With the start of Advent we begin a time of waiting for the coming of Jesus into our daily lives. In a strange way Advent reminds me of flower bulbs. These oddly-shaped forms are planted in the autumn here in the northern hemisphere, come up every spring and then blossom in beauty. Without waiting throughout the winter buried in the darkness under the soil, they wouldn’t be able to blossom. Darkness and waiting are essential to the fulfillment of their purpose.
When we discern what God’s call is for our lives we often do lots of waiting, praying, and listening without knowing just what the answer may be or when it will come to us. Much like the bulbs (were they able to feel) we wait without knowing, sometimes impatiently, until the time is right. We’re not in control, just as the conditions needed for bulbs to grow are not.
During Advent we’re invited to enter into the mystery, the waiting and the right time to receive the guidance we need.
Blessings on your Advent waiting,
At Thanksgiving time we make explicit our gratitude to God and all the people and parts of life and creation that we take for granted every other day of the year. One aspect for our attention is our ability to discern our next steps in life with the help of the Spirit.
This year as we celebrate Thanksgiving, let’s take time to notice and to count our insights and blessings that come to us as gifts of the discernment process. Whether they have a large or small impact, each of them moves us forward in our lives.
“If the only prayer we ever say is ‘thank you’, it is enough!” (Meister Eckhart)
Thank you joining us here each week,
Last weekend I attended the local Adrian Symphony for a most enjoyable performance of four extraordinary works of music. As all stellar musical renditions transport us into different realms where our imaginations and memories flow, so did this one. During more than one piece my thoughts went to the orchestra itself. A variety of instrumentalists assembled across the stage, each playing his or her part and contributing to the melodious sound of the whole orchestra.
Our life together here on this Earth is like this. Each one of us has gifts given abundantly by God not only for our own use, but as ways to contribute to one another and to the whole of us.
Discerning how best to use our gifts to make these valuable contributions is worth investing our time in prayer and reflection. Just as there could be many different ways the musicians in the orchestra could use their talents, they chose to play together. And together their music is more powerful than just one single instrument alone.
In a special way in religious life we promise to contribute our gifts and talents to the whole community, making them radically available for service, in all the ways we are invited to use them. The impact of our service is stronger together than any one of us could offer alone. As you reflect this week, consider whether God is calling you to offer your unique gifts in this way of life. A whole community of Sisters is waiting to support you!
For more about life as an Adrian Dominican Sister, click here.
While it probably takes a lifetime to realize the truth embedded in what Jesus told people as he walked on Earth, initially his words about following him can be daunting! Many times we get scared and want to walk away from him, giving a solid “No!” to his invitation to follow his ways.
Each person has a call from God to make of her/his life what God has in mind. Inside ourselves we feel a desire for more until we have found what’s right for our life. We try one thing or another, one direction or a different one, but recognize after awhile that this is not the right way. St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in [God].”
This alignment with God’s desires for us is what discerning is all about. Whether we spend our time alone in discernment or not, at some point we all benefit from a listening ear, a listening heart that gives us feedback on what we’re pondering for our lives. God wants only the best for us and draws us toward it. May we be open enough and willing to search for that precious path!
As we persist in seeking, we will find,
For more hints about discerning, check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6hmujPi7mM
We are celebrating National Vocation Awareness Week, November 4-10, which was established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Our events this week will be in support of parish efforts to foster a culture of vocations for the consecrated life, priesthood, and the deaconate.
In his message for the 2018 World Day of Vocations, Pope Francis emphasized that it is at the loving initiative of God, and personal encounter with each of us, that a person is called. God knows our anxious longing for love and calls us to joy. In the diversity and the uniqueness of each and every vocation, personal and ecclesial, there is a need to listen, discern and live this word that calls to us.
Each day this week we will post one “myth” about religious life and have a “live” response from one of our Sisters, which will be posted on our social media. We’re calling the series “Myth-busters.”
Tune in by following us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube!
One of the keys to support ourselves during times of discernment is through prayer. That ability to be silent before God as a listener is as vital as picturing ourselves in the presence of a wise person. Ask a simple question at the start of prayer, “Loving One, what do you want me to do with my life?” Then, wait in silence to hear the response.
Asking a question similar to this one probably won’t be a one-time experience of asking and then hearing the response, because this (and others like it) is a profound question! It may take many times for us to hear, really tune in to how the response comes. In prayer and quiet time, we are preparing to receive something precious from the One who loves us.
Receptivity and openness, not attachment to a specific outcome, allows us to hear well. We may be surprised by how our response comes. It could be through an insight received during prayer, a seemingly accidental conversation with another person, going for a walk, fixing a meal, doing dishes, or taking a shower. The response may just show up and our heart will know “this is it.” If we don’t know the full answer to our question, we will know the next step to take.
Discerning is a journey, a pilgrimage, during which we discover clues along the paths we walk. We can feel joy and be assured that all the paths lead to the same end, connection with our God.
May you have patience and persistence walking this path,
The season of autumn in the north is traditionally a time marked by letting go. Leaves fall off trees, warmer temperatures depart in favor of cooler ones, and light diminishes as we move steadily toward December’s shortest day of the year. Change affects our human lives as well.
Some people get into the mood of clearing out cluttered closets, drawers, and storage areas at home. Wardrobes change from lighter clothing to warm sweaters, jackets, and long sleeves. In addition to these outward signs of change, there are internal signs of letting go too.
Discerning well is like the season of autumn because it involves letting go and leaving behind some choices. If you’ve made a list of life options available to you, you’ll find yourself crossing some of them off your list. If you’ve taken your top three choices where you feel called in your life and listed pros and cons for each of them, it may be easy to see which one(s) need to be let go next. This, of course, takes time. Then, there’s one more thing.
Unlike the season of autumn when trees let go of their leaves to make room for the new growth, it’s hard to imagine the trees feeling sad about their losses. For us humans, sometimes letting go of what we had thought we might be called to do and taking up another choice, risky or not, may leave us feeling sad. Like the tiny new buds that appear on trees even before the leaves fall, it helps to feel assured that we have discerned well. Now it’s time to try on our choice.
May you live in such confidence and trust,
When I was a first year family therapist, I had the good fortune of working with a gentleman who was intent on healing from some debilitating issues getting in his way of living a healthy life. He was faithful to his appointments and clearly did the emotional work he needed to do with his family between sessions. What happened to me after several months of working with him surprised me.
I consulted with a supervisor at the time and lamented to her that I didn’t know what else to do with this man. Everything I suggested, every question I asked him came to a dead end. I was stumped. She wisely commented, “Maybe he has finished his work with you.”
Stunned, I replied, “Oh, it never dawned on me that someone actually finished their therapy! I guess that’s it!” Later he confirmed he’d finished his work for now.
I bring this up because the same surprise could be in store for us when we’re discerning a life choice. When we’ve spent adequate amounts of time in prayer, weighed our options with friends, family members and wise mentors, the thing that’s left is to decide, to choose one direction, one life path and try living it. It’s the only way to know whether or not this path is a “fit”.
Just as in a vegetable garden there comes time for the harvest. To neglect picking the vegetables is to let them die or fall to the ground. No one wants to eat them then. Let’s be alert for our time to harvest.
Enjoy the harvest in its time,
Discerning God’s call for our lives and understanding what we are meant to be and do with our lives can be compared to a balance scale. We weigh options appearing in our pathway, twisting them this way and that to see them from different angles. We pray for wisdom and ask our friends and family for advice, but ultimately we’re left to choose. However, we are not left alone to decide. The Spirit is there for us. God desires our happiness.
What makes this process challenging is we are weighing among good options. We want to choose what is right and don’t want to make a mistake. God really tips the scales in our favor! In a sense, the God-up-ahead-of-us draws us toward a match for our gifts, allowing a free and generous exercise of them throughout our lifetime.
When I mention these scales “tip” in favor, I’m thinking we cannot make a mistake. Really? Yes, really, because if what you choose doesn’t end up “fitting” you, possibilities for new choices will come around again, although not without pain. Our God is a faithful God who inspires and allures us until we are open to our deepest call, perhaps a call to risk. God is never, never outdone in abundance of support for us. Taking time to make wise choices can only benefit our lives.
Blessings as you weigh your options,
"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."
— African proverb
All of these Dominican Sisters (right) responded to God’s call to “go together” – wherever they are called to go. This August, they paused for a moment to deepen their relationships and to celebrate being together in mission. These are Dominican Sisters from the U.S., the Philippines, the Dominican Republic, Norway, and Iraq. They continued learning how essential their relationships are as vital ways to support the mission they are charged to fulfill.
As they left the gathering that weekend, many Sisters commented on the sense of recommitment they experienced together. Their collective strength will shape a world that is more compassionate and forgiving as they bring the good news of the Gospel of love. Re-entering situations around the world, they carry a heightened consciousness of the foundations of Dominican life: an experience of community, reflective study, quiet contemplation, and authentic preaching of the Word.
How fortunate are the people in those local communities who receive these Sisters’ renewed, creative energy of the Holy Spirit! How blessed the rest of us are to know their gifts are among us as we stretch to the farthest reaches of Earth.
Blessed are we among women,
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Sister Tarianne DeYonker, OP
Sister Mariane Fahlman, OP
Adrian Dominican Sisters
1257 East Siena Heights Drive
Adrian, Michigan 49221-1793
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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!