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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

More on Discernment Ground Rules

I received several comments, both in the combox and via email, from my "Rules" post;  it seems that a lot of people have had the same experiences as I.  Instead of updating that particular post, I've decided to just post the additional "Rules" here.   

Please keep in mind...these are the rules that protect discerners from being mobbed by well-meaning people who are very excited about promoting Vocations to the Priesthood and Religious Life. 

ADDITIONAL RULES (credit is given for each poster):

1. DON'T: Once the discerner has made the decision - DON'T continue to give them information on other Orders! This is happening to me! ~ Lillian-Marie

2. Do - Once a decision has been made, MEGA prayers are needed for the discerner as they move from the secular world into the Order. This is when patience is needed - both with the discerner and family/friends. ~ Lillian-Marie

3. DON'T keep asking WHEN will you enter? When will you enter? When will you enter? We don't know! It's in God's time, not ours. It gets very frustrating having to keep telling people, I don't know. When we know something, we'll definitely let you know.
~ Lillian-Marie

4. DO - write! And sometimes write often! This is one of the saving graces for me. There are so many emotions and thoughts during this time that it is often difficult to get them on paper. Blogging is helpful, but also keep a private journal. ~ Lillian-Marie

5. Here's a tidbit for anyone going as slowly as me-don't tell anyone that you wouldn't trust. When I first told my friends two years ago, they freaked out. One was especially afraid she would not see me again if I entered. ~ Grace

6. Here is another one for the "don't" list. A well-intentioned speaker from the Serra Club was talking at a weekend Mass in our parish. He told the congregation, "If you sense that a young man whom you know may be a good candidate for the priesthood, turn his name in to the diocesan vocations director." I wanted to yell, "No! you'll freak the poor kid out." Just pray for him. If you know him really, really, well; maybe approach the subject in private, carefully, after praying about it. Same could be true of a young woman who may be called to the religious life. But I feel that to do as this speaker suggested is intrusive and may just drive any desire that is there right out the window. ~ Melody K.


One commenter asked me that (with a wink for humor), and shared that he was more subtle in his approach. He gave a young man a rosary with St. John Vianney on the medal in the center, but otherwise didn't say a word. That's not a bad approach at all.

But his question is an important one...are these the RULES according to Adoro, LM, Grace, and Melody K, or are they according to God?

Well, let me put it this way: 

I know a religious sister who also found her Vocation fairly late in life. Meaning, of course, that she wasn't 18, she wasn't 21.  It took awhile.  She had a Spiritual Director, the same one for years, and one day she said to him, "Huh.  I think I'm supposed to be a religious sister." 

The Spiritual Director's reaction?  "FINALLY!"  

He hadn't said a word. He knew the Vocation was there, but that she was the one who had to hear it for herself.  She was already doing the right things...praying, meeting God very intimately in the Sacraments and knowing Him more deeply through Spiritual Direction.  He knew that eventually she would "hear" and verbalize what was going on, so he left her alone with God until she was ready to face that and answer.  

He didn't tell her what she should do or where she should go, and she found her Community...and entered it, on God's time.  

So I ask you...if a Spiritual Director takes such a hands-off approach, what does that indicate for the rest of us?  

It's very easy for some people to hear God's Call and answer it.  It's more difficult for others, and involves a little more all around. For myself, as I'm in my 30's, I own a townhome, a car, a dog, and am owned by a great deal of debt (made suddenly worse by the recent car problem), and I have a myriad of life experiences which in many ways clouds my judgment about some things.  Maybe it helps in some, but I know at a fundamental level that I need to be able to divest myself of certain "images" and grow in virtue.  It'll be really hard to enter a community never having had spiritual direction.  

If that's God's plan for me.  And that's STILL a big "IF".  

God's RULE is simple:  The Call is a very personal thing between the discerner and Him.  He knows what He's doing, and is doing a fine job of guiding the soul all by himself.  No, he doesn't want that person to be an island, nor does he want that person's friends and family taking over and creating a cacaphony over which the person can no longer hear Him.  

There are probably other people out there with even more to say on this issue.  Perhaps with more input, I'll compile these posts and boil them down into one to encompass all the "Rules" from those who have experienced all the agony and ecstasy of discerning one's Vocation.  

Now,  just so you all don't think we are picking on all the wonderful people around us, I'm going to end this post with a comment from Anonymous: 

I went through 3-1/2 years of discernment because of an incredible pull that would not stop. Often I shared this with people and much of what I heard could not be possible for me. My personal rule was to thank them and to thank God that he had me surrounded by people who cared enough to care. ~ Anonymous


And so we do thank all of you who care enough to comment, to offer prayers and other support as we seek to discern God's Will for us. Please keep praying for us, and please keep praying for Vocations to the Priesthood and Religious Life.


Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm usually a lurker & I'm not breaking silence to give you advice on my favorite Order or what you should do. I wanted to point out something on the blog that to me seems very striking in a good way ('though I realize you don't blog your whole head).

When you've talked about how your life might change & how you're tied up with things now, you haven't mentioned your career aspirations. Your education, yes, but not your career as such. I wonder what that means? (you don't have to tell me!)

It strikes me because in choosing to make Jesus the center of my life, I had to give up my career & it wasn't followed by a different career. God calls me to do some things useful & blessed me with a charism to do it, but the call & charism have NOT led to a career. I take consolation from St. Paul, whose own conversion destroyed his high-profile rabbi's career in favor of...itenerant tent-making. Zapping my career hasn't meant God wants me to be a nun, since I'm married with kids & I don't want to imply that at all for you. But if your career/ambitions/professional life isn't something you consider a complication of discernment, I think you're very blessed, whatever God calls you to.

Hidden One said...

Regarding that Spiritual Director... it is [at least sometimes] INCREDIBLY dangerous and counterproductive for someone in a position of spiritual direction/mentoring to mention either knowledge of the discerner's actual vocation or to push the discerner [which mention of that knowledge actually does].

While such knowledge-granting worked in reeling in a [priest] friend of mine who is definitely following his vocation (of course, that knowledge came from a vision/private revelation courtesy of the Virgin Mary) those same sort of statements (minus a vision) have messed me up ROYALLY for more than a few months now.

In short, if you don't know anything, SHUSH! And if God doesn't tell you to say what you know, SHUSH! And if you aren't sure of either of the above, SHUSH! Saints and SDs like that for your religious sister are the only people who can be trusted - as I see it - with guidance about vocation issues. The Saints know enough of what's on the go, and such SDs won't tell discerners what's on the go unless God says to.

To be honest - though it evidently worked out - I wouldn't always think it wise for the SD to say words to the effect of "Finally!" upon such a revelation. But that depends on the soul and state of the directee.

Glad I got that out of my system. Feel free to disagree, expand, contrast, or whatnot, Adoro. My understanding of all this is hardly complete; I greatly respect your thoughts... but worry not that I [ever] simply accept your thoughts without questioning and consideration or somesuch.

Hidden One said...

I agree with Anonymous.

Adoro said...

Anon ~ Thanks for your comment. At this point, I have no "career" as such. I used to, but I jumped ship, was unemployed, and now work in a Church. I don't see it as my future, so no, career isn't anything to hinder me at this point. Except on the money front because, quite honestl, working for hte Church also means that I can't pay my bills every month and so debt is mounting at an alarming rate.

Hidden One ~ Good comment. It IS very dangerous, and I had a friend who was told by her SD that was was DEFINITLEY called to Religious Life, pushed her in that direction, she visited a wonderful community, they agreed she'd fit in there and told her to apply. But she was her misery, that's where God spoke to her. She dropped the Sd, realzing she was telling her what SHE wanted, not what God wanted. And she could have been saved a great deal of anxiety, expense (to travel to visit he community, etc) had she not been pushed.

As far as the "finally" statement, I'm not sure if he actually STATED that or if that was in maybe a little of his attitude. Not all SD's would give a reaction at all, but keep in mind...she'd had him as a director for YEARS and it could have been entirely approapriate. I'm not privy to any more, nor should I be.

Otherwise, yes, I agree with you. For most people, the word SHOULD be "SHUSH!" Pray, hope, and offer hands where needed (as described in previous posts). But offering direction and pushing, agenda, etc., that belongs to God, the discerner, and, if there is one, the SD.

Adoro said...

Just to be clear: it's one thing to suggest to someone that maybe they should explore a possible calling.

But it should end there. The Holy Spirit does all the rest.

And if that person refuses a Calling, it's STILL between that person and God. Free will.

Melissa said...

Adoro - Do you think people may overburden discerners with questions, info or "advice," because of the decline in religious vocations in the U.S.? I wonder if those discerning when religious vocations were much more commonplace ran into the same experiences as today's discerner.

Perhaps some well-wishers are so over the top because they're so excited at the possibility of a vocation that they don't see as frequently as they used to? Just a thought.

Adoro said...

That probably IS the case, becuse it's seen as being "rare".

But that's why we need "rules", because overbearing well-meaning people can also destroy Vocations by chasing them away.

Tony said...

God's RULE is simple: The Call is a very personal thing between the discerner and Him. He knows what He's doing, and is doing a fine job of guiding the soul all by himself.

That reminds me of a funny story I once heard.


An atheist science professor decided to prove to his class once and for all that there was no God.

To do this, he stood at the podium yelling out to God: "God, if you are there knock me off this podium!!!"

He kept ranting and raving at God until an Irish linebacker for the football team happened to pass by and heard him. He went into the room, hauled off and knocked the professor off his podium.

When the professor woke up, the football player reached his hand out to help him up. He asked the football player: "Why did you do that?"

The linebacker replied: "God was busy, so He sent me."

The moral of the story isn't that God is busy, but that sometimes (well, most of the time) God works through His people.

Adoro said...

Tony ~ I'm wondering if you're taking this personally?

I don't disagree with you and actually, wrote about that recently.

The point I'm making is that ONCE SOMEONE IS ACTUALLY DISCERNING....hands off.

It's one thing to suggest that someone explore priesthood/religious life. Then back off and leave them alone. The seed has been planted. I had several people independently ask me about it. And then they left me alone, THANK GOD!

The people who know I'm discerning, also leave me alone. If I have news I want to share, I share it. If not, it's mum.

Hounding people, "directing" them in what to do...that's just plain wrong. Once a person has decided to explore where God may be calling them, it's time to let that person listen to God and let God lead them. And the Spiritual Director.

God works thorugh His people when HE wants to. Not when WE decide WE want Him to.

Tony said...

Tony ~ I'm wondering if you're taking this personally?

Nope. :) The only thing I have concerns about is that within the "cacophony", the voice of God is striving to be heard.

My suggestion to all the would-be spiritual directors out there, before approaching someone with your ideas for their vocation, you take time to pray on it, and discern, yourself what the proper approach might be.

God broadcasts His directions in a number of different ways. To Isaiah, he was a "small whispering sound", to St. Paul, He was an explosion that knocked him off his horse and blinded him.

I am not approaching you as some busybody telling you what to do, and I certainly don't think highly enough of myself to take personally when my comments are not received well.

I am actually discerning a secondary vocation, myself. My first and primary vocation is to my wife and family as a married man. My secondary vocation might be the permanent Diaconate.

However, I'm getting mixed signals from my parish priest. He doesn't seem very supportive of the idea of Deacons (I believe caused by issues he's had with other Deacons he's worked with). Until he's on board, I'm guessing the call isn't there yet.

However, we are linking two parishes, and he'll soon quite possibly be pastor to both of them (or pastor to one and administrator to the other, I'm not sure how Canon law breaks it out). At that time, God may soften his heart to the possibility of asking for help. I would like to have completed my training by that time, but without my pastor's support, I'm not going to start.

Such a dilemma.

But it will be resolved (and clarified) in time. :)

Anonymous said...

Tony ~ Your comments are being received just fine, but I wasn't understanding where you were coming from as you were seeming to disagree that people SHOULDN'T be involved with the discerner.

But as you said here: The only thing I have concerns about is that within the "cacophony", the voice of God is striving to be heard.

That is EXACTLY the point of these "Rules". To let people realize the cacaphony they are creating which PREVENT the discerner from listening to that still small voice of God.

So we're not disagreeing at all!

It's wonderful that you're discerning the Deaconate, and I hope it works out! I'm sorry you're being stymied by your own Pastor, but my guess is that if God wants this...He'll work it out even if your Pastor were to outright oppose you.

Although that must be very frustrating.


Hidden One said...

I'd like to belatedly remark that the people who've most helped my vocational discernment either didn't know at the time and/or were responding to my concrete questions - ones that they hadn't solicited. And none of them told me to go one way or the other, or to avoid one way or the other.

Adoro said...

Hidden One ~ Great point. Concrete questions are great. Unsolicited advice...not great. Sounds like you were blessed with people who knew boundaries (that and lack of

Hidden One said...

Yes, some... few and far between. But enough.

in manus Dei vitam meam posui.