Tweeting with God Book Review: Putting Our Relationship with God in the Spotlight

When I first saw the new book, Tweeting with God by Father Michel Remery, it intrigued me because:

  • the title is awesome
  • the book has a free app
  • I’m always looking for easy-to-understand books that connect the Catholic Faith with people’s questions today
  • I liked the personal questions the book is not afraid to ask…and answer

So when I was asked to be part of the Tweeting with God Blog Tour from the perspective of discernment, I just couldn’t say no! Here’s the book trailer so you can see a glimpse of the book for yourself:

A Solid Overview of Our Catholic Faith

A solid overview of the faith written in 140-character chunks sounds just perfect for young people today, right? And this book definitely has 200 great tweets about our faith, but it has a lot more than that. Each question has a two-page spread which includes a tweetable answer, and a more thorough one. The tweet is used as the quick “summing up” of the explanation at the end.

I really appreciated the approach of Tweeting with God. While covering the main areas of faith (traditionally Creed, Sacraments, and Morality), many answers start from a personal perspective: What does this [area of faith] have to do with me? The questions are sometimes posed to cover a particular area of faith, or address a contemporary issue, but they are also often personal and common questions that I’ve had people ask me, for example: “Why is the Mass boring?” or, “How does one become a saint?”

The personal “what does faith have to do with my daily life” approach is what I appreciate most about this book. It makes Tweeting with God an excellent introduction to the Catholic life of faith when read cover to cover, but also a great reference for the tough questions often posed to Catholics—from the history of the Crusades to the motivations for a celibate priesthood.

To keep the language understandable, large concepts are explained simply. In most cases, this works really well, but occasionally I felt that the answer was oversimplified and really suffered from the lack of precision. Still, overall this is a great introduction to the faith that addresses many controversial or counter-cultural issues that Catholics face.

(For a fun tweet-able review of the book, check out Alison Gingras’ review at Reconciled to You.

What Does Tweeting with God Have To Do with Discernment? (or Why Am I Blogging About This Book Here?)

The personal approach that Father Remery takes connects the mysteries of God, Christ, and the Church with how to live a vibrant spiritual life. Instead of an “add-on” section in the back on prayer, the Christian’s relationship with God is front and center throughout the presentation of the Catholic Faith. What we believe is shown to directly connect with our personal relationship with God. The opening pages don’t speak about God just from the traditional language of the Book of Genesis and the creed, but they emphasize that God’s plan for creation includes his plan for each of us. A surprisingly thorough and wonderfully accessible treatment of prayer begins early on in Part 3.

With the spotlight of the book focused on our personal relationship with God, it’s only natural that Father Remery frequently refers to seeking God’s will and discovering God’s plan for our life. The principles of discernment are raised simply and persuasively. A few of my favorite spots in the book about discernment are:

Tweet 1.7 Why should I believe in God (sets up God’s longing for us and our longing for God that are so important on a vocational discernment journey)

Tweet 3.4 Can prayer help me to make the right decisions? (simple explanation of superficial desires and deep desires)

Tweet 4.3 What does God ask of me? (the description of vocation is simple and fantastic)

Tweet 4.6 How can I know the will of God? (check out the red box—great advice for listening to God’s will)

Tweet 4.8 What is the relationship between faith and actions? (Offers a defense of monastic life of prayer)

Appendix 4: Praying with the Bible according to St. Ignatius of Loyola

Appendix 5: Reflecting on your day through prayer (or the Examen Prayer) 

Although I am really impressed with Tweeting with God overall, there are a couple of things that I wish were done differently:

1) To keep the book short and focused on young people’s questions, some things were left out that might have been helpful to include. For example, the only references to discernment (or seeking God’s will) have to do with vocational discernment. I couldn’t find a reference to living in a spirit of discernment. In a book geared to young people—which this book undoubtedly is—vocational discernment is certainly an appropriate emphasis, but it is also important to realize that God doesn’t just call us once in our lifetime.

2) The initial vocational division that the book offers is “to be married in the Lord” or “to remain single in the Lord.” The text seems to suggest that this is the basic question to begin discerning your vocation with. While this may be helpful for some people, I don’t necessarily think that this is a good starting point for everyone. This might be a case of oversimplifying.

3) Every 2-page spread has a picture which you’re supposed to be able to scan with your smartphone using the Tweeting with God app, so that it will bring up new content. I tried scanning the pictures with two different phones, and it didn’t do anything. However, the app still has a few cool features of its own. In addition to additional information for all the tweets in the book, it also has a section on the Mass and Catholic Prayers in 10 languages (very helpful for international travelers, or if you’re visiting a parish that celebrates Mass in another language!)

Tweeting with God is an splendid introduction to the faith for young adults that compellingly and beautifully integrates learning about the truths of our Catholic Faith and living a dynamic relationship with God as a Catholic.

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The Story Behind This Blog

SrPaulSelfSmallGloomedFor nine years, I’d helped young women discern their vocation–whether they were called to religious life, married life, or the single life. I offered workshops and mini-courses on vocational discernment, discernment retreats, and individual vocational accompaniment. The intensity of others’ discernments helped me live the spiritual art of discernment much more mindfully. I was thrilled that I could focus on discernment so much, though I knew that I was just beginning to go deeper into living this profound spiritual art and practice. I was even asked to write a book about it—a book that I never got to.

Then I was transferred to another assignment–something very different from what I’d been doing. “No big deal,” I thought. I planned to continue discernment as an important part of my Pauline life. After all by this time, I’d been a religious sister living the vow of obedience for over twenty-five years.

But in a new and unfamiliar environment, the multitude of choices and decisions I faced daily made me feel paralyzed. When presented with several fantastic opportunities, I had no idea which one God was calling me to do. My prayer, dry at the time, didn’t shed any light. God made his presence felt, but not his desires, not his will. I felt as if I had no clue which opportunity or direction was truly his will. And just as I was realizing how inexpert I was in the art of discernment, I was once again asked if I would consider writing a book on discernment!

God often puts unexpected plot twists in the story of my life. This is not the first time that God has called me to grow in a certain area in my life by inviting me to write a book. So I’ve decided to give it a try. To create a true dialogue, to receive input from readers, and to make sure that I’m speaking to others’ real questions about discernment, I thought it would be great if I could blog the book first. And this blog, CoAuthorYourLifewithGod, was born.

Discernment has become a key part of my life because it leads me into greater alignment with God’s will, to live God’s story for me. Although I’ve spent a lot of time discerning and witnessing others’ discernments, I’m no expert. I still struggle with discerning how God is inviting me when I’m overwhelmed, afraid, or attached to having my way. The truth is that all of us can grow in this spiritual art of listening to the Lord’s invitations and striving to respond with a generous “yes!”

This blog gives us the opportunity to reflect on and grow in the spiritual art of discernment. Please ask questions, comment, and be active here on this blog—it’s for you! I’ll try to include opportunities to share, contests, and surveys that will make it fun to explore this important spiritual art, as we together seek to discover how we can listen more deeply and respond more generously to God’s loving call in our lives.

I’d really love to hear from you (in the comments box below or you can email me, too–just mention if you’d like me to keep your question anonymous):

  • Why have you stopped by and visited this blog?
  • What are you discerning?
  • What questions do you have about discernment or growing in your relationship with God?
  • What would you like to see here on this blog that would be helpful for you on your discernment journey?

Learning from The Sisterhood: Discernment in Episode 2

discernit quote

Prayer To Discern Well from new Discern It! App

As I mentioned in my previous post, and have shared in many conversations, Lifetime’s show The Sisterhood: Becoming Nuns,  while suffering all the limitations of a reality TV show, can do a great deal of good by offering to viewers a fascinating portrayal of religious life, and a sense of the challenges and obstacles a young woman faces in discerning whether she is called to become a sister.

Episode 1 introduced us to each young woman and to the Carmelites of the Aged and Infirm, where the young women are doing the first two weeks of their live-in. Episode 2 brings us right into the “nuts and bolts” of the young women’s discernments.

For this episode, I’d like to look at some of the typical discernment moments that arose on the show, seeing what we can learn from them (and without making any judgments on the people  involved). Some key moments in discernment that I noted while I watched:

  • Eseni’s desire for growth and peace, and Sr. Maria Theresa’s response that it is important for her to seek healing. I really loved Sr. Maria Theresa’s comment that all of us are broken, and all of us need healing. (By the way, this is a wonderful insight for Advent: we are all in need of a Savior!)When we feel deep turmoil and restlessness, it’s a good time to reflect, but isn’t necessarily the best time to make a big change in our lives, because we might be making a change simply to find relief from our inner pain, rather than truly following God’s invitation. Saint Ignatius of Loyola has some great guidelines about this. If we are discerning about something major in our lives and we discover that we are deeply troubled about something else, we may want to slow down our discernment, or discern the cause of our turmoil and take steps towards healing and peace, rather than make a big decision about our original discernment. In general, when we are discerning something major in our life like our vocation, we want to discern from a place of peace.
  • Christie’s desire for greater intimacy with Christ, while instead she was feeling desolation. I love how honestly she puts it: “I showed up and he [Jesus] didn’t!” A wise spiritual director might encourage someone in a situation like Christie to not be afraid and to “stay the course” and not make any hasty decisions—either about going home or entering religious life. In the midst of the kind of anxiety or desolation that Christie seemed to be experiencing, we want to pay attention. The spiritual life is full of experiences of consolation and desolation, so when we are in the throes of desolation, it’s good to take it slow and reflect on what’s happening. A spiritual director who has experience in Ignatian discernment, especially “discernment of spirits,” can be really helpful, because St. Ignatius offers a lot of wisdom when he describes the different causes of spiritual consolation and desolation, and how we can discern even from within them.
  • The courage that several young women showed during times of anxiety or difficulty in participating in the sisters’ mission is inspiring and encouraging for all of us who seek to discern. Discernment takes great courage and freedom because we are letting go of our illusions of control and our ego, trusting in the Lord instead, and surrendering to his guiding love.
  • At several points Claire struggles with her relationship with the other discerners. Several comments that were made highlighted for me an important principle in matters of the spiritual life—including discernment. It’s not helpful to compare ourselves with others, especially if we’re trying to determine where we are on our journey or our next step. God works with each of us individually, and each of us has unique experiences and a unique relationship with God. While we can learn from each other, note similarities or differences in our journeys, we don’t want to fall into the trap of making comparisons or judgements.

And this is important, not just for the young women and sisters in the show, but for those of us watching as well. Even in a show with such good intentions as The Sisterhood, the temptation seems to be to compare these young women to each other, and to judge their responses to the challenges they face (and then to compare with ourselves). This is a very human tendency, but comparing these young women to each other and making judgments about their journeys is really unhealthy spiritually. (It brings to mind a homily Pope Francis gave last year about gossip.) Talking about others uncharitably is gossip. A TV show about discernment might especially tempt those of us who know more about this spiritual art to make judgments about the people involved. But in all honesty, as viewers we are not even receiving the full picture.

We all know that reality TV is not real:

  • it’s edited so that we never have the full context for any event or conversation
  • people naturally play to the camera or can even react differently if they are within range of a camera
  • reality TV fosters or emphasizes drama.

We also don’t know what only God knows: the deep desires and motivations of each person. Keeping all of that  in mind, even if we had the right to judge, we don’t have the full information needed to do so. (And we never do!)

* * *

In that spirit, I’d like to close with a prayer for all the discerners: those on the show itself, and those who are watching and seeking to discern God’s will for their lives.

Come, Holy Spirit, and shine your light, peace, and wisdom on Eseni, Stacey, Francesca, Claire, and Christie, and all those who seek to live more fully in accord with your will.

-Give them the peace to not be caught up in their feelings, but to sort through them in serenity to have greater clarity about their desires

-Purify their hearts so that their motivation to live in union with you grows always greater

-And grant them the courage and freedom to risk, to take on new challenges and try new things, as they seek to discover how you call them to live the Gospel of life and of love. Amen.

For those interested, you can find the new, free Discern It! App here from the Daughters of Saint Paul.

Free & Wonderful App for Those Discerning Their Vocation

 

For any readers discerning their vocation, check this out: Discern It App Header w words2Deepen your vocational discernment with  Discern It!,  a new, free app from the Daughters of Saint Paul to help those discerning their vocations.

This wonderful little app is a novena that provides the perfect atmosphere for deepening your vocational discernment, to understand how God is calling you to love. With  Discern It!  you will have the opportunity to:

◊ Do something daily to help you discover God’s plan for your life.

◊ Learn how to be more open to the gifts God wants to give you.

◊ Find out ways to move past the hurdles in discernment.

◊ Grow in your intimacy with God.

You can find out more about the app here, which also includes the links to download it for both iPhone and Android. The App is available free for the Year of Consecrated Life.