Sunday, January 25, 2009
Ground Rules on Discernment
I've been writing about discernment, both my own, and in general from experience for a few years now. And I'm reminded of why most people in my life don't know about this.
I've written before on the "do's" and the "what not to do's" with regard to discernment. Not directed towards those who are discerning, but to those who think they're being helpful.
I have some new readers, peolpe who haven't not been "present" for most of my discernment, and so I can very clearly see what's coming based on prior experience. If I am going to continue to be write about this topic on my blog, there has to be some ground rules. If you think this is about you...it's not. This is the same thing I say to people in real life who are tempted to want to take charge and offer directions. I'm just putting this up so that I can continue to write about my discernment without having to explain myself over and over again.
THE RULES ACCORDING TO ADORO:
1. I've been discerning/exploring religious life off and on for a few years now. Therefore, I don't need advice on how to do it. If I need advice, I will ask specifically, usually of someone even MORE specific to the situation, and it won't be something I publish.
2. The fact that I am writing about one community should not be taken to infer I have not looked at every other religious Order, community, and congregation in America, and some outside of our borders.
3. Discernment is difficult enough. Please don't send me every link you find to some very cool religious community. Yes, I agree they are cool. But if I don't bring them up, it could be because I'm not interested in them. It gets really tiring repeating to people that I'm not interested in their favorite community, and some people actually take that personally. It's not. It's between me n' God.
*** If you have a relative in a community and want to share that link, the above Rule does not apply. Please feel free to share with all of us those you know who have been called by God and chose to say Yes to Him. :-)
4. I like Dominicans, and that is my default position. I fully believe that I have Dominican spirituality, although not all of my very focused search includes Dominicans. I'm also considering the Cistercians. Really. No, they're not Dominican, they follow the Benedictine Rule. It doesn't make sense, but God's ideas don't usually make sense to us.
5. Dominican, Benedictine, Carmelite, Augustinian, and Franciscan communities are all very different, as each has a different spirituality. All are wonderful, all are beautiful, and the Church needs them all. However, those who are discerning may first need to figure out which spirituality calls to them. I, for one, know that I am not Carmelite or Franciscan. That does not mean I don't like them, only that they aren't appealing to me because God has given me a different spiritual approach. Now that I know that approach, it also means I can eliminate many communities from the radar screen.
6. I currently have a plan in place and am in contact with Vocation Directors at 2 different communities. Yes, I am going to go visit them, when the time comes. It hasn't come yet for a myriad of reasons. One community is sending me information and has told me to contact them again when I've gone over it, and then we can talk about a retreat. Please don't send me emails and comments ordering me to "JUST GO!" I can't "just go". There is a schedule to follow and it isn't just set by me and the demands of my life and work, but by Vocation Directors at the respective communities. Again...I'll go when it's time and that time is coming, hopefully soon.
7. The fact that I am putting my thoughts out there should not be taken to mean that I'm "dragging my feet". Far from it. See #6. I write because I HAVE to write, and I do receive emails from other people in discernment who tell me that it's helpful to them as they have similar thoughts. See the Rules below...I am not on your time schedule, but at God's will.
GENERAL RULES TO PROTECT THOSE IN VARIOUS STAGES OF DISCERNMENT:
People in your life may be discerning the priesthood or religious life, and they MAY be doing so because you suggested it to them. AWESOME! Keep encouraging people to see if God is calling them! The following are the Do Not's and the Do's. I'm ending on a positive note so that you know what you can and SHOULD do to help!
1. Do not overwhelm a new discerner with every cool site you come across. Given this age of technology where everything is on the web, it can be very scary and overwhelming.
2. You are not the discernment police. Do not hold a stopwatch and demand that the discerner take certain actions and do certain things according to your preferred schedule.
3. What's happening to a soul in discernment is between them and God. If they share something with you, count it as a privilege and ONLY offer advice if it is asked. Otherwise, if they have found a Spiritual Director, take it as a matter of course that all advice will be covered. If they don't have a Spiritual Director, do not assume that role.
4. Don't force your own preferences upon that person, i.e. habit vs. no habit, Franciscans vs Carmelites, etc.
Now, on to the postive steps!
1. Offer prayer and encouragement
2. If the discerner has a pet, if you can, offer to "pet-sit" or help find someone who can. Kennels are expensive, and completely impractical if the discerner is going on a lengthy visit. The discerner does not want to give up a dear companion in order to question a life they may not be called to live.
3. If the discerner has a house, they may need someone to check on things or stay there while they are away.
4. If the discerner needs a ride to the airport and back, can you help them find willing people to fulfill that simple role, if you can't do it yourself?
5. If the discerner doesn't have the money to purchase a plane ticket and the community is a few thousand miles away, you may be able to help them either raise the money, find donors (ie through the Serra Club, etc.) If they don't have the cash, they can't go. Airlines require payment and won't take IOU's from God.
6. Pray that God's will be done. People in discernment need lots of prayers, it can be a confusing time, and spiritual battles can really heighten. Just knowing that you're praying is often enough. If you have experience, share your own experience and how you came to your own decision.
7. Remember always that it's between the soul and God.
There will be more added to these "Rules", but that's the stuff off the top of my head for now.
If you're interested, here is a much longer post I wrote some time ago explaining WHY these groundrules are necessary. Also, if you click on the "Vocations" or "Discernment" tags at the bottom of the post, you'll be taken to a page showing every post I've done on these topics. Some are inane, some are more specific, but it's all there.
Some of my readers are ALSO in discernment...please offer your own rules, your own do's and don'ts, etc. in the combox. I'd LOVE your input!