The lovely family animated film Moana is very entertaining, but it immediately struck the sisters in my community with its theme of discernment.
It was a no-brainer to put together another Discernment @ the Movies guide, but this time I had the joy of working with Sr. Christina Wegendt, FSP, with whom I often discuss the deeper themes of popular movies. I have put the text of the guide below; later this week I will put it up as a PDF.
DISCERNMENT @ THE MOVIES
Set in ancient Polynesian islands and mythology, Moana is the story of the teenaged daughter of a chieftain who has forbidden his people to sail beyond the reef into the wide ocean. Yet from her childhood, Moana feels a deep connection to the ocean, encouraged by her grandmother’s stories.
Moana struggles between the demands of her parents and her own inner longings. When she discovers that the islands are dying, she believes that the cause is found in her grandmother’s stories: the demigod Maui stole and then lost the heart of the goddess Te Fiti, who created the islands. To save her people and her world, Moana “goes out into the deep” to find Maui and convince him to return Te Fiti’s heart.
Before you watch the film, read the following Scripture passage:
Luke 5: 2-11
[Jesus] saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.*
Discernment Key to Watching the Film
As you watch the film, pay attention to: the themes of identity and listening, and how they shape Moana’s understanding of her call
After Watching the Film
You may wish to bring the following questions to prayer, reflection, or discussion in a group:
- What is your favorite moment of the film? How did it touch you and why?
- In discerning how she was called to lead her people, Moana listened to many voices: those of her parents, her grandmother as a wise spiritual elder, the community, and the ocean. Late in the film, she is discovers that one of the most important voices to listen to is “the voice inside.”How does God speak to you? How can you nurture a deeper listening to more easily hear God in your life?
- In stepping out in faith to follow their calls, both Moana and Saint Peter wrestle with doubts. What doubts do you wrestle with in seeking to follow God’s call for you? How does Jesus’ call to “put out into the deep” resonate in your heart?
- The film is filled with beautiful imagery of creation, and the ocean is an important character. In the Bible, the image of water can represent the life of God in us—the Holy Spirit at work in us. What does the film’s imagery of the ocean evoke in you?
- Stepping out in faith caused both Moana and Saint Peter to come to more truly “know who they are.” Do you see ways the Lord has helped you grow in self-knowledge through moments of acting with faith in him?
- Once they took a leap of faith and grew in self-knowledge, both Moana and Peter discover their mission. Jesus wants to take you on this same journey to discover your own unique mission in the kingdom of God! He said to Peter: Do not be afraid. What might the Lord be saying in your heart as you seek to follow him more closely?
Pray with one of the Church’s traditional, eloquent hymns to the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised would be with us and guide us.
Come, Holy Ghost, Creator, come
from thy bright heav’nly throne;
come, take possession of our souls,
and make them all thine own…
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful
and enkindle in us the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy his consolations, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Thank you for your patience with me as I return from my trip to Illinois and catch up with a few urgent projects. For the beginning of the New Year, I will be in Los Angeles for meetings with our sisters, and I am taking that opportunity to offer a retreat day at our Pauline Book & Media Center in Culver City, CA, on Saturday, January 7th. Retreat will be followed by Mass at our chapel at 4 PM.
A day of retreat is a wonderful way to re-discover and rejoice in the gift of God’s love and to allow his love to transform us. Abiding in his love enables us to discern God’s will for us in this new year, and once again align our will with God’s. If you live in the Los Angeles area, this is a marvelous way to start the year.
The past few weeks, I keep running into some wonderful prayers for discernment, so I thought I’d share them here:
The Archdiocese of Santa Fe has a lovely collection of Prayers for Discernment from a variety of Catholic spiritual traditions (Francis of Assisi, Carmelite, and one of my personal favorites by St. Thomas More).
The Archdiocese of Boston has a short selection of prayers for discerning one’s vocation, including one written by our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, and another beautiful prayer written by another Daughter of St. Paul, Sr. Nancy Michael Usselmann, FSP
IgnatianSpirituality.com has many wonderful resources on discernment, but this is a page that I frequently send people to: it is a list of prayers by St. Ignatius of Loyola and other Jesuits. There are many wonderful prayers here–not all about discernment–but most of them reference seeking to know or follow God’s will in some way.
Finally, I’ll close with a short prayer for discernment that I wrote when I was vocation director, and which is included in our Discern It! App for discerning vocations:
After last week’s very personal post about my journey to greater trust in the Lord, I thought I would share this prayer of surrender from my journal.
Prayer To Surrender to Love
Loving God, You know me intimately:
my inability to trust You,
my grasping for those things over which I have no control,
my blindness to the reality of Your love and Your presence,
my stubbornness in never trusting the experience of Your love that You continuously shower on me.
I am a mess of contradictions: I want to witness to You, while emotionally I am locked into overwhelming fear.
In Your time, in Your way, free me!
Let Your Presence fill my prison until its bars burst open
Let Your Love give wings to my desperate heart
Let Your Gentleness soothe my ego’s frantic efforts to control
Let Your Truth root my fluttering doubts
Let Your Light show my faltering feet the Way
Let Your Banquet nourish my weakness into Life
Let Your Faithfulness encompass and embrace me until…
I am transformed from a being bound by Fear
into a being transformed by Love.
Jesus Master, my Way, my Truth, and my Life, I trust in You!
* * *
These are some classic, beautiful prayers of surrender and trust in the Lord by some of the saints:
The devotion to Mary, Queen of the Apostles, is one of the oldest devotions to Mary in the Church. One of our sisters recently let me know about a youtube video of the song, Queen of Apostles, composed and sung by Nancy Krebs, which beautifully offers reflections and prayers about two key events in Mary’s life associated with this particular title of Mary.
A key in discerning and living our vocation is devotion to Mary. Devotion to Mary as our Queen of Apostles is more than asking Mary to help us discover and carry out the mission God has entrusted to us. It also means entrusting ourselves and our spiritual journey to her. It means imitating Mary in how she shared her Son with the world, taking on her attitudes of humility, of receptivity to God (especially her docility to the Holy Spirit), her obedience to God’s Word, and her union with her Son in his mission. If we entrust every effort that we make and everyone whom we seek to serve to Mary’s motherly care, all our efforts will be blessed.
Then the word of the Lord came to me:
“O house of Israel,
can I not do with you as this potter has done? says the Lord.
Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”
I love this morning’s reading from Jeremiah 18:1-6. It fits so well with the themes of my prayer this week: creativity, being open to the Lord working in me and through me, and allowing the Lord to take the lead in all the aspects of my life: spiritually, in my relationships, in my efforts to communicate, in the apostolate of sharing the Word.
As the fruit of my recent annual retreat, I’ve been praying for the grace to live in the present moment. It’s so easy for me to get lost in my plans and to forget that it’s God’s plan that I want to be living fully. It’s not really possible for me to discern God’s will, however, if I am not living in the present moment, taking one day, one hour, one minute at a time. Because God speaks to us and works in us in the present moment.
Our Blessed Mother Mary was an expert in living in the present moment. While I was in Rome for the Apostolic Mysticism Seminar, several of the speakers–all Pauline priests–spoke of how Mary was completely docile to the work of the Holy Spirit. We know this simply by her response at the Annunciation.
The conclusion of my every meditation this week has been prayer to Mary, specifically asking her for the grace of this openness and availability to God, not just in the big occasions of my life, but at every moment. So I pray to her with my favorite title, calling on her as my Mother and Queen, the Queen of every apostle, to teach me how to be aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit, and to be receptive to his nudges, his whispers, his inner direction.
A final note: Summer has become a bit of a chaotic time for me to fit in regular posts. Responses to the last couple of questions about vocational discernment are almost lined up and ready to post. I also have been reflecting/praying/living some profound moments of discernment in every day life, which I hope to share with you soon. Thank you for your patience with me, as my posting schedule has become a bit irregular.
It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve blogged, and partly that’s because I was preparing to be away for two weeks. This Monday, July 11th, I will begin my annual eight-day retreat. (Some day I need to tweet a retreat…wouldn’t that be awesome to follow a nun’s progress on an eight-day retreat? Retreats are such mysterious and amazing encounters with the Lord. Maybe next year.)
So I will be offline for another two weeks, but I’d like to bring you with me. Send me your specific intentions–or even just send me your name–and I will bring your individual intentions to the Lord while I’m on retreat.
Last week, I was away working on finishing the first draft of my book. Now that I’m back, I’m busy catching up with the stuff that piled up while I was away.
One of the things that I’ve been helping with is getting the word out about the new film opening on Friday (March 11), The Young Messiah (you can find my review here), and also inviting people to make the online Cinema Novena: The Young Messiah, either as a novena to St. Joseph (if you start on March 11th and finish on March 19th, the feast of St. Joseph), or as a novena to the Holy Family which you can make anytime. The novena uses clips from the film, a Scripture reading, a reflection question, and a prayer. You can sign up here!
Since this is National Catholic Sisters Week, through the week I’ll try to post and tweet interesting resources for those discerning religious life as I find them. My favorite so far is Sr. Clare Hunter’s Top Ten Reasons “I could never become a nun”, a wonderful article that briefly addresses some of the reasons I’ve heard most often.
If you’re looking for a Lenten Discernment Retreat, it’s not too late to sign up for our Holy Week Retreat at the Daughters of Saint Paul in Boston, MA.