By Sister Judith Benkert, OP
After a winter of snow, ice, and freezing weather the new blossoms of spring seem so far away. We hear of a new wave of cold arctic air to hit the Northeast. And yet the first blossoms are bravely opening with the urging of the warm sun.
Discernment was for me a chilling winter. Where was the answer to my seeking? Where was the God I so believed in? Give me an answer, and soon! Then one morning I was out the back door and peeking through the winter soil was the small point of a peony plant. I lived in the Midwest. I was able to see the warmth of the sun bring the decision to light. I haven’t looked back. Spring blossoms are always reminders for me to believe in the warmth of God’s grace.
Do you have the patience to wait until the mud settles and the right answer arises by itself? This line is based on the writings of ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. Ironically this line from a pre-Christianity philosopher helped me in my Christian vocation. Many years ago, when I was still in temporary profession, I was going though a difficult time and the path was not clear for me. When we are uncomfortable, sometimes we can make poor decisions to get rid of the discomfort, or just to have a sense of doing something. Waiting is tough. But I printed out that line and posted it on the edge of my computer screen, and waited. I knew I was in muddy water and I needed to wait until the right path was clear.
It took a long time but that line reminded me that God’s call was to stay faithful to the path I had begun. Over time the mud settled and the path became very clear. I was able to walk forward to my final vows right out of the mud. We don’t always get clarity at the moment we would like. Sometimes it takes quite a while for us to discern clearly God’s call for our lives. Waiting with feet in the mud can also be an act of faith and trust in God.
May you enjoy the feel of the mud on your toes this summer day.
Sometimes we think we’ve figured out a future direction, that we’ve discerned something, but than the other people involved don’t come to the same conclusion. It’s rather unsettling and can be very confusing. You can decide that you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, but if they decide they don’t want to be with you, you obviously can’t force a relationship! This is true for a friendship, a job, and even a religious congregation. Discernment is a two way process – we do all we can to be faithful to God’s desire for our life, and then we hold it lightly. We need to leave God, the other person, and even ourselves free.
We are coming up to a General Chapter, a meeting held every six years in which we make decisions about our future direction and elect new leaders. We have been actively engaged in discerning for almost two years. No doubt many of us sisters will arrive with a strong sense of where we need to go in the future. And no doubt these ideas will not all be the same. We now will be called to discern together, to hold lightly the ideas that we bring and to hear the voice of God in the other.
Discernment is always bigger than “me and God.” What are the other voices you need to attend to in your own discernment?
Guest blogger Sister Mary Soher, OP, is currently the Co-Director of National Catholic Sisters Week. She is based at St. Catherine’s University in St. Paul, MN, and travels extensively to raise awareness about Catholic Sisters.
Just before the start of the Year of Mercy, I heard a gospel story that I do not remember having heard before. It’s the story of two blind men in Matthew’s gospel who asked the “Son of David” to have pity on them. When asked if they believed that Jesus could do that, they answered, “Yes Lord,” and Jesus said “let it be done for you according to you faith.”
It is a beautiful story, for them, but it made me wonder if I have enough faith. I let the thought roll around my mind and heart for awhile, and then a familiar gospel passage came to mind, that of the mustard seed.
Jesus tells his disciples, both then and now, that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we could tell a mountain to move and it would. I only need to have enough faith to let Jesus into my life, a seed-size amount, and then the wonders begin.
My discernment of religious life was sort of like that. I had an interest, a wondering about religious life, but I also thought I knew what it was and that it wasn’t for me. However, the thought, small as it was, would not go away – I needed to find out what was religious life really was about before I could decide if it would be life-giving for me.
I let the thought or call settle into my inner self and began the journey of learning more. Step by step, sister by sister, conversation after conversation, I began to see that there was indeed a direction for me to become my best self and develop a deeper and ongoing relationship with an incredibly merciful and loving God.
If there is the slightest bit of interest, of wondering, of longing, do not be afraid. Start a conversation, ask your questions, think about the responses you get and the feelings you feel. Have faith that whatever you need, God has already given to you all that you need and will continue to do so.
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
1257 East Siena Heights Drive
Adrian, Michigan 49221-1793
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