Spiritual writers encourage a life organized around being discerning. In other words, pondering next steps in life no matter how small or large our choices seem to be. They advise us to review our day in the evening before sleep and to hold our day in prayer the next morning, asking the Holy Spirit for guidance and wisdom in our choices.
All well and good! However, in our busy day-to-day living we must live awake in order to live discerningly. Taking time for quiet centering during each day helps us be awake to possibilities and awake to what the Spirit is doing in our lives that day. A good practice in the evening is to recall when we were awake to the Spirit’s movement in the day. What did we notice? When did we sense a little nudge in one direction or another?
The Spirit is present with us, working imaginatively and persistently. Like branches are to a tree the Spirit is connecting us with life that gives meaning and nourishment to what we’re doing. As we gain proficiency in noticing how the Spirit is with us at all times, we grow more awake and more discerning about where the Spirit is leading. This discerning ability influences our choices.
I cannot recommend strongly enough that a spiritual director can be invaluable for anyone wishing to be more awake to where the Spirit may be calling.
May we all be blessed and awake,
Una Vida Discernida
Los escritores espirituales animan una vida organizada hacia el discernimiento. En otras palabras, reflexionar sobre los próximos pasos en la vida, sin importer que tan pequeñas o grandes sean nuestras decisiones. Nos aconsejan que revisemos nuestro día en la noche antes de dormir y que pongamos nuestro dia en oración la próximo mañana, pidiéndole al Espíritu Santo por guianza y sabiduría en nuestras decisiones.
Todo parece bien! Sin embargo, en nuestra ajetreada vida cotidiana, debemos vivir despiertas para poder vivir con discernimiento. Tomar tiempo para centrarnos en silencio durante cada día nos ayuda a estar despiertas a las posibilidades y despiertas a lo que el Espíritu está haciendo en nuestras vidas ese día. Una buena práctica en la noche es recordar cuando estábamos despiertas al movimiento del Espíritu en el día. ¿Qué notamos? ¿Cuándo sentimos un pequeño empujón en una dirección u otra?
El Espíritu está presente con nosotros, trabajando con imaginación y persistencia. Como las ramas son para un árbol, el Espíritu nos está conectando con la vida que da sentido y sostenimiento a lo que estamos haciendo. A medida que ganamos la habilidad de notar cómo el Espíritu está con nosotros en todo momento, nos despertamos más y discernimos más hacia a dónde el Espíritu nos está guiando. Esta capacidad de discernimiento influye en nuestras decisiones.
No puedo recomendar lo suficiente que tan valioso es un director espiritual para cualquiera que desee estar más despierta a dónde el Espíritu le pueda estar llamando.
Que todas seamos bendecidas y despiertas.
Most of us probably wouldn’t think about embarking on something important without any planning and, perhaps, talking with another person who had already done what we’re going to do.
If we needed to learn a complex computer program for a job and everything depended on us having details correct, we’d seek advice from others who know the program or from a supervisor or IT person.
The same is true when we’re embarking on a spiritual journey. If we seriously want to commit ourselves to learning how to listen to God, how to pray or how to understand Scripture better, we can seek out others who have gone on this journey before us.
The person could be a friend or might be a “spiritual director” or “spiritual companion.” These titles cover a select set of men and women who have studied how the spiritual life develops. They are aware of the stages of spiritual growth that can be expected and what it takes to commit oneself to this kind of an inner journey.
Their well-honed skills in listening can help us develop our own abilities to listen, while helping us grow in our relationship with God. When sensing a desire to deepen our spiritual life, finding a spiritual director can be invaluable. Most retreat centers have people who specialize in this service. Some parishes have them as well. It can be a key decision we make to nurture our spiritual growth.
Blessings on the journey,
In a few days I will be heading for my annual retreat. I usually choose to do silent, directed retreats. The chance to be completely quiet, except for the forty minutes each day with a spiritual director, helps me to go much deeper. It enables me to get more connected in that place deep within where God dwells.
Even though it’s not always an easy time, I always look forward to these “vacations with God” with excitement, knowing that God and I will have some extra focused time to nourish our relationship. By now I know that, even though I may be in the same retreat house, I will be surprised by God. God accepts me where I am, and at the same time offers me what is needed. Sometimes it’s comfort, sometimes it’s a chance to slow down, sometimes it’s a nudge, and sometimes it’s a push.
Even though it can sound like a retreat is just about “me and God” it’s always bigger than that. First, I always spend much more time in nature and so become more attuned to God’s grace in all creation and more aware of myself as one of God’s creatures in a much larger reality. Also, what happens in the retreat can remain with me throughout the year and can help to transform my relationships with others.
If you are discerning something in particular, a retreat can be a wonderful way to clear away all the extras for a time and focus on listing to the voice of God’s wisdom. Retreats have played an important role in my own journey to religious life. These special times also help me nurture that relationship with the One I fully gave my life to. I know God is looking forward to this quality time with me as well!
I pray you are able to have a “vacation with God” this summer!
This week's blogger is Sister Judith Benkert, OP.
For many years, I was a practicing midwife. I used the undergraduate science degree to become a registered nurse. Some years later, I was working with Nurse Midwives at our hospital in Santa Cruz, California, and then became a certified nurse-midwife.
When I look back on the path I chose, it seems obvious that the pieces of the puzzle of discerning a ministry were rather clear. I’m not the type of person who discerns using a list of pros and cons or a great deal of discussion. My discernment comes in the form of putting one foot in front of the other, and the path seems to open before me to the next step. My answers come in the form of excitement and comfort that the path is right for me.
Another part of discernment is trust. Sometimes it’s a little shaky putting your foot out in a space that is not tested. As a midwife, I felt a major part of my work was to help a woman trust her body. We spent a major part of the prenatal time building trust, letting the woman know that her body was doing the “right thing.”
A midwife is a guide. In discernment, the Spiritual Director is a guide to help us develop trust in the call of God and to become the witness we are called to be. The best we can do is simply to ask God to show us the footpath.
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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 new video series called DISCO (Discernment Conversations): Dancing with the questions of life!