Discernment: Listening with Our Hearts

Slide1Thank you for your patience with me while I’ve been “absent” online. Initially, I planned to take a three-week hiatus from blogging, but events conspired to keep me from getting back here for much longer—I haven’t really blogged since February. In addition to trying to complete a draft of the book, I’ve been focused on other things, such as leading a seven-day retreat, etc.

With the end of the Year of Consecrated Life and the almost-completion of the book’s content, I’m going to blog in a way that I can keep up with; I’ll start with a weekly post. I have a few more posts from the book to put up here, but I also want to simply update the blog with new insights, and respond to your discernment questions. (I have a few still to answer—thanks for the patience of those of you who have emailed me!)

Hopefully, starting this week, I can make my weekly posts fairly consistent. I am excited about “being back” online—I’ve missed blogging about discernment! I will be traveling over the next three weeks, but I will try to get a weekly post up.

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Yesterday’s Gospel (for the 4th Sunday of Easter) is particularly relevant for those of us who seek to discern the Lord’s invitations in our lives:

“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one” (John 10:27-30).

This past Sunday—Good Shepherd Sunday—was also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, during which Pope Francis offered a beautiful reflection on Sunday’s Gospel about listening with our hearts to the voice of the Good Shepherd, which you can find here. In it, the Pope offers perhaps the best definition of discernment: Listening to Jesus with our hearts.

Listening as a way of encountering the Lord and each other has been a strong theme in Pope Francis. In this year’s Message for World Communications Day (which is celebrated every year on the Sunday before Pentecost—this year falling on May 8), Pope Francis has beautiful words about how we are to listen to each other. But we can apply it also to how we listen to God:

Listening is much more than simply hearing. Hearing is about receiving information, while listening is about communication, and calls for closeness. Listening allows us to get things right, and not simply to be passive onlookers, users or consumers. Listening also means being able to share questions and doubts, to journey side by side, to banish all claims to absolute power and to put our abilities and gifts at the service of the common good.

Listening is never easy. Many times it is easier to play deaf. Listening means paying attention, wanting to understand, to value, to respect and to ponder what the other person says. It involves a sort of martyrdom or self-sacrifice, as we try to imitate Moses before the burning bush: we have to remove our sandals when standing on the “holy ground” of our encounter with the one who speaks to me (cf. Ex 3:5). Knowing how to listen is an immense grace, it is a gift which we need to ask for and then make every effort to practice.     –    Message for 50th World Day of Communications

Yesterday, Pope Francis concluded his remarks with a special invitation to young people to consider if God is calling them to consecrate their lives to the Lord’s service, in the  priesthood or in consecrated life.

May God bless each of us in these days with a heart that is open, that attentively listens, that draws us close to the heart of the Divine Master.

A Simple Daily Prayer for the Year of Mercy

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Psalm 33:22 is one of my favorite passages from the Bible, because it describes so eloquently in just a few words our relationship with God. On God’s side, ever-faithful mercy. On our side, ever-growing trust.

As we  begin 2016 and continue our journey into the Year of Mercy, my hope is to discern how God’s mercy is at work in my life right now, and to renew my commitment to trusting in his loving goodness. This will be the daily prayer that I plan to rise with every morning.

A Mid-Discernment Meditation on Trust

imag0218A meditation for those who want to grow in trust in God’s loving care for us during our discernment…

A Mid-Discernment Meditation on Trust

We begin our meditation by remembering God’s power, love, and mercy for us with a short aspiration, like “God, come to my assistance!” “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Or pray to Our Blessed Mother to offer our intentions and concerns to her Son.

Begin where we are: what are we worried about?

Although I haven’t completed my discernment yet, it seems to be leading me to do something that is hard and new, something that I haven’t done before. I’m worried about how it will turn out. If I make this choice, will I be happy? What if doing this new thing is too hard, or I don’t like doing it? What if I take this “leap of faith,” but it really isn’t God’s will for me? What if something happens that I don’t expect, and it really doesn’t work out?

Confront our lives—in this case our fears—with Scripture

Psalm 62 is a powerful prayer of trust. In the Revised Standard Version, Psalm 62 is entitled: “Song of Trust in God Alone.” We prayerfully read Psalm 62 slowly, letting the words sink deep into our hearts. You can find it online in any number of translations or pull out your own Bible. Below are the first two verses.

Psalm 62

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.

He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.

Apply the Scripture to my situation

Psalm 62 lists reasons to trust in God, and also encourages us to take certain actions. What are the reasons that Psalm 62 gives for trusting God? Because…

  • From God comes salvation
  • God is a refuge, a mighty rock, an unshakable fortress
  • The things that make us feel secure—like riches, or the subservience of others—are just a delusion
  • God is our salvation
  • Power and steadfast love belong to God…etc.

Heart-to-Heart  with God

Psalm 62 encourages us to “trust in God and pour out our hearts to him.” “Pouring out your heart” to someone is a profound act of trust. We take a few minutes to do exactly this with God: talk to God about what is happening in our life right now, including our fears and uncertainties about the future, and why we hesitate to put our future completely in his hands. We ask him for what we need most! Remembering the imagery of Psalm 62—safety, fortress, salvation—thank him for “being there” for us always. Surrender all of our concerns into his loving care. Take a few moments of silence to listen to God’s response or invitation. (If we are not sure how to pray in the silence, we can listen quietly to our heartbeat, realizing every heartbeat is God’s love in action, sustaining us.)

Pray Psalm 62 again

This time, truly pray the psalm. Which “word” or “phrase” of this psalm resonates most deeply with you? Stay with that word or phrase. You may want to note it down on a piece of paper or on your smartphone, to remember throughout the day.

Anchor for Our Day

As we come to the end of our prayer, we review it briefly. What happened during our prayer time? Has something shifted inside of us? What is our deepest desire now? We might wish to conclude by praying the “Our Father,” offering our deepest desire to God, and asking for the grace to live his will in our lives today. As we return to every day life, we take with us the word or phrase from Psalm 62 that most deeply touched us, using it as an anchor or shelter any time today that we feel worried or anxious.

Discernment: a Matter of Trust & Retreat with #MediaNuns

 

Discernment quote 4

One of my favorite quotes about discernment from Father Rupnik’s book, Discernment: Acquiring the Heart of God, reminding us that discernment is all about trust: discovering that God first trusts us, and then entrusting ourselves to God to lead us.

 

And for young women looking for an opportunity to discern with my wonderful community, the Daughters of Saint Paul, known on Twitter as #MediaNuns, this is a shout-out for our  Holy Week Retreat that will be held at our large convent in Boston, MA:
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