Change can shake-up our image of self, others and God. While we naturally fear and resist major changes, change can help us to grow and develop in ways that create more trusting and loving relationships. In her book Candlelight: Illuminating the Art of Spiritual Direction, Susan Phillips describes a man she calls John whose experience illustrates how even unwanted changes can yield unexpected benefits (80-85).
John had been a pastor at a conservative evangelical church for many years. At some point, political currents within the faith community changed and he was asked to resign. Unemployed, he turned to gardening and part-time factory work while he looked for another church to serve. His self-image suffered a big hit because he was strongly identified—by himself and others—as pastor. Moreover, it was painful for him to accept that his wife was now the main breadwinner in the family.
At his new factory job, everybody knew he was a pastor and they were not sure they could trust him. Many of these workers thought differently than he did, many had lived rougher lives, some were gay. Gradually, however, they got to know him and began to invite him to go out with them after work. Likewise, he slowly warmed up to them and a sense of acceptance and companionship developed. As trust built, the men began to seek out his counsel. John remarked how strange it was: “I am not a pastor of a church, but I feel more like a pastor than I did at the church.” There is very little God-talk, but “I listen to what’s in people’s hearts.” John explained that as pastor in his church he focused on what was wrong with people, their sinfulness or lack of faith that God’s light exposed. Now in his new role, he focuses on the good in people as God’s beloved children. Seeing them in this way has helped him to see himself in a more positive light as well.
Reflect on the important changes in your life. How have they been opportunities for growth in love and trust in your relationship with yourself, with others and with God?
This week’s blogger is Sister Ellen Burkhardt, OP.
“I don’t believe you brought me this far to leave me.”
These words are from a hymn we sing in my parish in Detroit, one of my favorites. We sang it one week while I was discerning a call to religious life, and honestly, I thought the words were jumping off the page and into my heart with a message specially formulated for me! God seemed to speak directly to me through the words “I haven’t brought you this far just to walk away from you now. Trust me, now and into the future.”
As is often the case for those struggling with a discernment issue, I was filled with questions: How can I know that this is where God is leading me? Why won’t these questions go away? I also had concerns about giving up my home and a career I loved. I worried about entering religious life and then discovering that it doesn’t fit me. What would I do then?
Over time, with the help of prayer and spiritual direction, I came to a deeper trust that the same God who led me this far, will accompany me today and each day that follows.
This week we feature guest blogger, Sister Marilyn Barnett, OP.
Recently I was interviewed by a student attending Siena Heights University about my life as a Dominican Sister. As I responded to his questions, I was struck again by the joy that continues to fill my life for having responded “yes” to God’s call sixty years ago.
Whatever vocation one chooses is never risk free or without challenges.
My life as a woman religious has been grounded in the belief that, with God walking with me on the journey of my life, I would never have to be afraid. That realization has brought a deep peace and joy to me throughout my many years as a religious Sister.
I learned many years ago something that changed my whole understanding about life. It was that life is all about relationships – with God, with those with whom you have committed, and with the wider world – especially with those who have been relegated to the margins of society and church.
In religious life, the tools to develop these kinds of relationships are fundamental, and the ground out of which we commit our lives. The loving support of the community through their warm hospitality, gracious concern and depth of conversations about things that really matter, provided the milieu for me to develop. This, coupled with the many spiritual and educational opportunities that were provided, allowed me to grow in ways I never imagined.
Whenever one enters into a relationship, it requires taking a leap of faith. My entering into religious life was a leap of faith that landed me into the arms of a loving God, and from that place there is really nothing that cannot be done in God’s name.
If I had to do it again I would most certainly take that leap of faith.
It has proved that for me, religious life has been the best life ever.
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?
Sister Lorraine Réaume, OP
Director of Formation
Sister Judith Benkert, OP
West-Southwest Vocations Promoter
Sister Sara Fairbanks, OP
Director of Vocations, East Coast-Midwest Vocations Promoter
Adrian Dominican Sisters
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Adrian, Michigan 49221-1793
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