So in the beginning of my last post, I mentioned that I would later discuss Mother Mary Clare's suggestions for how
to discern well. Again, you must take every source of discernment with a grain of salt (unless it's a source that's been canonized/beatified). So even though so many of us want to know that burning question of my post headline, "How do I know if I'm discerning the right way
?", the truth is that there is no right way
, no certainty for whether we are doing it right
. Because God speaks to every unique soul in a singular, a totally unique way. However, wisdom in any discerning soul will honor the counsel that older, wiser, and holier heads pass along, especially when such counsel is entirely in keeping with Church doctrine, teaching, and exhortation. Not to mention it rings true with "common sense". So, without further ado:
- Start praying, not thinking. It is easy for all of us (myself notoriously included) to "think" about discerning during our prayer time rather than actually "praying", actually having a conversation and listening to what the Lord wants. SO OFTEN my interior voice sounds like this, "Lord, I just think that I'm called to the active religious life because of these things in my personality. And I just don't do well with so much silence in my life. And just help me discern all the pros and cons of this particular order." That's not praying, it's having an interior monologue addressed to God, but really just sorting through my thoughts about it. My prayer needs to be something more like this, "Lord, I know that I feel drawn to the active religious life. But is that because I'm afraid of silence? Where do you want me to serve? Can you enlighten my fears and hesitations so that I can work through them?"
- Keep your eyes fixed on Heaven. Be aware, interiorly of our ultimate goal, of the "Heavenly realities" of our life. In this way you will more strongly fight against Satan's attempts to lure you by worldly desires, thoughts, or possessions. Remember that the world cannot understand the idea that you may love Someone so much that you would give up that same world and all its pleasures for love. The world does not understand, many whom you know will not understand, and they will all try to lead you away from the call because they fear your "yes" to love is the greatest rejection. The world does not like to be sacrificed.
- Ponder these things in your heart. Take Mary, our Mother, as your model. She kept all her "yes's" in her heart, she pondered all the words of the Lord, all the prophecies, all the miracles of her Son in her heart. Do not expose too rashly or too widely that greatest treasure…the love of your heart. Let your intimate union with God be a thing that you guard as the wellspring of your life. It was meant to be sacred, set apart, devoted if you will, to Him alone and for Him alone. This has been one of my greatest challenges so far. Because I am so eager to say, "I'M ENGAGED!!! I'm going to be the spouse of the King of the Universe!! God is so good to me!! Praise Him Praise Him Praise Him!!" I want to tell everyone, I want to tell all my Catholic friends. I want to see how my non-Catholic friends will react. But I bite my tongue, I search my heart. I test out my zeal. Do I want to tell this particular person because she ought to know? If I want to share it with a whole room full of people, or if I want to share it on Facebook, that is not right. I know it. That sort of desire stems from my desire to be approved of, to be celebrated, to be the center of attention, to even be somewhat infamous. Surely in some of my social circles the desire to be a religious is a claim to notoriety. I can imagine that will be the case among my coworkers in my secular job. I can share my joy with my family, with my most intimate sisters who will be supportive, who will pray for my discernment, who will hold me accountable to my commitments. As for the rest, well, I ponder even the deepest parts of my vocation within me.
- Abandon yourself in Christ. This is it. This is the simplest form of holiness, the surest way to true joy. When we trust Him, we will hear Him. We will begin to know Him. We will allow ourselves to be filled with His love and transformed by it. In your abandonment of self, of fear, of worry to be emptied of all that and filled instead by Christ's love, Christ's hope, Christ's peace—you cannot miss the call to whatever vocation He desires for you.