Monthly Archives: October 2013

“How can we hear and respond to God’s call for our lives?”

Laura Kelly Fanucci

Laura Kelly Fanucci

by Laura Kelly Fanucci, Project Researcher, Collegeville Institute

From the time we are children and teenagers, people ask us questions like, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and “What are you going to do with your life?” Sometimes such questions seem exciting and full of possibility. Other times they feel oppressive and overwhelming. Yet at every stage of life’s journey-at mid-career or at retirement, for example-we are full of questions about what to do, where to go, who to be.

How can we learn to see where God is leading us through our journey? How can we become aware of how God speaks to us, often in “tiny whispering sounds”? How do we understand what God wants for and from our lives? These are questions of vocation that call for careful discernment.

Where do we notice God at work- in our relationships, in our work, or in our everyday activities?

The process of discernment is a centuries-old Christian practice of personal prayer and reflection with others that examines our lives in light of what we know about God’s hopes, dreams, and love for us. Discernment involves paying attention to our experiences in order to recognize God’s presence. Where do we notice God at work- in our relationships, in our work, or in our everyday activities? What other voices around us are competing with God’s voice or leading us towards selfish, even evil, inclinations instead of the good God wants for us? What patterns do we notice about how we make decisions: are we careful planners or do we simply fall into situations without much thought? How do we choose? Through discernment we consider our inner thoughts as well as our outward actions; we listen to ourselves, to others, to our community and our context.

Your discernment practices are the ways you reflect on your life and make decisions based on what God reveals to you through your life.

The Christian tradition offers many formal practices of discernment. Ignatian spirituality uses a review of where God’s presence is felt throughout the day (called the examen). Quakers gather “clearness committees” where a group helps an individual to discern God’s voice within them and find clarity about a question or dilemma. The practice of lectio divina that you are learning from the Rule of Saint Benedict is another discernment process with a long history of helping Christians sort out God’s voice from the many other voices that call to us.

But many people already have informal habits of discernment. Perhaps you have a trusted friend that you talk to about big decisions. Maybe you journal or pray or take long walks when you are wrestling with important questions. Your discernment practices are the ways you reflect on your life and make decisions based on what God reveals to you through your life:

“Vocation…comes from listening. I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about-quite apart from what I would like it to be about-or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions.

…Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am. I must listen for the truths and values at the heart of my own identity, not the standards by which I must live-but the standards by which I cannot help but live if I am living my own life.

–From Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

We often think of God’s call as a voice that is heard. The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word vocare which means “to call,” and “calling” has traditionally been another term for “vocation.” And people often talk about discernment as “listening for God’s call” or “hearing God’s voice,” as in the stories in Scripture when God speaks from a burning bush (Exodus 3:1-4:17) or wakes someone with a voice in the night (1 Samuel 3:1-18). Yet it seems that most of us do not experience God’s call through a booming voice from heaven that tells us where to go or what to do. Instead, we are called by God through the people and places, the events and the encounters, the challenges and the changes of our everyday lives. God communicates with us through conversations and questions, through friends and family, through our own hopes and thoughts. Maybe we feel “pulled” or “drawn” towards one decision instead of another. Perhaps we see signs or feel led down a certain path. These can all be ways that God reveals our vocation to us.

And vocation is not just God’s call to us; it is also our response to God. We call on God in turn as we struggle to figure out where and how to live out our vocations. Discernment practices are valuable for questions of vocation because they help us develop habits for exploring our relationship with God. While it takes effort and patience to learn how to look and listen for God, such habits of discernment can help us during times of doubt, fear or anxiety about our vocations. Making time and space for discernment can open our ears and our hearts to find God in the “tiny whispering sounds” of our lives.

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Excerpted from “Called to Life: Reflecting on Vocation” a curriculum we are using as part of the Following the Spirit discernment series. We are happy to be able to share this as a resource from the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research. –Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion; Co-Facilitator, “Following the Spirit” Discernment Series

On the Virtue of Patience: From Vis Companion and Doula, Heidi Govednik

Heidi Govednik

Squeezing her niece, Vis Companion Heidi Govednik

The following is an excerpt from Vis Companion Heidi Govenik’s recent blog post, “On Being A Doula”. We share this with her permission as part of our exploration of Salesian Virtues in our Second Monday Salesian Spirituality Series. Heidi spoke about patience in light of her work as a doula, or birth coach, at our Monday, October 14, 2013 evening at the monastery. We are grateful to highlight her inspiring thoughts and experience here.

Doula: The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period. (Definition taken from the DONA International website.)

“[As a doula, I’m learning] to submit to something larger than myself. I like to say I do this in my relationship with God on a regular basis, but the truth is I have a certain measure of control over my life that I daily choose to submit to God or cling to. ( I usually am doing the latter.) In birth, there is nothing you can do but be present to what is happening in labor and wait. I just wait. I watch. I am there, fully there…with no control but to choose to succumb to the steady, often slow, rhythm of labor. It is truly the only area of my life that I submit fully to patience and have no measure of control. What unfolds is incredible…every birth follows the same pattern somewhat like a song. Each is different, but follows the musical pattern of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge….chorus…maybe a doxology in a hymn. Each birth is different, yet I usually can expect a the steady pattern of early labor, the intensity of contractions as active labor takes over, the peak of emotions and physical motion in the transition stage, and the overwhelming anticipation as the urge to push takes over. And then I know, without a doubt, that after all those hours of patience and the steady beat of a woman in labor, a baby will in fact come out. Just like that.

During a birth this winter I was sitting on a chair in the corner of a dark room, well into the night, watching the monitor steadily go up and down with each contraction as the mother slept deeply with her epidural. The labor had been long and I was coming into the awareness of the lack of control I have in being a doula, and how much patience I was learning in turning off the rest of my life for a time to be present during a birth. I was thinking how I fail so much at doing this in my faith: resting in God’s presence and His timing. I know He is unfailing in His love, and He is faithful to His children…so why can’t I trust that if I am submitting myself to Him that I can rest in His truth? I always try to make my own way, make my own plans and ask God to come along. In the process of birth, there is something so beautiful and so sacred when the baby comes out….whether it was 35 hours of labor or only 2, I know the labor needed to happen for the gift of life to come. I always am full of joy as I leave the hospital, knowing that the long hours were worth being able to witness the miracle of a little boy or a little girl emerge from a woman. I want to learn that same patience in my life submitted to Christ. His Kingdom is worth it. My prayer is that I can have the strength to surrender to labor in life, to dwell in the moments, and the grace to wait for the joys to come.”

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To read Heidi’s entire post, click here: “On being a Doula” 

Practices of Discernment: Learning to Listen – Elijah’s Experience

Image from The Foundation Stone; blog by by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg.

The following prayer and questions are ones we will draw on in Session Two of our Discernment Series. Session Two is entitled, “Learning to Listen: Practices of Discernment.” We are grateful to our partners at the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research for this curriculum and the resources they offer us.

Then the Lord said,
“Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by.”
A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord— but the Lord was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake—but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire—but the Lord was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.
A voice said to him, “Elijah, why are you here?”

1 Kings 19:11-13

  • Elijah expected to find God in a powerful force of nature. Instead, God was revealed to him in a “tiny whispering sound.” Have you ever experienced God’s presence in an unexpected way? What did this experience feel like? What did it teach you about God?
  • How do you think God communicates with us? Through other people, nature, music, events, prayer or worship, Scripture or other reading, the needs of the world, or our own thoughts or ideas? Name one or two ways you have experienced God communicating with you in your life. What message did God communicate to you?

Marking our 25th Year in North Minneapolis

A "Bonding experience" in their first year, perhaps different than St. Francis or St. Jane every imagined?

1989: In their first year, the Founding Four Sisters on a police ride-along in north Minneapolis. A “bonding” experience– perhaps different than St. Francis de Sales or St. Jane de Chantal ever imagined?

Greetings Friend of Visitation Monastery of Mineapolis far and near!

We are embarking on a special time in the history of the Visitation Monastery as the Sisters and their neighbors and friends  mark the 25th year of this community!

On September 29, 1989, Sisters Mary Margaret, Karen and Mary Virginia said tearful good byes to their beloved St. Louis Visitation to come to establish, with Sr. Mary Frances, the Visitation Monastery of Minneapolis.

On October 2, 1989, Feast of the Guardian Angels,  Archbishop John R. Roach commissioned the Sisters to bring the gentle, non-violent charism of their founders to this inner city community. In his words, “I am happy I am sending the angels with you!.”

There is much to celebrate and mark in the coming months of the Lord’s amazing grace, right here!

S. Mary Frances in our fall newsletter writes about the founding of the monastery:

“Directed by the Holy Spirit through the ten years of discernment that preceded this foundation, we came with no other plan than to be faithful to our monastic way of life, which is centered on prayer and community, and to welcome and listen to those who came to our door. (Jesus promised us he would be there!) By faithfully listening to our neighbors, our agenda began to gradually unfold.”

 Click here to read more from the fall newsletter. Fall 2013 Newsletter