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A line from Scripture jumped out at me today: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Once in a while, people come to explore a vocation with an unhealthy spirit of sacrifice. They may think, “I’ve sinned so much; I have to make it up by giving my life to God” or “I made a promise to God that if he got me out of a situation I would become a nun.” The thing is, there is no joy or freedom in this approach. God always invites, and does not demand. Of course any life commitment involves sacrifice, but it’s not supposed to be a resentful, begrudging sacrifice. It’s a willing sacrifice that is also graced by mercy, by compassion, and by love.
That’s an important piece for discernment. Are you free? Could the decision go either way and you could still trust that God is walking with you and guiding your life? If you say, “I just have to be accepted by this congregation” or “I’ll just die if he doesn’t marry me” you aren’t free. God wants our love, not our sense of obligation. In whatever you are discerning in your life, where do you find yourself most drawn to make a healthy sacrifice in a spirit of love?
If you are exploring religious life, you have probably come across the term discernment. Discernment is really deciding between two or more goods. If you are making a choice between one thing that is clearly good and one thing that is clearly wrong, choose the good. No discernment required.
But life often presents us with many options that are good. There are the big life decisions: Do I choose marriage, religious life, or a committed single life? There are the ministry discernments – what job should I do that best uses the talents God gave me and best serves the world?
But even when we have these aspects of our life figured out, discernment comes up daily. Of the many things I have to do, which is a priority? Should I bring up a difficult issue with someone or let it go? Should I get out of bed and exercise or sleep thirty more minutes? Of course, the more serious and major the discernment the more time we put into it. But becoming a discerning person will help you every day of your life. You will learn to assess with God what is the most life-giving path for you, in the big and small pieces of your life.
If you are making a big decision, a great book is The Way of Discernment by Elizabeth Liebert. It gives you a whole variety of prayer exercises to use to help you come to clarity.
Remember God promise to Jeremiah is God’s promise to you: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”
It’s been a while since I have been on here, but things have been very full here in Adrian. We celebrated our Feast Day on Aug. 8 with two new women joining us in very intentional ways – Katherine as an official candidate and Marilín as a woman beginning the process of re-entering the congregation. You can read about their ceremony in this news article.
You can imagine that these women don’t make the commitment lightly! They’ve put a lot of time and discernment into coming to this moment. Shortly before their ceremony, I sat with them and reflected on the scriptures for the Feast of St. Dominic. They said:
• Stay focused on your call to mission, your call to mission together
• Discipleship means being the good news.
• Sometimes people won’t want to hear the good news of God’s reign of justice and peace, but you need to keep preaching it
Marilín and Katherine deepened their discipleship by choosing to walk in this particular path of Dominic. Religious life is not necessarily “in season” today – it is certainly not a common choice. But it is a good choice and a good path to live the call to discipleship.
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!
As I sit in the Formation office, beginning my new ministry as Director of Formation and Vocations, many memories come flooding back of my early years in religious life. I came to the Dominican Sisters of Adrian 18 years ago. I remember my own questions, searching and struggles very vividly; I hope those memories help me walk with you as you discern where God may be calling you.
Let me share a little bit about myself and my own discernment journey, a very condensed version. I am originally from Canada and had actually never considered becoming a Sister until I was 31! I did, however, want to serve God once I returned to my faith. I became a teacher in the Catholic School system, and found that one of my favorite teaching areas was religion. I was very moved by the kids’ genuine faith. I felt a pull to overseas mission and became a lay missionary, serving in Bolivia for two years, and then serving in Canada coordinating the program for the other lay missionaries.
During that time, for about two years, I sensed that God was trying to tell me something but I just couldn’t hear it. My spiritual director suggested a prayer exercise and, much to my amazement, it led me to realize I needed to consider religious life. I had a lot of resistance and joke that I came kicking and screaming, but little by little God showed me that this was a path that fit me, a path where I could be the woman God made me to be, and a path which enabled me to love best.
These years in religious life have been an adventure in life and spirit! I served as a campus minister in Adrian, Michigan; did graduate studies in theology in Chicago; and served in parish Hispanic ministry in Anchorage, Alaska and Detroit, Michigan. I have lived with many different Sisters over these years. And here I am back in Adrian, looking forward to walking with women who are searching!
Please know you are welcome to get in touch with me or come for a visit to get to know us.
Before closing, I would like to share a book recommendation. I just finished Prayer: Our Deepest Longing by Ronald Rolheiser. It’s only 65 pages, but reading it is like a prayer. It might be a good book for you to use, taking a little bit each day as your spiritual reading. He says, “The ideal disciple is the one who is attuned to Christ’s heartbeat and sees the world with that sound in his or her ear.”
May you hear the heartbeat of Christ these summer months.
Sister Lorraine Reaume, OP
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Sister Tarianne DeYonker, OP
Sister Katherine Frazier, OP
Sister Maribeth Howell, OP
Sister Mary Jones, OP
Adrian Dominican Sisters
1257 East Siena Heights Drive
Adrian, Michigan 49221-1793
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 video series called DISCO (Discernment Conversations): Dancing with the questions of life!