Monday, July 09, 2007

Discernment, Obsession, and Intimacy with the Lord

This is an issue that I have thought about for quite a while. The topic sufaced lately at a site I frequent. In a personal note to the person who mentioned it, I wrote the following. It is only an excerpt and I'm sure there will be more to follow someday. I tend to have a hard time writing for long periods of time about the same topic. I'm easily frustrated with my mind moving so much faster than my fingers...

...I too have thought ‘long and hard’ about the issue you addressed. When I noticed my own life changing because of a growing ‘obsession’ I had to take a real step back. Only by the grace of God did I recognize my faults and only by the grace of God do I take even one step toward holiness. Every point you made is true and I am glad that someone has said it. ... But it is important that these things are discussed. It is important that we are honest, first with ourselves and then with one another.

A call to religious life is not an order to pride. In fact, it is the complete opposite. As you said, we are all called to service. Each and every person is called to this but certainly religious in a different way than lay persons. In knowing this, one must recognize the role of a servant and the humility it requires. Humility is, in itself, a huge matter – a huge challenge! (See the following for some of my thoughts on the matter: )

It is so important that we young persons do not get swept up in the fantasies we create in our minds. Often we look at the older and wiser in our lives and long to think as they do, be as they are. The capability is certainly not lacking; this I’m sure you know. The fantasies we conjure, I dare say, never subside (though they may decrease in frequency and intensity), but rather, as we grow older, we learn to find within them what little truth might lie. This is what makes the older wiser. Though I do not believe it necessary for me to say, I will say this anyway: We also know and recognize that the truly wise do not come to this end, to these means, of their own accord. Certainly it is the Holy Spirit being allowed the opportunity to work in their lives. It is only through the mighty grace of God that any person discovers truth and obtains holiness.

To address specific points in your post, I will start with your mention, in so many words, of the intimacy of the call to religious life. How important it is for us to always remember the intimacy of each of our relationships! It is our charge, I do believe, to take great care in maintaining this intimacy, not only with our Lord but also with each of our friends and family members. (Please forgive my tendency to speak of other matters. I tend to want to discuss all situations in order not to mislead a person in sharing my evaluations. Another form of pride is evident in this. I have many things on which I must work!) The treatment of discernment of different vocations has always greatly confused me. In a young person’s discernment of marriage, he or she is not questioned with such intensity by persons of little acquaintance. This is one of many reasons to take care to guard your privacy.

I do not mean to say that a person should hide his or her discernment. Certainly it is beneficial for the peoples of our times, and especially in our particular society, to see young faithful in pursuit of a greater good. However, there must be a certain prudence that accompanies this journey. When one enters into a courtship, he or she does not share the intimate details of the relationship with each person he or she meets. Certainly it is fine – and healthy – to comment on the beautiful relationship and the great joy that comes from it. General details are customary but specifics are unnecessary. It is not expected that one discuss the intimacies of his or her courtship, why should the intimacies with our Lord be any different?

It is my opinion that each young person discerning a call to religious life should be cautious in what he or she shares with others. Certain persons will not understand this concept and some might even resent it. That, however, should be of little concern. Just as you do not demand the details of my courtship, I should not (and do not) demand the details of yours. When the time comes, you will know what is necessary.

It is important, I believe, to mention why I feel this way. It is not because I in some way think that others should be excluded from the joys of discerning a vocation to the religious life. I recognize the benefits in sharing that joy, both because it inspires greater glory of the Lord and because it may help others to realize their own call and discern it more completely. However, the more we allow others to share in the knowledge of our intimacies, the less and less intimate they become. How often do we hear knowledgeable persons speak of the necessity for intimacy in human marriages? How often, then, should we hear about the necessity for intimacy in our relations with our Lord? You see, while there are great differences in the vocations, there are also great similarities. The foundations (and principles) are the same!

Also necessary to mention is the fact that, when you allow another to know the intimate details of this, or any, relationship, you allow them, generally by default, the privilege of commenting. While it is great to have ‘outside opinion’ and to be open to correction from our brother (if we are in error), it is important to eliminate any unnecessary confusion. When in discernment, especially this particular type of discernment, it is best to keep discussion of detail limited to a certain number of people. It is not possible, I don’t think, to give a set number but common sense will tell you when ‘enough is enough’. When discerning with a particular order, I should think that the vocations director for the order and your spiritual director (who, in the best cases, will also be your confessor) would be enough. I have my reasons for limited inclusion of family, most of which I am quite positive you could figure out based on my previous statements. For that reason, I will not go into any further detail. ...


Blogger Daughter of St. John said...

There was some wisdom from St. Therese on sharing these intimate moments and how once they are shared they cease to be so special, they are in a way cheapened or just not as profound because in sharing them they are somehow diminished. If I find the bit on this I'll send it to you.

Be holy.

7/09/2007 11:28:00 PM  
Blogger Laura H. said...

'Twas my point exactly.. I'd love to read it!

7/09/2007 11:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said. DP.

7/12/2007 11:41:00 AM  

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