Is getting married selfish because you’re not giving your whole heart to God?

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A question from a reader:

“I am recently, as of a few days ago, feeling this strong pull to investigate the option of the religious life. But it really freaks me out. I never seriously considered it as an option, ever in my life; it honestly never felt like it fit me at all. And it still doesn’t, to be honest. I am having the hardest time, because I know that I would do it, if God asked me, because I love Him too much to say no. I would have to say yes. But I guess it boils down to this: I feel like if I get married, I won’t be giving myself completely to Him. I would feel like I didn’t give Him my all, which is what I should do, right? Is getting married selfish, because you’re reserving part of your heart for someone else other than God??

But on the other hand, I feel like if I become a nun I won’t be able to not feel sorry for myself all the time that I’m “missing out.” (I know I wouldn’t really be missing out, but I don’t know if I could stop myself from feeling that way). I feel like if I become a nun, a part of my heart will never come alive… The part of me that longs to love someone else and be loved and romanced by them, and the part of me that wants to have kids. I know that all of this could be fulfilled in a different way, like in a spiritual way, if I became a sister, but it wouldn’t be the same. And then I feel guilty and selfish for feeling that way.

I guess it’s just becoming very clear to me that I need to arrive spiritually at the point where I could become a sister joyfully, and not be afraid to let go of my dream of falling in love/marriage, but I don’t know how.

Any advice on how to deal with those obstacles? Because all He has been telling me in prayer is how much He loves me, and how good His plans are, but I am still scared of what that means.”  – M.

Feeling “freaked out” is an appropriate response when someone is first considering a vocation to religious life. A religious vocation is a beautiful, awesome call—and if we are honest with ourselves, we know that we are fragile, vulnerable “earthen vessels.” Feeling awed or overwhelmed by the thought of being called to religious life means that someone understands the vocation to religious life on a more-than-superficial level. So that’s a great first step in discerning our vocation.

But we need to have a good understanding of marriage, too. A couple of clarifications might be helpful at this point: in both marriage and religious life, we are called to offer our entire selves and our entire lives to God. The difference between these vocations is not in how much we give from our heart, because we are to give all in both. Rather, the distinction between the two vocations is in how we give our hearts.

In marriage, the spouses retain their individual identities, vocations, relationships, etc. But in their covenant of love with each other, they have a new way of living and loving. From now on, their journey through life is with, and often through, their spouse. Their love together—a gift from God to remain centered in God—bears fruit in their children and in nurturing in their family.

For a religious, God is the primary “Companion” or “Spouse” on their spiritual journey. The religious brother or sister’s love for God and God’s love for them bears fruit in their mission for their spiritual children, to be for them the face of God.

In both vocations, the overarching human vocation to love God and neighbor is a call to give all of one’s life to loving. There’s nothing selfish about either.

It’s really important to be open to God’s call. But if we are seeking to be open to God and, after praying about it, find that we are continuing to think about religious life simply because we think being married is selfish, then perhaps it would be helpful to shift the focus of our discernment from religious life to marriage. Perhaps what we are calling “selfishness” is simply an indication that we deeply desire marriage. (We are still discerning between the two vocations, but we are focusing on the discernment in another way.) Many times, a young woman is discerning a religious vocation because she thinks she “should” become a sister, due to expectations of others or even of herself that aren’t really discerning God’s will for her.

You may find it helpful to read (or re-read) these two posts: What is the Connection Between Desire and Discernment, and Discerning with Deep Desires. 

light-person-woman-fireIf, after serious thought and prayer, we truly, deeply feel that we will only come “fully alive” in one vocation, that is a positive indication towards that vocation! All vocations involve “missing out” on some things—that is the nature of making a choice! For example, I would have loved to be a wife and mother, but in not following my vocation to religious life, I would have “missed out” on something more important to me: the exclusivity of my relationship with God, and my availability to serve the people of God. (I want to note that these are more important to me precisely because I am called to religious life, whereas I am not called to be a wife and mother.)

Part of discernment is indeed becoming holily indifferent to both options. The reason for this indifference is so that we can hear God’s invitation and fully embrace it. If God is already giving someone a strong indication of their vocation, at that time it’s more important to pray with that than to put aside the possible inspiration from God aside to pray with the other choice. For example, someone discerning marriage could pray with some of the following questions.

  • What are my dreams for marriage?
  • Are my dreams of marriage idealized (for example, based on a romantic movie I watched), or are they real, similar to faithful, beautiful marriages that I have witnessed in real life?
  • Am I discerning the vocation to marriage with a full realization that both vocations I am discerning between (marriage and religious life) are good and holy; but that God is giving me the gift of one of them?
  • What attachments do I have that are preventing me from freely discerning marriage? (For example, am I afraid to give up my independent lifestyle?)
  • How do I feel living the vocation to marriage will help me to live life fully, that is, live the fullness of my vocation to love?

(Reflecting on questions about who our future spouse will be is also an important part of our discernment to marriage, but that’s another post.)

Finally, I want to affirm the importance of prayer and trust in God in all of this—especially the way of praying and listening expressed in the question. God does love us, and God’s plans for us are always good. God wants what is best for us. We may still feel scared because we don’t know what the future holds, and because our vocation is not something we can control. It is important to remember that, as much as we try to actively discern, God is going to guide us in the concrete circumstances in our lives. For many of us, our vocational discernment gradually unfolds over time. We can trust in God’s loving guidance.

The wonderful thing about discernment is that, growing in our relationship with Jesus, we come to realize that our vocation is a gift: a gift to embrace, a gift uniquely suited to us individually, and a gift that will lead us to the greatest love, and thus to great joy and fulfillment.

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#Discernment: Is the Vow of Chastity Too Hard To Live?

In the responses to the poll about obstacles to considering priestly or religious life, the obstacles that came up repeatedly were the vows.  Although we looked at them briefly in the post about religious life, I thought that perhaps sharing some personal experience of living these vows could show the beauty and value of consecrated life.

Religious life is meant to be a life directed towards a closer following of Christ—carrying the cross with Jesus here on earth, trusting in God’s loving providence to draw us closer to himself, both here and in eternity. Every vocation has its call to sacrifice and heroism, but the constancy of the sacrifices in religious life have led some to call it  “a slow martyrdom.” That has less to do with the conspicuous sacrifices of the vows, and more to do with laying down lives in service to others. It’s the vows that give religious the freedom to love with an undivided heart.

“Celibacy is too hard.”

Celibacy is hard. I don’t deny it. Every human being is created for the intimacy of spousal love, and celibacy is giving up the physical expression of spousal love. Renouncing the physical intimacy of sex for the sake of Christ and his kingdom is a real sacrifice. Celibacy means not having the unconditional support of one’s spouse, nor having someone in your life who is always there for you. Celibacy (or consecrated chastity as it is often called) means times of loneliness.

However, celibacy doesn’t mean giving up all emotions and relationships. It  mean that our exclusive relationship is with God. So the wise celibate is attentive to nurturing meaningful relationships with other people in his or her life—with family, community, and friends—so that they remain emotionally healthy and can rely on a certain level of human companionship. For me personally, sharing life with my sisters in community is one of my greatest joys and supports in living religious life and the vows.  

IMG_0590What does it mean to have an exclusive relationship with God? It means that the “Someone” whom we go to first, the One is always there for us, the One to whom we give ourselves completely, is God.  As we grow in our exclusive relationship with God, we find ourselves falling more and more deeply in love with him: we rely always more on him, becoming more aware of his presence in the tiny details of our day; our desire to do God’s will and to serve God’s people always more deepens; and our love continually grows. A special intimacy develops between us and God.

For priests and men religious, the “spouse” is the Church. For women religious, our spouse is Christ himself. For both men and women religious, spousal love is expressed primarily in loving all of God’s children, and especially Christ in his members, the Church.

One key aspect of spousal love is fruitfulness. Just as married love is to be open to the creation of new life, so the love of religious and priestly life is to be fruitful, as spiritual fathers and mothers of God’s People. This spiritual parenthood is expressed in countless ways.

I was recently at a faith sharing with a number of other Catholic women who were talking about the joys and challenges of being married. I’m sure they just thought I was listening, but I added my comment in the end—a comment that I borrowed from Sr. Helena Burns. “My Spouse is perfect. The only problem is that, when we disagree about something, he’s always right.”

Our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, called chastity the greatest love. I think part of what he meant by that is that our spouse is the perfect Lover; but perhaps he also meant that chastity is a very self-sacrificing love, with fewer tangible rewards here on earth. For me, chastity is a treasure that keeps my gaze and my attention focused exactly where it should be: on God and his People.

FYI: #RisenMovie DVD Giveaway

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Just wanted to let you know that on my other blog, Windows to the Soul, I’m running a free DVD giveaway for 3 copies of the film RISEN, which released digitally last week and releases to DVD on Tuesday, May 24th. It’s a beautiful film with many openings for reflecting on and sharing about faith: coming to faith, searching for Jesus when he seems absent, and how we choose to live our faith.

On May 27th, I’ll post a lectio divina guide for the film, and also choose the winners.

If you’re interested in participating in the giveaway, just click on the image below to enter!

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New Discernment@theMovies Guide: Entertaining Angels

EntertainingAngelsCoverThe next couple of movies that I will be posting a “Discernment@theMovies Guide” are among my favorite movies! The 1996 biopic, Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story,  is a wonderful portrayal of the life of an amazing woman who might be canonized some day. You might remember that Pope Francis spoke about her to the U.S. Congress on his recent visit:

“In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.”

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Dorothy Day in 1934

Paulist priest Father Ellwood “Bud” Kieser produced two of my favorite biopics as part of his mission of evangelization: Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story,  and Romero. Both are wonderful movies and biographies that are not only enjoyable and moving to watch, but also portray the profound spirituality of the protagonists. Both films are also very helpful to watch from the perspective of discernment. This week, I’ve posted up the Discerning@theMovies Guide for Entertaining Angels. This movie stands the test of time because of the genuine way it shows Dorothy wrestling with God and her idea of God, her vocation, and her mission. Those of us attentive to the spiritual art of discernment will appreciate the gradual way that Dorothy found her mission, and then how God confirms her mission for her in moments of crisis.

To get the most out of the film, you might want to read a short biography ahead of time. You can find much more information about Dorothy Day at the Dorothy Day Guild website. Note that Cardinal Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York recently announced that Dorothy’s cause for canonization is taking its next step forward with a “canonical inquiry” into her writings and the testimony of witnesses.

You can find the Entertaining_Angels_Discernment@MoviesGuide here.

Fundamental Stance in Discernment: Desiring God’s Will

tree-338211_1280The most important part in our vocational discernment is also the most important part in living our vocation: the loving desire to do God’s will. If our fundamental stance in our discernment is to do God’s will out of love, then God will bless us and lead us in our discernment. (When we offer ourselves to God so generously, God so delights in this kind of selfless love for him, that he cannot help himself by responding in kind.)

“Fundamental stance” doesn’t mean that we never sin or fail. Rather, it means that we are seeking to live and grow in an ongoing attitude of this loving desire to do God’s will in all things. We will fail sometimes in seeking God’s will, and we won’t always “feel” full of love. When, for whatever reason, we find ourselves holding back or acting in opposition to God’s loving will, we convert and return to this desire to lovingly live God’s will. Throughout our lives, we will need to repent and recommit over and over again.

Seeking to love God and do God’s will is a matter of our will, of what we choose. Loving God—just like our love for someone we care deeply about—doesn’t always feel good. The greatest acts of love usually involve sacrifice, which rarely feels good. Love of God is also not a matter of superficial feelings that make us feel good. We don’t always feel full of love for God. Rather, love is both the deep desire and lived-out choices of loving words and actions.

How can we grow in our love for God so that we will unswervingly seek God’s will—in our vocation discernment and in living out our vocation?

Build our relationship with God through prayer.

Prayer is our communication with God, whether we snatch moments through the day for short, intense prayers, pray the daily Liturgy of the Hours or the Rosary during our commute, make an hour of adoration or ten quiet minutes of meditation in the morning or evening. Whatever form our prayer takes, it is essential to build our relationship with God. It is essential to make sure, no matter how we pray, to leave time for listening. On occasion, putting aside some quality or “special” time for just us and God can bear immense fruit in our discernment, whether that means going away for a weekend retreat, or taking a long quiet walk.

Bring our relationship with God into our daily living.

Don’t keep God separate from the rest of our life. Our relationship with God is the most important relationship we have; our faith is one of the best ways to keep the joys and challenges of life in perspective.

God desires a deep union with us, and this is not an “on-and-off” union. By actively trying to bring God into our daily life, we deepen our union with God and open ourselves more fully to his grace. We can become channels of his grace for others with whom we interact.

While God never actually leaves us, we can try to “keep God out” of our daily lives when we ignore God’s presence, avoid prayer, or deliberately sin. When we prevent our union with God from growing and push God away from our awareness, we prevent the most important relationship in our life from having a direct influence on our daily choices. When we do turn to prayer, it can become harder, then, to experience God’s presence because we have ignored him all day. Inviting God into our day—especially the difficult times—gives us a strength and a joy we cannot imagine otherwise.

When we are able to become aware of God’s presence with us and around us in our daily life, then we are more open to hearing his invitations; we become more discerning in our daily life.

Although love is not a matter of feelings, it is helpful to stir up feelings of love for God so that it is easier to seek and do God’s will, especially when pleasure, fear, or something else inclines us in other directions. All prayer is good, but certain kinds of prayer are especially helpful in rekindling our daily fervor. Lectio divina, or making daily meditation (in the Christian sense of praying with the Word of God in such a way as to encounter God with our minds, wills, and hearts), is ideal for reminding us of God’s love for us and all the good reasons there are for our loving God in return. Praying with the Word of God in a way that personally engages us also helps us to know ourselves and to prepare us to live our day in union with God.

A True Story: Discerning During Midlife

A few years ago, a wonderful wife and mother named Catherine came to see me.

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Catherine is a loving and generous woman who has inspired the many people at her parish who know her. She constantly seeks God’s will amidst the usual and sometimes unusual challenges of married life, and puts herself at the service of the needs of her parish. But recently, she underwent a particular experience of change, accompanied by darkness: her children were growing up and leaving home and didn’t seem to need her as much; her relationship with her husband felt routine; her daily life gave her little satisfaction. At one point, Catherine confided to a friend, “I was attracted to religious life when I was younger, and being a sister is so much more peaceful and holy. Maybe I missed my vocation. What if God really called me to religious life?”

This thought that she might have “missed” her vocation was a scary one for Catherine (and for anyone serious about seeking God’s will–more on that later). However, because she still had commitments to her husband and children, it was clear that God’s will for Catherine was to continue in her vocation as a loving mother and wife. If Catherine had indeed chosen a path other than what God originally willed for her, God’s will for her at his point in her life was clear: to continue in her vocational commitments. Her doubts were almost certainly not a call to switch vocations in midlife. But at her age, repeatedly experiencing these doubts could be an important part of Catherine’s midlife journey: she may have needed to re-evaluate certain decisions and how she was living her vocation. Rather than something to discourage or scare her, Catherine could use these troubling questions as an invitation to reflect on her life, bringing them to prayer and spiritual direction.

When we talked together, I encouraged Catherine to consider these possibilities:

A) It was possible her doubts were a temptation, especially because the doubts seemed to be making Catherine lose some of her interior peace. Perhaps the devil wanted to distract this loving, goodhearted woman from her true vocation—that of being a loving mother and wife. By putting the “holier” life of a religious sister on a pedestal and entertaining doubts about her own vocational discernment, Catherine could have been letting the devil gain a foothold in her thoughts, blurring her perception of the unique beauty of her call and gradually weakening her commitment to her vocation.

Instead of allowing these doubts to distract her, Catherine could use them as an opportunity to recommit more deeply to her life of self-giving love as a mother and wife, perhaps discerning new ways in which she can express her love in her changing situation.

B) Catherine might have been going through a time of desolation where, through her doubts and longing for “more,” God was inviting her to purify her motivations and deepen how she lives her true vocation. Catherine could take time to examine how she was living her vocation and how she could grow in her call to love as a wife and mother.

C) Perhaps God was inviting Catherine to dig deeper into what attracted her about religious life. Catherine’s feelings of dissatisfaction could have been reflecting a desire placed in her by God for greater union and intimacy with him—something that she previously thought was reserved only for sisters. God could have been using her feelings of desolation to call her to a deeper spiritual life of union with him. Perhaps deep within her restless longing, God was calling Catherine to offer herself to him in a special way: for example, in a particular ministry or consecrated lay institute.

Every person’s individual experience and discernment has specific details that God uses to lead them. Catherine never shared the fruits of her prayer after we talked, but she chose to continue in her vocation of love. She is now a happily devoted grandmother.

Discerning in Times of Desolation and Change

sunset-cloudsWhen we are going through a midlife transition or another big change in our lives—a change that means a long transition and many days of desolation and darkness—we often feel a sense of urgency to discern God’s will for us because so many things in our lives are changing and we need to make decisions about how to move forward with our lives. Yet, how do we discern God’s will for us in the midst of a big transition when it is accompanied by a sense of confusion, loss, darkness, and even desolation (as big transitions often are)?

Ignatius of Loyola, along with other saints such as Francis de Sales, counsel that in times of desolation, we should stay with our good resolutions that we made before we entered such a time of desolation. In times of great distress it is easy to give in to feelings of discouragement, to give up. It can even be easy to impulsively decide to radically change the direction of our lives because everything feels different or overwhelming.

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When we pursue anything new that requires commitment, we will face multiple crises when we will reevaluate whether it’s worth pursuing. One of our culture’s most frequently used metaphors about perseverance through difficulty is sports movies. Sports films illustrate well the importance of persevering through a particular moment of failure and desolation. (The film Rudy is one of my favorites in this regard.)  As the protagonist goes through their biggest moments of crises and discouragement, we root for them to continue on, because we know that the crisis is temporary, and the person can only make a good decision (discernment) when they base their decision on the entire experience, not just the discouragement and desolation they feel now.

FreedomWritersPosterIn the film Freedom Writers (2007), first-time teacher Erin Gruwell (portrayed by Hilary Swank) chooses to teach in a tough, gang-infested school because she wants to make a real difference in the lives of troubled teens. At first, the kids in her classes ignore her entirely, the other teachers discourage her and even make it more difficult, her father pressures her to teach at a school in a safer neighborhood, and her husband wants her to spend less time with the kids and more time at home. At a certain point, it seems that Erin’s big heart and belief in these kids isn’t enough. She has to face the truth that what she’s doing in the classroom isn’t working. The temptation comes, of course, for her to give up teaching at that school, and perhaps to give up teaching altogether.

Instead, Erin digs deep. As she creatively confronts each obstacle, we cheer her on, because she doesn’t allow failure, isolation, discouragement, and desolation to overwhelm her. Although she has to adjust her attitudes and how she teaches,  she doesn’t give up on these kids nor on her original purpose.

Discerning in Transition: Prayer in Emptiness

emptynotebook-731212_1280As we continue to mature (and our perspective also matures), we have the opportunity to give and nurture life in new ways. But sometimes we experience change as more of an ending than a beginning, more of a loss than a gift.

And in every big change we do lose something. Specifically in the transition of midlife, we lose or are forced to let go of certain life-giving aspects of our life that we’ve given a great deal to. Perhaps our children have all left home, and we have “empty nest” syndrome. Or perhaps we no longer have the energy it takes to run marathons. Perhaps we let go of our dream of becoming an astronaut (or ___________ ) because it’s no longer realistic.

Loss leaves a hole, and that hole can make us aware of a more pervasive emptiness within us. Missing our friends at our old job can open us up to suddenly realizing how lonely we are. From feeling the emptiness of our home after our last child has moved out, we can start wondering if our inner emptiness means that we missed our vocation in life.

Potential for New Ways of Giving Life

Although feeling empty doesn’t feel good, it is something to rejoice in—because God can only fill us if we are empty! When we feel an inner emptiness, when we recognize our insufficiency, we give God room to enter and to fill us with his gifts.

Sometimes God seems to let the emptiness grow—from a small loss to a gaping hole. It’s not that God want us to suffer. What he is really doing is letting our emptiness and longing for him build—either so that he can make us a greater gift, or so that we have the capacity to truly receive what he wants to give us.

Emptiness is a daunting feeling, but it’s actually a part of being human. We are made for God, we are made for eternal beatitude. Living in the “not yet” of life here on earth helps us to prepare our hearts to receive God more fully. Becoming aware that we are incomplete, that there are “holes” in our lives that we long to have filled, enables us to depend or “lean” more on God and to receive fully what he wants to give us.

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When we experience a sense of inner emptiness, we may wish to pray with the Canticle of Philippians (2:5-11)—that celebrates Jesus’ self-emptying in order to redeem us. We might find it helpful to pray with the sentiments of the following prayer.

Prayer in Emptiness (A Kenosis Prayer)

Jesus, I come to You today empty. 

I don’t feel I have anything to bring to You except my poor self.

And today, that doesn’t feel as if it’s enough.

I feel helpless and vulnerable, lost and desolate.

This sharp-edged emptiness reminds me

how dependent I truly am on You,

that I am not self-sufficient,

that I need to learn to trust You always more.

You experienced this emptiness while You were here on earth.

You let go of not just the fullness of divinity but even of the human respect You deserved,

in order to be with us, to teach us, to serve us, and to save us. 

You emptied Yourself for me, so that I can offer my emptiness to You to be filled.

Divine Master, fill me with what I need most:

Your love and Your grace.

Hold me close to Your Merciful Heart

until the day that I am made whole in You,

immersed in the loving embrace of the Most Holy Trinity. Amen.

Free To Discern

06P pixabay 3As an American, I consider freedom to be hugely important. How important to you is your freedom? Who is the freest person you know? How would you define freedom?

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Freedom is not doing whatever we want, without any consequences. Unfortunately, this is often how people think of it today. Earlier in this blog in the Lectio Divina: Free in Christ, I tried to start unpacking what true freedom really is:

Sometimes we equate freedom with a lack of external constraints–such as rules, or walls, or consequences. But true freedom is really about a lack of inner constraints–from unhealthy attachments and addictions, from anger, from selfishness, from fear; above all, from sin.

Freedom is not an escape from, but an ability to choose for. Freedom truly is the ability to “Love, and do what you want,” but the key is that “what you want” is a pure desire, free from self-love and directed towards God.

Saints are truly free persons who are able to give themselves completely in love to others because they are confident in God’s love for them. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus broke out of the prison of fear to be fully free: he freely chose to embrace the will of his Father, out of complete confidence in his Father and out of the love for humanity which he shared with his Father.

It is important to grow in freedom as we are discerning. Otherwise the voices of our own ego or selfish desires can drown out God’s voice, no matter how God speaks to us. But learning to live in a spirit of discernment—like any aspect of the spiritual life—is gradual. A good discernment doesn’t require perfect freedom. However, we should at least try to recognize what our desires and attachments are in the area of this particular discernment, so that we can strive to let go of them as much as humanly possible. Even healthy, good desires and attachments—such as our satisfaction in a particular aspect of the Church’s mission, or our love for our family—can become impediments to true freedom if we make them more important than the will of God.

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To Journal About

What is your vision of freedom?

What are the biggest obstacles to freedom that you face in your current discernment?

After you have journaled about these questions, bring your answers and your desires to Jesus in prayer.

What Do We Need To Be Freed from To Discern Well?

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One of our biggest obstacles in discerning God’s will in our life is ourselves. Because of original sin—the sin of Adam and Eve which has marked every human being—we are prone to sin. In our discernments, we want to “sort through” our desires, distinguishing between disordered desires which can lead to sin and genuine desires that well up from deep within and reflect our true identity.

Sometimes when we find ourselves in difficult situations, we’ll discover that our main difficulty is really ourselves. We might think that if we just didn’t have to deal with this situation, or this person, or this challenge, we’d be fine. And then we end up in a new situation and we find that it’s not the situation that was the problem, it’s ourselves and how we deal with the situation.

* * *

I remember one time as a younger sister when I found myself in what I thought was a really difficult situation. Another sister and I really clashed, and it made community life really challenging for me. At the end of the year, I was transferred to a new community. At first I was thrilled, thinking everything was great. Then I started running into the exact same difficulties that I had run into before!

Gradually, I realized that although the circumstances of life would never be perfect, what made them unmanageable was me. My particular faults—in this case my high expectations, my desires for perfection, and my impatience with others—were really at the root of my problem in getting along with the other sisters. It was a hard lesson to learn, but a wonderful opportunity to get to know myself better. I realized that sometimes—perhaps more often than I’d like to admit—I am my own worst enemy!

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In discernment, we spend a lot of time seeking greater freedom. (This is why sometimes we need to take a longer time to discern.) In our discernments, we seek freedom:

  • from our ego
  • from our tendency to seek ourselves or to put ourselves ahead of God
  • from our disordered desires
  • from the world’s materialistic and secular perspective
  • from others’ expectations

When Saint John the Baptist was pointing to Christ as the Messiah, he made a wonderful statement that fits this aspect of discernment: “He [Christ] must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn. 3:30). Discernment is about giving Christ and his will for us more and more space in our life, so that our true identity as disciples of Christ can clearly emerge.