing him. He grew strong and came out ready to take on a new way of being. What do you need to do to prepare for what God is calling you to do and be?
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 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 Spirit of God has filled the universe with possibilities and therefore, from the very heart of things, something new can always emerge.” Pope Francis.
Pope Francis accomplishes the challenging task of raising both our awareness of how serious the problems of our world are and, at the same time, giving us hope. In his marvelous encyclical, Laudato Si, On Care for Our Common Home, he shows how care of creation, care of each other and care of ourselves are all interwoven. The above quote is meant to give us hope that we can find a new way forward that will enable us to be truly good stewards.
The quote can also speak to each of us in our struggles. Sometimes we think too small or limit ourselves more than we need to. Pope Francis calls on us to recognize the infinite newness of God, whose creation is still unfolding. We are part of that creation, and we too are in an act of becoming. What is the “new” that God is calling forth from you?
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 new video series called DISCO (Discernment Conversations): Dancing with the questions of life!
Sister Lorraine Réaume, OP
Director of Formation
Sister Sara Fairbanks, OP
Director of Vocations, East Coast-Midwest Vocations Promoter
Adrian Dominican Sisters
1257 East Siena Heights Drive
Adrian, Michigan 49221-1793
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