#Discerning in Every Day Life: We are in God’s hands as he shapes us

Photo: Sr. Mary Emmanuel Alves, FSP. © Daughters of St. Paul

Photo: Sr. Mary Emmanuel Alves, FSP. © Daughters of St. Paul

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.

Mary, Queen of Apostles, pray for us!

Mary, Queen of Apostles, pray for us!

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.

Discernment: Praying Our Future

2012-10-11 16.38.21The art of discernment encompasses praying our past, our present, and our future. But we are called to live in the present moment. Does the art of discernment force us into an unhealthy attitude of trying to live in the past, or in a future that is not here yet? Not if we are discerning well.

Discernment is very much a call to live the present moment. In order to attentively listen to and seek God’s will for the next step in our lives, we need to be fully present to ourself, to God, and to our own lives, in the here and now. Discernment is the art of listening to God in the present so that we are open to carrying out God’s plan. The greater our ability to listen, the more we discover—perhaps to our surprise—that God invites us in specific ways to draw closer to him and to do his will in the world. We are not seeking to foretell the future, nor to make our own plans, but to seek God’s plan, so that what God wills can fully become our will. Whether it’s seeking how to approach an important conversation with a loved one, discerning our vocation, or recognizing God’s invitation in the moment, discernment is being present to God right here, right now, and making ourselves available to God’s plan for us. As Father Ivan Rupnik says in his book, Discernment: Acquiring the Heart of God: “Discernment is not a technique for resolving the problems of our spiritual life, but a reality found in the relationship between the human person and God.”

God’s Dream for Us
Up to this point, we have focused more on how to grow in the attitudes that will help us discern God’s will for us. As we go forward, we enter into the concrete practice of discernment, of how to give priority to God’s will in our lives, and how to overcome the obstacles that get in the way of a discerning heart so that we can fully live God’s will.

God’s will=God’s plan=God’s desires=God’s dream for us.

We know from the Bible that God’s dream for us is what is truly best for us. God dreams of our happiness, our freedom, of being in a close relationship with us, of our knowing and trusting that we are loved, of our complete fulfillment. As mentioned earlier, God doesn’t just dream for us, but with us. We can see discernment as our way of dreaming with God, of discovering how we can reach that fullness of happiness and freedom that God desires for us—even more than we want it for ourselves. Since God shares his dreams with us most often in the ordinary “stuff” of our lives, these ordinary things are what we will be praying and discerning with: our prayer, our interior dispositions, our situations, our world, our desires, our abilities, limitations, and gifts.