Thursday, January 10, 2008


Discernment is a process of clarifying that which is unclear or revealing that which is hidden. It typically requires great attention to detail.

For example, when a friend passes you a note and their penmanship is awful, you have to discern what it was that he wrote.

Question: Why, if God has a call for us, is it unclear or "hidden"? Why not just drop us a letter in the mail that reads,

"Dear Child, made in my own image, I call you to be a _________. Please amend your life accordingly.
Your (Almighty) Creator, God."

Answer: It is NOT that God wants you to suffer in confusion or darkness. Rather, God respects one of the characteristics with which he endowed each of us - Free Will. God wills that we desire to first of all discover our vocation, and then that we pursue it.

Helpful Tools in the Discernment Process:
Prayer - which is, of course, a conversation with God. In discerning God's will it is particularly important that we emphasize our listening role within that conversation. Reading scripture, attending Church, and participating in various devotions with an open heart and mind are good ways to "listen" to God.

God does not speak to us using a loud, booming voice. Instead it is a quiet, subtle voice, which requires us to make an effort to hear it. Consider this: In your car you probably have a radio with a number of pre-set station buttons. When you turn on the radio you do not hear all of these stations at the same time. You have to be "tuned in" to the right station (and therefore tune out the others).

Likewise, listening to God requires that we "tune out" many of the other voices in our lives in order to hear the voice of God. Consider some of the "pre-sets" that are always on your "life radio": 1. Television 2. Music 3. Friends 4. Parents & Siblings

All of these are telling us, directly or indirectly, what to think, what to do, even what to wear. Discernment is about tuning out many of those other voices and tuning in God's - maybe even putting him as your number 1 preset.

Other Tools:
2. Experts - if you want to know more about a given vocation, it only makes sense that you would talk to someone who is currently living that vocation. You can gain invaluable insight from those who have been down the road upon which we are about to embark.

3. Reading - we may not have many living experts within the circle of people we know. However, the biographies and journals of these people are only as far away as the library or a bookstore. (Many such resources are even available on the internet.)

4. Outward Focus - President John F. Kennedy encouraged citizens with the oft-quoted phrase, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." This is the essence of an outward focus. Look at your community, or even the world at large, and ask yourself, "what does the world need from me?" This can open our eyes to things we never imagined as vocations.

5. Self-Knowledge - Discerning a vocation is pointless if we do not know who it is (ourselves) that God is calling. This means knowing our strengths, weaknesses, passions,

Vocation Defined

A Vocation is a calling from God for you to attain a particular state in life.

It is derived from the Latin word vocare meaning "to call".

Vocation is not limited to callings to the priesthood or other church-related roles. Likewise, Vocation can include (but is certainly not limited to) one's career.

The Vocations we will be examining this semester are:
  • Priesthood
  • Religious Life
  • Marriage
  • Permanent Diaconate (Deacons)
  • Committed Single Life

Finally, every vocation develops through stages, and all share five of these in common:

  1. Discernment
  2. Challenges / Sacrifice
  3. Formation
  4. Commitment
  5. Fulfillment

We will discuss each stage in detail, beginning next time with Discernment. Until then,

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

Mr. B

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Know Thyself

Socrates said that "the unexamined life is not worth living." As Catholics we believe that ALL life is sacred. Nonetheless, we would do well to examine our own lives so that we may better appreciate God's great gift of life.

We began by examining a few simple positives in our lives: The things we enjoy, the things we are good at doing, the way we contribute to our comminities, and the reasons people like us. It is important to know our strengths, and to occasionally lift our spirits by reflecting on our accomplishments.

However, we must not neglect the parts of our life that we view as flaws or shortcomings. These are part of our identity as well. I have asked you to write a reflection paper on this "Dark Side"

The purpose is not to give you reason to be down on yourself, but rather the opportunity to ask, "How did I get this characteristic? Why do I have it?" If we desire to eliminate a given flaw or shortcoming, then this is the first step. And it may be in the end, that the "flaw" is actually a gift or a blessing, or something that is not so bad after all. The point is that we never know until we look.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
Mr. B.