Advice For Those Discerning


#1

I’m definitely not a major authority on discernment, but I was told something very important about discernment recently that I never heeded, and you very well may not be heeding, either, so please pay attention and honestly examine your mindset for discernment.

I was discerning for two years, and though it’s still possible I could become a Priest (Anything is still possible. I could become an engineer for NASA for all I know), I have collaborated with trusted sources that have all agreed I am likely called to marriage (But again, no promises. Don’t label my vocation until my vocation is truly revealed). I felt very bad when I realized this, as if I had failed God somehow. I felt as if I did something wrong, and that I was failing the Church, God, and everyone else around me. But this is because, all throughout my two years of discernment, I had the wrong mindset for discernment. I thought the end-goal of discernment was getting ordained or entering religious life. If this is what you think, or if this is not necessarily what you think but it is what you have been following in your discernment, stop. You are not properly discerning. But I think what can help us all is if I explain what discerning is.

Discerning means humbly submitting yourself to God’s will and letting Him lead you to where He wants you to be, whether that is the convent, the friary, the seminary, or to the holy sacrament of matrimony. Don’t assume you will end up a religious, don’t assume you won’t be. The matter of the fact is (That us discerners forget quite a bit), we do not know what we are going to be. Only time can tell. This is such an important thing to remember in discernment that I cannot possibly stress it enough. If you say the words “When I am a Sister/Priest” and you’re fourteen and won’t even have the opportunity to enter a convent or seminary for four years minimum, you are not discerning correctly. You are automatically assuming that which has not been revealed except in your own mind. I say this being a person that said that sentence all the time. If Phatmass documented your most used phrases, I would be willing to bet my number one most used phrase would be “When I am a Priest/Friar.” I assumed I would enter religious life or the seminary, and I crossed everything else out. Those were the end goals come hell or high water, and I even remember having ambitions of going even if I didn’t feel called at the time. It became about my ambitions, not about God’s call for me. I am a perfect example of what not to do while discerning. Not because I have discerned God likely wants me to be married – that cannot be further from the truth! Being able to say that means I’m discerning correctly! I discerned incorrectly when it became about me and what I wanted to do, rather than what God wanted. I discerned incorrectly when I said sentences like “When I am a Priest”. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes you can have a pretty good idea that you are called. Part of discerning is getting a pretty good idea of what you are called to do and what you are called not to do, after all. But do not assume, do not speak to people as if you will be entering a convent, and do not discern with the end-goal of being a religious! This is incorrect and only leads to heartache, I assure you. Let me give you an idea of what it looks like when you assume you are going to be a religious or Priest and then the “stuff” hits the fan:

In November I visited the seminary for the first time, ever so hopeful that I would get all sorts of affirmations of my vocation. When I went there, there was nothing not to like: A beautiful campus, an astounding basilica that I could pray at and attend Mass at every single day, wonderful professors, and some of the nicest guys I have ever met. But despite it being so perfect, I didn’t feel like I was meant to be there. I felt like it didn’t matter which seminary it was, I would never be meant to be at it. It ended with me in the basilica praying five feet away from the tabernacle in utter despair and misery at the realization that my two year ambitions of becoming a Priest were my ambitions and not God’s call. I was numb the entire seven hour trip home, and I couldn’t believe it. In fact, six weeks later I would go into denial and get back on track with my ambitions to become a Priest again. I was so bent on becoming a Priest that God literally had to make me feel thoughts of despair and depression every time I thought about being one for me to get it through my thick ambitious head.

You don’t want this to be your experience, I promise you. Be open to God’s call, whatever it may be. Don’t have absolutes, don’t have ambitions. Let your only absolute sentence you ever utter when discerning be this: Not my will, Lord, but yours, be done.


#2

Thank you!


#3

A tip that I got from my Theology professor in college was that you should not fall in love with the idea of being a nun, in my case, or a wife/mother but rather fall in love with this order of nuns or this man. That really struck me. I have so many girlfriends who desperately want to find Mr. Right that they turn every guy they meet into this check-list. But if they realized that they should just wait to fall in love, wait for their best friend to love them, wait pray and be happy then they would be a lot happier. Also, it is my impression that men don't like to be hunted, I don't think anyone likes to be hunted. :)
Anyways, just my experience, maybe some guy will correct me.

I have sort of discerned that I am probably going to be married, but as the first poster said, you can't be sure until it happens. I came to this when I realized that every time I went to visit an order of nuns all I thought about was how I would slightly restructure the life of the nuns, how I would want to be the mother superior so that I could make it better. Also, in my freshman year of college, and time and again after that, I realized that my faith grows best through intense debates where I can play devil's advocate and really dig into the issue. I have trouble seeing a bunch of nuns heatedly arguing the Incarnation or Trinity. :D

Anyways,
Fall in love with the Particular and not the Universal.


#4

[quote="Margarite, post:3, topic:314227"]
A tip that I got from my Theology professor in college was that you should not fall in love with the idea of being a nun, in my case, or a wife/mother but rather fall in love with this order of nuns or this man. That really struck me. I have so many girlfriends who desperately want to find Mr. Right that they turn every guy they meet into this check-list. But if they realized that they should just wait to fall in love, wait for their best friend to love them, wait pray and be happy then they would be a lot happier. Also, it is my impression that men don't like to be hunted, I don't think anyone likes to be hunted. :)
Anyways, just my experience, maybe some guy will correct me.

I have sort of discerned that I am probably going to be married, but as the first poster said, you can't be sure until it happens. I came to this when I realized that every time I went to visit an order of nuns all I thought about was how I would slightly restructure the life of the nuns, how I would want to be the mother superior so that I could make it better. Also, in my freshman year of college, and time and again after that, I realized that my faith grows best through intense debates where I can play devil's advocate and really dig into the issue. I have trouble seeing a bunch of nuns heatedly arguing the Incarnation or Trinity. :D

Anyways,
Fall in love with the Particular and not the Universal.

[/quote]

Margarite,

You are definitely on the right track in your first paragraph but I hope you don't mind me pointing something out in your personal reflection at the end.

The first thing is that if you are looking at a community and thinking you can make it better, you really need to discern whether that is ONLY in reference to religious life or if it is more of a personality trait that you might apply to the man you fall in love with too. If you have a tendency to do that in other areas of your life then I would say that this really doesn't have anything to do with discerning a vocation and more to do with personality and the growth in holiness that all of us are called to.

The second thing is that people often have this image of sisters that is promoted by our religious culture as well, that makes us out to be almost inhuman visions of love, gentleness, kindness... Well, hopefully we are those things but we are also passionate, intelligent, and sometimes opinionated people as well. I have had many discussions with sisters whom I respect and love but disagree with and they with me. The outside doesn't get to see those discussions as readily but they do happen and quite frequently. Discerning the will of God together in community always provides room for discussion and debate.

Thanks for what you wrote about falling in love with the particular and not the universal. God bless you!

SM


#5

[quote="SrMarie, post:4, topic:314227"]
Margarite,

You are definitely on the right track in your first paragraph but I hope you don't mind me pointing something out in your personal reflection at the end.

The first thing is that if you are looking at a community and thinking you can make it better, you really need to discern whether that is ONLY in reference to religious life or if it is more of a personality trait that you might apply to the man you fall in love with too. If you have a tendency to do that in other areas of your life then I would say that this really doesn't have anything to do with discerning a vocation and more to do with personality and the growth in holiness that all of us are called to.

The second thing is that people often have this image of sisters that is promoted by our religious culture as well, that makes us out to be almost inhuman visions of love, gentleness, kindness... Well, hopefully we are those things but we are also passionate, intelligent, and sometimes opinionated people as well. I have had many discussions with sisters whom I respect and love but disagree with and they with me. The outside doesn't get to see those discussions as readily but they do happen and quite frequently. Discerning the will of God together in community always provides room for discussion and debate.

Thanks for what you wrote about falling in love with the particular and not the universal. God bless you!

SM

[/quote]

I don't know about Sisters debating with each other, but some religious have definitely had no problem with arguing with me on stuff, so I don't know why they would treat each other any differently. ;)


#6

TK, this post just warms my heart!!! :)

You have matured a great deal in the past couple of years,
and are on your way to becoming a fine man, no matter where God calls you.

Peace be with you as you continue on your journey!! :D


#7

[quote="ATeutonicKnight, post:1, topic:314227"]
I thought the end-goal of discernment was getting ordained or entering religious life. If this is what you think, or if this is not necessarily what you think but it is what you have been following in your discernment, stop. You are not properly discerning. But I think what can help us all is if I explain what discerning is.

Discerning means humbly submitting yourself to God's will and letting Him lead you to where He wants you to be, whether that is the convent, the friary, the seminary, or to the holy sacrament of matrimony.

[/quote]

:clapping:

Yes -- exactly!

(Of course, if you had entered seminary, I'm certain that they would have been very clear with you that this is exactly what discernment is. In other words, you would have reached this point eventually -- the only distinction is whether you would have reached it by yourself, or by your formation advisor or spiritual director helping you get to this realization about what discernment is... ;))


#8

[quote="Oneofthewomen, post:6, topic:314227"]
TK, this post just warms my heart!!! :)

You have matured a great deal in the past couple of years,
and are on your way to becoming a fine man, no matter where God calls you.

Peace be with you as you continue on your journey!! :D

[/quote]

It's so good to speak with you again!

Yes, God has done so many wonderful things for me in the past year. I went on the Catholic website Phatmass, and the people there really are Saints. They whipped me into shape, and I've grown and am still growing as a person because of them. But you really helped as well. I can still remember a lot of the things you told me about slowing down and not being such a teenager. I feel bad for talking about it because I don't like to seem as if I am bragging, but my moment of realization at just how much I had changed was when I was speaking to a Friar and he told me I was amazingly mature for my age. Needless to say I was in a haze for a few minutes. :D


#9

TKnight, I thought about you this very morning, wondering how you were, how things were going, etc.

So I looked for you on the boards and came across this! WOW! I couldnt help but smile, and you seem so far more at ease with yourself and life in this post. Your other posts of the pasts seemed so full of intensity-tightly-wrapped, that you didnt seem at peace.

But this post, I can sense the peace of your soul, the comfort, the being ok-in-your-skin-where-you-are-at.

Like another posted said, a maturity and self-knowledge that your posts of the past seemed to not quite have.

God Bless you. No matter where the Lord leads you. !!!


#10

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