As Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity look forward to visiting Badger Catholics, Point Catholics and St. Albert the Great University Parish, Houghton, Michigan, in the next weeks, we feel called to share helpful discernment resources and opportunities. First, Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF – a Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Spiritual and Retreat Director – was interviewed by Sister Cecilia Joy Kugel, OSF on a recent Sisters Facebook Live.
According to Sr. Anne Marie “Discernment is not for the faint hearted! Discernment is choosing between two good courses of action with the assistance of the Holy Spirit and other individuals. We invite you to watch the video.
Next, find Sister Anne Marie’s complete discernment article here.
Through Him, with Him and in Him…
by Sister Anne Marie Lom OSF
Discernment is not for the faint hearted! It is a period of realizing both the dark and light sides of oneself and surrendering the process of choice to an outcome made clear through inspiration, consultation and prayer. Discernment is not a choice between good and evil. That choice is more obvious. Discernment is choosing between two good courses of action with the assistance of the Holy Spirit and other individuals. We often hear the word “discernment, connected with vocation such as, “I’m discerning whether God is calling me to the single, married or religious life.” Let’s look at discerning the call to religious life, though this method could apply to all discernment.
An outline for discernment could be capsulized in the doxology of our Catholic Mass, “through Him, with Him and in Him.”
Discernment begins with an inspiration, a nudge, a thought, a feeling about God calling one to consider religious life. The call is initiated by God perhaps directly, as at Mass or Adoration or, perhaps, through a person, a retreat, a friend, a family member, a song/hymn, an ad or an article. God is the author of all good so God would not initiate anything that is not for the good of the person. Usually God works through one of the above situations. The choice to follow this prompting is always made freely.
When someone tells me they are discerning, my first question is always, “With whom”. Discernment is a communal process, not an isolated one. One discerns with a spiritual director, with the input of family, friends, teachers, mentors, clergy etc. Discernment can be challenging because one is asked to put aside personal preferences, comfort, preconceived notions, prejudices, and self-will. A person in discernment may be encouraged to read, study, pray, interview, and become knowledgeable regarding alternatives. One may be asked to “test” the choice by seeing if health, spiritual development, openness and docility are present. Seasoned religious help in the discernment process by observing and giving honest feedback as to the ability of the person to live the call on a day-to-day basis. Prayer is incorporated into the process along with others and with Jesus as the center.
Prayer, a healthy Sacramental life, a love for the Church and a balanced social life are all essential. In Jesus, in the Church, in the Congregation, one discovers the reality of a call. The call is lived out communally and is integrated into the call of others. Discernment has to have an “end”; one cannot perpetually discern or even sustain discernment for long periods of time. With confidence that the Holy Spirit has been present throughout the discernment process, the discerner makes a choice and leaves the discernment process behind to enter into the concrete reality of the call. Other occasions of discernment will arise: ministry, communal decisions, amount of service etc. and then the method of discernment comes into play again. If the vocational discernment is done well, other discernments flow more easily.
Sadly, the fear of the unknown can cripple a person. It can feel safer to “keep one’s options open,” because then one can always back out. However, this ambiguity presents a false sense of security because the person remains unsettled. It may be true that saying “yes” to one option means saying “no” to another option, but one can never predict the incredible opportunities that will arise as a result of that decision. God will never be outdone in generosity!
The reader can rest assured that the Holy Spirit will guide the process in His faithful, gentle way. Pray for openness. Pray for clarity. Perhaps God’s message will be “Now is not the right time for you.” Thank Him for this, because His timing is impeccable! Conversely, God may be calling the reader to enter a religious community within the next year. There is no need to fear this calling because God is faithful. In addition, a person still has several years to prayerfully discern after entering a community.
If the reader is feeling like God may be calling him/her to the religious life, there are ample resources on the internet. The reader may uncover more insights on prayer and discernment through http://franciscanretreat.blogspot.com/, and find out more about what it’s like to be in a formation program through reading here.
Through him, with Him and in Him may the reader be guided through the discernment process with the blessing of the Holy Spirit and the grace of good companions!
Last, we do invite you to visit us near the shores of Lake Michigan at your convenience or click here for planned discernment dates. We also happily meet young women throughout the United States at our convents near you or a coffee house of your choice.