The "What Can I Live Without?" Meditation


#1

I just wanted to share a discernment exercise that I read in To Save a Thousand Souls.

Fr. Brett A. Brannen once had a spiritual director, who was a Trappist monk. He suggested a very creative exercise to discern the Lord's will. This exercise is called the "What Can I Live Without?" exercise. Basically, on two consecutive days for one hour, you create a "holy fantasy" of marriage and priesthood. One day and one hour for marriage, and one day and one hour for priesthood. After this exercise, you realize what you can live without. If you can live without either marriage or priesthood, then the other is likely your vocation.

Fr. Brett did as the Trappist monk suggested. He imagined the trials and joys of marriage and realized that there is nothing wrong with marriage. The next day he fantasized about the life of a priest. Once the discernment exercise was completed, he felt that he had gone no where with it; however, he remembered that the Trappist monk told him that he needs to realize which vocation he can live without. This was hard, however, because Fr. Brett felt attracted to both vocations.

Fr. Brett then began to reason that if he got married and had a family, he would never become a priest. He would never celebrate Mass and feed people with the Eucharist, hear Confessions and cleanse people of their sins, and people would never call him "Father." This sent a sword through his soul, and the case was pretty much closed with that.

Which can you live without?


#2

Thanks for this! I unknowingly have been doing this for quite some time on my own. While I am attracted to marriage in part, it would be an incomplete life for me if I did not pursue the religious life and serve God. I just wouldn't feel right about it. Guess God has been guiding me despite my lack of spiritual direction :D


#3

[quote="NewsTheMan, post:2, topic:244973"]
Thanks for this! I unknowingly have been doing this for quite some time on my own. While I am attracted to marriage in part, it would be an incomplete life for me if I did not pursue the religious life and serve God. I just wouldn't feel right about it. Guess God has been guiding me despite my lack of spiritual direction :D

[/quote]

Fr. Brett made a nice way of describing that:

I remember hearing a priest give a vocation talk many years ago. He said, "If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, and upon further investigation, you discover that is has webbed feet, why do you keep asking if it is a duck?" He was making the point that some men have all the signs that they are called to become priests, but they don't want it to be true. They are struggling to surrender their will to God. They have not yet trusted that "in his will is our peace."

I think that that above statement describes me - I'm the "duck" and the vocations director and the whole diocese see that, but sometimes I don't. :D

He also likes to call these signs "idiot-proof" signs. :D


#4

Thanks for sharing this! I actually posed the following under this thread, ‘How tough are the psychological examinations for entering the seminary?’ However, it seems there is no people reply so far, so I thought of posing this question again under this thread which I think might suit my question. Sorry and thank you for those who are reading this.

Shalom brothers and sisters in Christ,

Psychological examinations for entering the seminary? Sound interesting test. I once asked the spiritual director, a Jesuit priest during a retreat to give me some sort of test such as multiple choice kind of questions, but he refused to give me as it would take a long time to finish. Till now, I have this burning curiosity about this test. Does anyone of you here know if there is any Catholic websites that provide this test online such as multiple-choice typed questions? I really want to know whether I am eligible enough to enter the priesthood vocation.

With regards to the retreat, the theme is about finding your deepest desire. It happened that I have conflicting desires. I desire for simplicity and truth but not for money and power. On the other hand, I desire a happy marriages life. So my retreat friend prompted to me that I can either go for priest or marriage life. At this age of 23, I still have not found any right girl to date with. Can that be a sign to enter priesthood? I am confused now. Please help me.

That’s why I hope that anyone here may provide me the Catholic website that have this
kind of test. My goodness, am I discerning now in an indirect way?! How I wish Jesus can stand in front of me and tell me the right path!


#5

I had to basically write that in my 5 page essay as to why I feel called to priesthood I mentioned the Benjamen Franklin close. Where you have a sheet of paper and a line donw the middle one side you write cons and on the other you write pros. I had a lot more pros than cons. The biggest heartbreak is knowing I will never have a family and a conventional lifestyle. I did what that priest did and after a long 5 year process of going to the mall or McDonald's or anywhere in public, seeing children and families and working for a school district driving school buses and working maintenance. I realized that if I were a priest I will never have a son that can wrench on a classic car with me or go hunting or seeing my daughter being married off and all that. I did that for 5 years. I have carefully come to the realisation that i am not called to married life. For a long time I was worried about being called to the single celibate life as laity and that made me very sad. I feel that I have been through the fire and came out much more mature refined and ready to go on to the next stage. I imagine being a priest and saying Mass and I love what I feel. My opinion.


#6

What I think is that while being a parent and watching your baby get baptized is beautiful, I would rather do the "baptizing." :D


#7

[quote="catholicz09, post:6, topic:244973"]
what i think is that while being a parent and watching your baby get baptized is beautiful, i would rather do the "baptizing." :d

[/quote]

exactly!!!!!!!!!!!!


#8

Thanks for sharing this meditation. It sounds like a really good exercise in deciding your vocation (even for women like me:)).
Right now I feel called to religious life but I still know marriage is an option. I know that I want to thoroughly explore religious life just so I’m not always wondering if I really chose what God was calling me to.
About being the one to baptize instead of having a family of your own I had a similar experience. When talking about my vocation once I mentioned off hand that one of the harder things to give up would be having children. I was then told “But you will have children!” It made me realize that even though I may not have biological children I will most certainly have spiritual children.:smiley:


#9

I read his book last year and followed his advice. This is one of the hardest meditations because you almost have to place yourself in two different worlds. When I finished I had made up my mind that for the time being I’m not called to marriage. That’s what pre-discernment is about. Do I want to go on a “date” with the Church or not. Then we reach seminary and are able to discern whether our “dates” are leading us to the decision that we will stay at seminary or leave seminary.

Praise the Lord for giving Fr. Brannen the inspiration to write his book!


#10

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