Tips for following the Synod for Young People

We are just beginning Week 2 of the Synod. (It runs from Oct. 3-28.) The more I follow it, the more I have been enjoying the way the Synod is “modeling” community discernment for the Church.

The Synod offers insights that are helpful for anyone discerning how God might be calling them to serve, as the it highlights the needs of humanity across the globe.  Here are my current favorite sources for following the Synod. (If you are already following the Synod, please share below in the comments how you are following it, and what has impressed you!)

Archbishop Fisher’s Daily Blog of the Synod    This is the first place I check every day. Archbishop Fisher’s blog is accessible and offers real insight into what is happening there on a daily basis.

Synod 2018 on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram   The Synod’s official social media.

The Synod’s Official website (with the Instrumentum Laboris or Working Document)  If you wonder what IL is, or what “document” everyone is talking about, you can find it here. It’s a bit long for an easy read, but if you download the document and search for discernment (or any other topic you’re interested in), you will see what the small groups are referring to.

Salt + Light TV’s Frequent Synod Updates (including blogposts, 5 minute video updates, and longer TV shows). The link goes to the blog for yesterday, Oct. 9.

Catholic News Service offers fairly comprehensive coverage that offers more detail.

If you are a young person discerning your vocation, I would love to hear from you. Have you been following the Synod? Why or why not?  And if yes, have you gained any insights?

You can comment below, on my Facebook page, or email me.

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Discerning Together: Opportunities & Obstacles

Photo by Duy Pham on Unsplash

On the first day, Pope Francis expressed his hope that the Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment will itself be a real exercise in discernment: above all, in the Church’s attentive listening to young people.

Truly discerning together is an amazing work of the Holy Spirit present in a community.  I have experienced communitarian discernment both at international meetings and in my community, but it takes a lot of work, and even when people of good will gather together, true community discernment doesn’t always happen.

Here is how Pope Francis describes discerning together, and some of the obstacles to avoid in this Synod:

The Synod is an ecclesial exercise in discernment. To speak frankly and listen openly are fundamental if the Synod is to be a process of discernment. Discernment is not an advertising slogan, it is not an organizational technique, or a fad of this pontificate, but an interior attitude rooted in an act of faith. Discernment is the method and at the same time the goal we set ourselves: it is based on the conviction that God is at work in world history, in life’s events, in the people I meet and who speak to me. For this reason, we are called to listen to what the Spirit suggests to us, with methods and in paths that are often unpredictable. Discernment needs space and time. And so, during the work done in plenary assembly and in groups, after five interventions are made, a moment of silence of approximately three minutes will be observed. This is to allow everyone to recognize within their hearts the nuances of what they have heard, and to allow everyone to reflect deeply and seize upon what is most striking. This attention to interiority is the key to accomplishing the work of recognizing, interpreting and choosing.

We are a sign of a Church that listens and journeys. The attitude of listening cannot be limited to the words we will exchange during the work of the Synod. The path of preparation for this moment has highlighted a Church that needs to listen, including those young people who often do not feel understood by the Church in their originality and therefore not accepted for who they really are, and sometimes even rejected. This Synod has the opportunity, the task and the duty to be a sign of a Church that really listens, that allows herself to be questioned by the experiences of those she meets, and who does not always have a ready-made answer. A Church that does not listen shows herself closed to newness, closed to God’s surprises, and cannot be credible, especially for the young who will inevitably turn away rather than approach.

Let us leave behind prejudice and stereotypes. A first step towards listening is to free our minds and our hearts from prejudice and stereotypes. When we think we already know who others are and what they want, we really struggle to listen to them seriously. Relations across generations are a terrain in which prejudice and stereotypes take root with proverbial ease, so much so that we are often oblivious to it. Young people are tempted to consider adults outdated; adults are tempted to regard young people as inexperienced, to know how they are and especially how they should be and behave. All of this can be an overwhelming obstacle to dialogue and to the encounter between generations. Most of those present do not belong to a younger generation, so it is clear that we must pay attention, above all, to the risk of talking about young people in categories and ways of thinking that are already outmoded. If we can avoid this risk, then we will help to bridge generations. Adults should overcome the temptation to underestimate the abilities of young people and not judge them negatively. I once read that the first mention of this fact dates back to 3000 BC and was discovered on a clay pot in ancient Babylon, where it is written that young people are immoral and incapable of saving their people’s culture. This is an old tradition of us old ones! Young people, on the other hand, should overcome the temptation to ignore adults and to consider the elderly “archaic, outdated and boring”, forgetting that it is foolish always to start from scratch as if life began only with each of them. Despite their physical frailty, the elderly are always the memory of mankind, the roots of our society, the “pulse” of our civilization. To spurn them, reject them, isolate or snub them is to yield to a worldly mentality that is devouring our homes from within. To neglect the rich experiences that each generation inherits and transmits to the next is an act of self-destruction.

– from the Opening of the XV Ordinary Synod, Pope Francis

You can read the entire text of the opening remarks of Pope Francis here.

Discernment Wisdom from the Saints

In today’s Office of Readings, we are offered some discernment wisdom from a saint. We follow the discernment of a young woman—already a cloistered Carmelite—who seeks to discover the core of her vocation/mission in the Church. She turns to Sacred Scripture—specifically, the Letters of Saint Paul and finds her answer in the Letter to the Romans.

Blessed James Alberione was a man on fire for the Gospel, who, like Saint Paul was  constantly discerning where the Holy Spirit was leading him next. He founded the nine religious institutes and one lay association that make up the Pauline Family, and he had a genius for seeing how others could collaborate in spreading the Gospel. Today,  the Pauline Family worldwide has thousands of members. I find that his words are always timely:

For many good reasons (and some not so great reasons–like trying to juggle too many things!) I haven’t gotten back to blogging regularly here. Even though I’m traveling quite a bit this month, as I follow the Youth Synod, I will highlight the insights on discernment that might be helpful. (And you may want to follow the discussions of the Synod closely as well.)

 

 

Invitation To Explore Discernment…Together!

This month of August, 2018, I’ll be leading the spiritual accompaniment on My Sisters, an online community devoted to helping people meet Christ and experience his love in their daily life. Created by my community, the religious sisters of the Daughters of Saint Paul, My Sisters is a portable and accessible “sacred space” for asking the big questions, exploring the faith, and nurturing our identity as God’s beloved one, no matter where we are in our walk with the Lord.

The spiritual accompaniment every week includes:  a printable (downloadable) reflection guide, two live Facebook sessions—one session on Monday night at 7 PM EST and the second is a Thursday night Q & A/check-in for the week (also at 7 PM EST), occasional posts and polls in the group, and the opportunity to comment and share with other members of the group.

The reason I am letting you know about it is that, in great part, my sessions will be loosely based on the first part of this CoAuthor Your Life with God blog-which-is-becoming-a-book. If you have enjoyed the blog, would like to ask further questions, would like the book to include particular content, or simply want to explore discernment with a group of dedicated Catholics, you might want to join in for the month of August!

Belonging to My Sisters is a paid membership, but the first (trial) month is only $1, and after that the cost is $8.95/month. (This is our special low introductory offer, as the My Sisters community gets off the ground.)

I would love to have you join us! To find out more or to join, simply visit: https://MySisters.blog  You can also visit the public page on Facebook to see the reviews.

Best new discernment resource — from Pope Francis

As I mentioned in my last post, for various reasons I put aside much of the writing I was doing, but now I have the opportunity to pick it back up. I look forward to getting back to blogging here  about discernment regularly–not weekly, but probably  once or twice a month.

I will begin by highlighting some excellent new resources on discernment, and the first that I want to encourage you to look at more closely comes from Pope Francis himself!  If you haven’t read On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World yet, you are in for a treat. Not only does Pope Francis mention discernment frequently throughout the document (22 times), he concludes the document with a section on discernment (see Chapter 5, specifically, #s166-175).

The first mention of discernment is found on page 3 of the Vatican PDF of the document. Pope Francis is speaking of the “universal call to holiness,” which is specific and particular in the life of every person:

…With this Exhortation I would like to insist primarily on the call to holiness that the Lord addresses to each of us, the call that he also addresses, personally, to you: “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:44; cf. 1 Pet 1:16). The Second Vatican Council stated this clearly: “Strengthened by so many and such great means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord – each in his or her own way – to that perfect holiness by which the Father himself is perfect”.[10]

11. “Each in his or her own way” the Council says. We should not grow discouraged before examples of holiness that appear unattainable. There are some testimonies that may prove helpful and inspiring, but that we are not meant to copy, for that could even lead us astray from the one specific path that the Lord has in mind for us. The important thing is that each believer discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts (cf. 1 Cor 12:7), rather than hopelessly trying to imitate something not meant for them. We are all called to be witnesses, but there are many actual ways of bearing witness.[11] Indeed, when the great mystic, Saint John of the Cross, wrote his Spiritual Canticle, he preferred to avoid hard and fast rules for all. He explained that his verses were composed so that everyone could benefit from them “in his or her own way”.[12] For God’s life is communicated “to some in one way and to others in another”.[13] – from On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World

In Pope Francis’ eyes, discernment is very, very important because every person has a unique, personal relationship with God, and a unique, personal path to travel on this earth with their brothers and sisters towards God. The call to holiness has elements that are common to everyone, but it doesn’t look the same for everyone. On the contrary, to be holy, each of us must be attentively faithful to the unique core of who we are! And thus the importance of discernment, and why it is mentioned so often in this document.

For the next couple of posts, I’ll highlight and reflect on how Pope Francis speaks about discernment in this document. You can purchase a printed copy of On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World from our sisters here, or download it from the Vatican’s website here.

Feedback requested for the discernment blog relaunch!


Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

It has been a long time since I have blogged here regularly; I put aside a lot of my writing for the past couple of years.  As of mid-summer, I am gradually moving back into blogging here regularly. It might take a bit of effort for me to fit blogging consistently back into my schedule. Right now, it feels a bit  like coming out of a tunnel, as writing helps me to see and connect with myself and with the world in a unique way.

The blog itself might change direction a bit, but a lot of that depends on you. One of my biggest hopes for this blog is to be more interactive as a community—whether we can do that here, or perhaps on another social media platform. If you find this blog helpful and you would like to ask questions and share insights with me and with others who try to make discernment a way of life, please let me know! You can always contact me here with your questions or comments.  But this week, I’d be delighted if you would vote on what social media platform(s) you would like to use for an online discernment mini-retreat, a guided lectio divina, or a simple conversation about discernment.

 

Our blog re-launch will begin with prayer. Tomorrow evening, I begin my annual eight-day retreat, and I would be honored to pray for you and with you. If you would like to share your prayer intentions so that I can pray together with you by name and specifically with your intentions, leave a comment below, contact me here, or simply email me at SrMariePaulCurley @ gmail.com (just take out the spaces around the @ sign when you email me).

Know that whether or not you send in your intentions, if you are reading this, I will be praying for you during my retreat in a very special way. I am looking forward to seeing you here!

Why Don’t They Recognize Jesus?

Blessed Easter!

If you have ever gone to Mass during the Octave of Easter and listened to the various accounts of Jesus’ appearances after he rose from the dead, it’s striking: nobody recognizes Jesus!

I have heard all kinds of reasons given in sermons and books: No one expected him to rise from the dead (except his Mother, and we have no account of Jesus’ appearance to Mary, who would have recognized her Son no matter what!); the appearance of Jesus’ risen body was so different that they couldn’t tell it was him; they were so blinded by their grief and tears; they didn’t believe he could or would rise from the dead; they didn’t really look at Jesus when they were speaking to him, etc. Maybe it was some combination of all of these.

But really, it’s quite a mystery. Emotions must have been running high—at first over Jesus’ death, and then over the accounts of his Resurrection! But that still doesn’t explain why so many of the disciples didn’t recognize Jesus. Yet, these are wonderful Scripture passages to reflect on in the light of our current discernment. How many times we do not recognize the Provident hand of God guiding us until afterwards…maybe years later? Why do we struggle so hard to see God’s presence in our lives, to hear his invitations, to recognize his will for us?

I think the real question is, What interior blindness prevents us from recognizing the Lord in our current situation?

For me, I often find that it is my expectation of a situation or a person that prevents me from seeing how the Lord could be present when the situation turns out to be so utterly different than what I thought it would. To have expectations is not wrong; that is simply to be human. But to cling to my own expectations and not be able to let go of them—that blinds me to staying in the present moment and thus, to the Lord’s invitation to me.

Some of the obstacles to discerning the Lord’s presence that we see in this week’s Resurrection accounts are:

  • weeping, grief, loss
  • fear
  • the traumatic effects of witnessing their beloved Master’s torture and death
  • not looking
  • hopelessness/discouragement
  • doubt
  • disbelief
  • expectations of something different
  • lack of trust in others’ witness accounts
  • not listening earlier to Jesus’ words about rising from the dead
  • guilt (over denying Jesus)
  • distance
  • hardness of heart

To Bring To Prayer

Pray with one of this week’s Gospel readings in light of a person/situation/event in your life where you cannot discern the presence or will of the Lord. How does the Gospel passage you chose “speak” to why you cannot recognize the Lord?

MK 16:1-7 The angel tells the women “He is not here”

MT 28:8-15 Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene and “the other” Mary

JN 20:11-18 Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene

LK 24:13-35 Jesus appears to the disciples on the way to Emmaus

LK 24:35-48 Jesus appears to the disciples in the Upper Room

JN 21:1-14 Jesus appears to the disciples fishing

MK 16:9-15 Summary of the accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection

A Movie and a Very Special Novena for Holy Week 2018!

Years ago, I dreamed about someone making a powerful film about Saint Paul, my favorite saint. Years later, I dreamed about writing a feature film script about my patron saint. So I was prepared for disappointment when I had the opportunity to screen an early version of the movie releasing in theaters this weekend: Paul Apostle of Christ. One of the film’s producers was a bit hesitant when I told him this before the screening. (After all, if you were making a film about someone, wouldn’t you want his daughters to approve?)

I have to say the movie was not what I expected. And not what I would have written. 

But I wasn’t disappointed, not a bit!  

One reason I’m posting about it here is not just because I love Saint Paul (you can see my other reasons for you going to see the film here), but because:

  • Saint Paul writes about the Holy Spirit and discernment in his letters often
  • In the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke writes about St. Paul being attentive to the guidance of the Spirit, especially during his missionary journeys
  • In Saint Paul’s first genuine encounter with Christ, he becomes so receptive to Christ that he immediately asks, “What shall I do, Lord?” He receives his mission at the same moment that he discovers who Jesus Christ really is.
  • Saint Paul could be called “the Apostle of Love,” for the many beautiful passages he wrote about God’s love for us, and God’s love within us. (See his famous passages in Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 13.) Love lies at the heart of any discernment
  • and… I have many more reasons, but I’ll stop here!

We sisters like the film so much that we have been hosting pre-screenings at theaters around the country. Then, a good friend suggested that we ask Sony for film clips to create a beautiful online Cinema Novena that audiences around the world can pray through Holy Week, as a follow-up to the film, as another way to get to know the heart of Saint Paul (and thus to come to know the heart of Christ). 

Join us for this beautiful 9 days of prayer, each with:

  • a clip from the film, Paul Apostle of Christ
  • a passage from the Letters of “The Apostle” (as all the Fathers of the Church call Saint Paul)
  • a reflection by one of our sisters on the passage and the film
  • a prayer
  • a closing quote from the Letters of Saint Paul, read by actor James Faulkner, who portrays Saint Paul in the film

1. Click here to find the showing of PAUL, APOSTLE OF CHRIST nearest you.

2. Sign up today for the Cinema Novena: PAUL, APOSTLE OF CHRIST, and for nine days you will receive a daily email with the theme and a link to the film clip, Scripture passage, reflection, and prayer.

3. As you pray with the #MediaNuns , share the Cinema Novena with someone you love, and make your and their Holy Week a time to ponder how the love of Christ for us can transform our lives.

The world is in such desperate need of the way of love that Christ showed us and that Paul faithfully lived. Join your intentions with ours, and especially pray that the beauty of this film–in the power of  the love of Christ, the humility of the apostle Paul, the brotherhood and profound friendship between Luke and Paul–will transform hearts and minds so that we can become, with St. Paul, Christ’s love in the world.

Wishing you a blessed Holy Week. 

Sneak Peek of Online Lenten Retreat!

As I blogged about earlier this week, My Sisters is offering our FIRST online Lenten retreat entitled, Seeking God’s Will. I am so excited about being able to offer a retreat this way, as it can reach so many people! (I’m also looking forward to the feedback I will receive from those who make the retreat, so that the next one can be even more helpful!)

Sr. Mary Lea Hill launches the retreat with a mini-conference. Here is a sneak preview of how she makes a retreat sound do-able!

We just finished putting up the retreat Friday afternoon. If you’d like to make a retreat  this Lent, consider joining My Sisters. It is only $1 for the first trial month. You can find more information at: http://www.22s.com/mysisters or https://mysisters.blog/