Thursday, February 28, 2013

Discernment of God's Will: Asking in All Sincerity

According to the Ignatian method, step 3 of discernment is asking the Lord in all sincerity to know what decision is the one that will lead you to  the end for which God created you. That end, of course, as mentioned in step one of his discernment process,is to work out your salvation and to give highest praise and glory to your Creator God and to do so in the use of your talents, educational background, and all that makes you the person you now are and are capable of becoming. If you choose the direction you are now considering or make the choice you are facing, will you be more and more like Christ (your salvation) and thus give highest praise and glory to God or will you mar those opportunities? If you choose to be a mother/a spouse, a woman religious, a single person; if you choose to marry this person and not this other, if you make this choice instead of another, will you be putting yourself in a situation that will best enable you to become your best self, to fall in love with God, first of all, and, second of all, to grow and mature in love humanly speaking with yourself and others? You want to sincerely know that the choice you are about to make is in accord with God’s holy will for you.  In effect, you are sincerely  asking the Lord to show you what He wants of you and you are sincerely saying with Jesus in Gethsemane: "Lord, Your will, not mine be done.”

Source: Discernment of Spirits by Warren Sazama, SJ, National Religious Vocation Conference, Chicago, IL 60615.





Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Discernment of God's Will according to St. Ignatius

Step 2 of St. Ignatius method of discernment is detachment, that is total openness to what God wants.  If I am going to be totally open,  then I need to set aside that toward which I am personally inclined. St. Ignatius is suggesting that I be totally indifferent, totally detached from the outcome of my prayer. That means that I want only God’s answer, not my own, and that I will not give God suggestions.  I will not pray: “God, please, please give me…….”  Or that I would say: “Lord, I want to be married to a person who has lots of money.” Or, “Lord, I want to be married to a person who is physically beautiful, has blond hair, is a graduate of…..”  Or, “Lord, I want to enter a religious community that lets me serve on the West coast or the East coast or the Midwest.”  Or, “God, I want to enter a religious community in which the members wear a habit, do not wear a habit, etc., etc.”  No! If I am detached from the answer, then my prayer sounds something like: “Lord, only your will be done. Reveal to me what your will is for me and give me the grace to be totally open to what you want of me and for me.” I want God’s answer and His alone. I truly want to know, of the choices that I am considering, given the circumstances I am in, what do you want of me, Lord. When it comes to a State in Life, I truly want to know whether God is calling me to be married, to remain single or to enter religious life.  St. Ignatius calls us to  desire neither one choice over another or one vocation over another but that we desire only that which God desires of us. In other words, if totally open, my  prayer might go something like this: “Lord, show me what you want of me? Reveal your will to me.”   In the words of Jesus spoken in the Garden: "Not my will but yours be done, O Lord." Or the words of Mary at the Annunciation: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your will."

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Discerning God's Will: Ignatian Method

IGNATIAN METHOD OF DISCERNMENT: Step I of the Ignatian method of discernment is to think of the end for which we have been created: 1) to praise and glorify God and 2) to work out our salvation. We have been placed on this earth to make choices both in terms of becoming the persons God meant us to become (thus glorifying the Lord) and in choosing that state in life in which we can best do that.  When we choose that State in Life to which God calls us, then it is in that lifestyle that we will best become our true selves, give highest praise to God and work out the details of our salvation. A question we might ask ourselves is:  Where best and how best can I come to know Jesus and develop a deep personal friendship with Jesus? Both of those goals are necessary if we are to reach our end: glorifying God and achieving our salvation.  Accepting the gift of salvation and all that is necessary to realize this gift, our complete transformation into Christ Jesus, is a life-long task in any vocation in life.

Source: Discernment of Spirits by Warren Sazama, SJ, National Religious Vocation Conference, Chicago, IL 60615.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Discernment: Knowing the Difference between the Means and the End

Not Confusing the Means with the End--A Seventh Attitude Necessary for Discernment of God’s Will:  One’s state in life is a means to the end: glorifying and serving the Lord. Marriage, religious life, the single life are not the end of anyone’s life.  Each person’s primary goal is to give glory to the Lord and to serve Him by following His lead, allowing the Lord to direct one’s life.  Our focus is to be on the Lord and on doing His will, as it was for Jesus. Being human or taking on humanity was not the end for Jesus. It was the means to carry out the will of the Father, our salvation through His obedience to the Father, an obedience that led to death.   So, too, with one’s state in life, a state chosen because it is perceived as God’s will , a means  to accomplish the primary goal of one’s existence: glorifying God, serving God, realizing one’s oneness with God.  So that, with St. Paul, we will be able to say: “It is no longer I but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2: 19-20).

 An example of confusing the means with the end may be described as follows: “Many people first choose to make a lot of money or be successful, and only afterwards be able to serve God by it. And so, too, in their striving for power, popularity and so on.  All these people exhibit an attitude of putting God in second place and they want God to come into their lives only after accommodating their own disordered and self-centered attachment. In other words, they mix up the order of an end and a means to that end. What they ought to seek first and above all else , they often put last” (Spiritual Exercises, (169).

 Many times, this same error occurs when we are bent on speaking our minds to another person or on complaining about another behind his/her back: we tend to vent and afterward consider what God would have wanted us to do in that situation.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Priorities and Discernment

Prioritizing around one’s Ultimate Goal in Life: Serving God:A Sixth Attitude Necessary for Discernment of God’s Will--If my primary goal in life is to serve God, then everything I do, every choice I make, needs to lead to that end.   If a choice I am considering—even in the events of everyday life—is not a means of serving God and glorifying Him, then it is off kilter. I need to subordinate everything to this one goal: serving the Lord and loving God with my whole mind, my whole heart, and my whole soul--no fragmented, divided service.  If what I am contemplating does not lead me closer to God, does not foster harmony of my will with the will of God, if I am not at peace with my choice, then that choice needs to be rejected, St. Ignatius cautions.  In his words:  “What we want above all is the ability to respond freely to God, … all other loves for people, places, and things are held in proper perspective by the light and strength of God’s grace….In coming to a decision, only one thing is really important—to seek and to find how God is calling me at this time of my life….God has created me out of love, and my salvation is found in my living out a return of that love (Spiritual Exercises 16, 169,23).

 In the silence of your heart and room, ask God in prayer to open your eyes, mind, heart to see clearly what is motivating you in a choice that you are contemplating. Lay bare your soul before Him. Tell Him what you are contemplating and why you are thinking this way. Share your feelings with the Lord. Do so in writing (that opens the sub- and unconscious mind so that you will see more deeply).  Then switch hands and ask the Lord to respond to you. Just start writing and see what comes to the surface.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Prayerful Reflection on One's Experience

A fifth attitude necessary for discernment of God’s will is prayerful reflection upon one's experience:   In order to discern the will of God for us we need to bring our experiences to the Lord.  We need to lay bare our souls before Him: what are we thinking, what are we feeling, what are we desiring; in short, what is going on inside of our heads, so to speak. What works for me is to describe what is going on for me by writing it out. I begin with “Lord,……………………….”  And then continue writing about what is going on in me. After I have described my experience, I then ask the Lord to give me feedback. I switch hands and, without thinking, just start writing and see what comes up from the depth of my being where God dwells.

We need to sit in silence before the Lord each day, possibly 20 minutes of quiet time with the Lord.  If doing this is difficult for you, begin with 5 minutes a day and then increase it to 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes.  It is very important to put ourselves at Jesus’ feet as learners. We need to come to the Lord and listen to God speak in the depth of our hearts. When thoughts distract us, gently and non-judgmentally, come back to the quiet.  To focus our minds, we might use a phrase or a word from Scripture to return our minds to the quiet.  Treat thoughts as passing clouds. Just let them pass through as clouds pass by the windows of our houses.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Interior Freedom in Discernment

Interior Freedom: A Fourth Attitude Necessary for Discernment of God’s Will

 In order to discernment God’s will for me, I need to be interiorly free.  St. Ignatius describes three types of persons  and their differing approaches to decision-making, each of which reveals the degree to which he/she is interiorly free.

  •         The talk-and-no-action person, the well-intentioned person whose intentions never materialize.  These persons want to do God’s will but never get around to doing so.  They are too distracted, too busy accomplishing what they want to do and do not take time for the one thing necessary, bringing one’s will into harmony with the will of God.

  •          The person who does all kinds of things, is busy accomplishing good but not tuning into the one thing necessary, doing what God wants of him/her.  These individuals put conditions on what God wants of them. “I will do God’s will if….” They will do what God wants as long as it is not a total commitment and as long as they do not need to adjust their priorities.   It’s “my will first,” and then “I will decide whether to follow what God is directing me to do with my life.”

·         The third type of person gives everything. Their deepest desire is to be doing what God is calling them to do no matter what the cost.  They attach no conditions to doing God’s will.      Only by being disposed in this way is a person authentically free  to find and follow God’s desires.

Source:  David Fleming, SJ, Draw Me into Your Friendship: The Spiritual Exercises, A Literal Translation and a Contemporary Reading

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Qualities/Attitudes of a Discerner

Courage: A Third Attitude of Discernment


In two previous blogs, I mentioned openness and generosity as essential attitudes of discernment. Also needed is courage.  To discern what God is asking you, not just in discerning your state in life, requires courageous action.  An example of  carrying out God will that takes courage might be the decision to say no to a date because of pressures to act in ways against your faith.  God might ask things of you that involve giving up control and trustingly putting the decision in God’s hands.  Mary models that trust at the wedding feast of Cana when she alerted Jesus to the fact that they had no wine and He responded: “Woman, what do you want of me? My hour has not get come” (Lk 2:4).  Waiting upon God can be very difficult and demands a lot of spiritual strength, especially if you are a person who wants closure, as I am.  I usually want to make quick decisions when it would be far better to wait, at least, until tomorrow . Jesus waited upon the Father, as He knew His hour had not yet come, not even at the moment that His Mother asked Him to save the wedding party from the embarrassment of having run out of wine.  He waiting 30 years before entering into his public life, a move He did not make until willed by the Father. To wait for that confirmation of knowing that our wills harmonize with God’s, or to let go of something we have bend our hearts upon when it is clear that that is not God’s will for us but may be for our best friend, is no easy task. Discerning God’s will and following it truly does demand courage and is not for the faint-hearted. Let us pray for the courage of Mary and of Jesus.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Discernment Attitudes

One of the first attitudes of discernment suggested by St. Ignatius of Loyola, as I mentioned in a previous blog, was openness. A second attitude is generosity.  To be totally open to God’s will, whether asking God to which vocation in life His is calling me and where would I serve Him best or whether it is the directions He wants me to take in living out this day, requires generosity on my part.  God wants my all, my entire being: my mind, my will, my heart, my hopes and fears, my serenity and anxiety, those things about me that radiate God’s beauty within or which reflect my tendency toward selfishness.  To put no conditions on what God asks of me today, on what amount of time, for instance, He requires me to give to a needy child or a boss who piles more and more work upon me, or a husband/wife who is unwilling to acquiesce to my needs: God wants my generosity in loving, caring, responding with patience, being willing to forgive myself and others, or whatever the challenge.  Generosity! Who comes to my mind as being generous, giving, caring, loving, open to life on life’s terms?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

World Consecrated Life Day

Feb. 2-3 was World Consecrated Life Day.  On Feb. 10, religious priests, brothers and sisters who are members of various religious congregations came together with the Bishop of the diocese of Paterson to celebrate this great gift to the Church.  Religious life is a “radical living” of our baptismal call, making Jesus’ way of life our way of life.  With great enthusiasm and joy, men and women who have consecrated their lives to the Lord continue to deepen their relationship with Jesus and with one another as they give credence to the faith given them in baptism and sealed in confirmation.  Bishop Serratelli, Bishop of the Paterson Diocese prayed that the “great grace of Baptism [may] work to full effect” in us so that we will be able to spread God’s Kingdom with apostolic zeal to build up the Church of Christ.  Pope Paul II, who inaugurated this Day of celebration Consecrated Life did so because of his belief that “consecrated life is at the very heart of the Church as a decisive element of her mission since it manifests the inner nature of Christian calling” (Quotes from The Beacon, The Newspaper of the diocese of Paterson, N.J., Feb. 14, 2013).

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Listening to God's Voice

How do you know God's will for you?  God speaks to you in your heart, in the depths of your being.  The Holy Spirit lives within your true self, directing you from that place within where you and God are one.

How do you become aware of the whispering, soft voice of the Spirit of God? By learning/teaching yourself to be alone, to   be in a place of solitude and quiet; by practicing being still in the presence of God (God is everywhere).  God's voice can best be heard in the solitude of nature, of churches, of any place where we tune out distracting noises or, when distracted, returning to the stillness by using a mantra such as : "Be still and know that I am God," or simply the word "God" or "stillness," or "love" or "peace" or whatever word brings you back to a quiet, listening stance.  God is always speaking to your heart/soul, sending you messages that will lead to your peace, your happiness, your wholeness and holiness.  Are you tuned in? To what voices are you listening: only your own? only that of others? only your ego's (the ego wants its will be be done, wants to go its own way, not the way God wants)?  What is your desire?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The benefits of religious life

Religious Life:  What I most like about religious life--the benefits of religious life, for me--is that it is a lifestyle which creates an environment that is rich in spiritual nourishment.  Every day we gather as a community to pray Morning and Evening Praise.  In the convent where I live, faith-sharing is part of Evening Praise, that is, we share briefly how the Scriptures touched us and how God is calling us to conversion through that Word.  The celebration of the Eucharist is central to our lives.  So every day we participate in the day's liturgy, from which we are sent forth to be "bread" blessed and broken  for others.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Openness: An Attitude Essential to Discernment of God's will

St. Ignatius of Loyola speaks of seven attitudes or qualities required for an authentic discernment process (Draw Me into Your Friendship: The Spiritual Exercises, A Literal Translation and a Contemporary Reading by David Fleming, SJ).   The first of these attitudes is openness:  we must approach the decision in question with an open mind and an open heart. We cannot find God’s will  if we enter into the decision-making process with a preconceived outcome based on our self-will, our biases, and what Ignatius calls “attachments.”  “Attachments” refer to areas in our lives where we limit freedom and put conditions on a decision. For instance, if I am considering religious life, I may say: “I will only serve in the Midwest or in the Southwest, or in the East.”  St. Ignatius is saying to us that the motivation needs to be: “Lord, you know to which religious community you are calling me; reveal your will to me.  You know where you want me to serve you, reveal your plans for me.”  As a newly professed member of a religious community recently stated in a recorded interview by  the NRCV/CARA study of vocations, “this religious community’s charism was already in me; I only needed to discover it” (Moving Forward in Hope: Keys to the Future,  2012 DVD).

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Being Afraid to Answer the Call to Religious Life

It is normal to be scared. The step you are considering—to apply for admission into a religioius community-- is a big step. How will you know, you ask, whether religious life will satisfy you? You will not know that  without tasting it personally. Remember, the fact that you are considering the call to consecrate your life to the Lord as a woman religious is because God is giving you the  grace and the courage to take this step. Getting to know a religious community, or several religious communituies and then choosing to go through the application process of a particular community are all part of preparing to take this step.  And, yes, it can be scary but also reassuring.  Reassurance continues on your part and the part of the religious community  after you are accepted and begin the  1 or 2 year postulancy--the first step in training to become a member of a religious community (some call it candidacy).  This, too, is a time of discernment and further reassurance, as  is the novitiate (the 1 or 2 year period following postulancy) and the temporary vow period (which is a minimum of 4 years required by canon law prior to making final vows). Any time before final vows is a time for you and the religius community to discern: is this vocation right for you?  is this religious community right for you? Are you and the religious community satified with your choice?  Only then, by mutual consent, would you make a commitment to serve the Lord as a member of a particular religious community for life. The process is lengthy, similar to a lengthy engagement period prior to committing oneself for life to partner with one’s future spouse. It is not a step taken lightly and I hope that is reassuring to you.

I would be happy to converse with you by phone concerning this issue. If you would like to do that, please let me know when would be a good time to call you. I can be reached at 973-627-0424 (office) or 973-349-9654 (cell).

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"I Want to Enter in a Few Months"

Some inquirers writes: “My goal is to enter religious life by such-and-such a date.” Entrance into any religious community is a lengthy process. It means taking time to get to know that religious community and that community getting to know you. That getting-to-know process could take 8-12 months prior to going through the application process. Only after knowing each other, for my religious community and most likely for others,  is the application process begun. That, too, is a lengthy process of 6-8-12 months.  When you are at the point of seriously looking into which religious community God might be calling you, that means becoming familiar with a variety of religious communities to know which is a good fit for you. That is a lengthy engagement. The process begins in a variety of ways: telephone chats, personal visits, email conversations, Skype conversations, studying materials sent to you by the communities of your choice, etc., attending “Come and See” sessions or “Discernment” sessions that the vocation director arranges or which you schedule individually with the vocation director.   So you can see, discernment of a religious vocation and which community to enter is a lengthy process, just as with marriage. A wise person does not enter marriage hastily but dates a number of persons or one or two persons for a lengthy period of time. Some persons date their partner for 3-4-5-6 years before taking the final step of marriage. Entering a permanent commitment to a lifelong partner is not done quickly; neither is entering religious life.


This getting to know a religious community continues after one enters the postulancy, the first step in training to become a sister.  The postulancy is a 1-2 year period, followed by 1-2 year novitiate training and then a minmum of four years of temporary vows. Only then is a permanent commitment made to be a life-long member.  As yhou can see, that whole time is similar to the dating period that precedes marriage, as vows are not taken lightly in either vocation.


I would be happy to converse with you by phone concerning this issue. If you would like to do that, please let me know when would be a good time to call you. I can be reached at 973-627-0424 or via email,






Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Uncertainty about the Call

Being uncertain about your vocation, not sure whether you are called to religious or married life or the single life is normal.Living in the tension of not knowing is important. I suggest that,in prayer, you share all the feelings and thoughts you have about each vocation, or the vocation you are considering, with the Lord. You could do that by journaling or  writing the Lord letters expressing these inner stirrings, the confusion, the questions that are rising up within you. Eventually a clear picture will emerge in God’s time and place, not ours.

 Do not rush the process or force clarity. Live in the mystery.  Go about life, living it fully and intentionally, meaningfully and calmly as a student, as a participant or leader in service and/or parish activities, as an employee, knowing that, as Isaiah tells us, “in quiet and in trust your strength lies” (Is. 30:15).  Keep seeking God’s will above all—He will show you what He wants of you as you continue to open yourself up to a variety of experiences and considerations. Always seek His counsel. Call upon Him for clarity, patience, humility and love.  Be open to dating, to religious life, to intentionally remaining single, namely, to whatever vocation God calls you. The key is: what does God want of you and where does your happiness lie. God wants you to be at peace with yourself and happy with you choices.

 Since the Holy Spirit has whispered to you to consider religious life, it is possible that you are called to consecrate your life to the Lord. That will become obvious to you as you search out information about religious life: browsing websites, visiting convents, talking to vocation directors (face-to-face or through email, telephone conversations, Skype), attending discernment sessions and/or “Come and See” events. At “Come and See” events you will meet sisters, begin to become acquainted with that community’s charism and spirituality, listen to the Sisters’ vocation stories, ministry experiences, their living of community life, what makes them happy and joyful in their vocation, etc.—a sort of dating “religious life” over an extended period of time.

Many young women do not enter marriage or religious life until their late twenties or early thirties, so give yourself space to consider the vocation in life to which God is calling you without putting undue pressure on yourself.

I hope this information is helpful to you. As vocation director for my religious community, I would love to hear from you, that is, to be able to talk with you via a phone call. I can be reached at 973-627-0424(office) or 973-349-9654 (Cell) or by email— Let me know if you would appreciate the opportunity to chat about feeling called to religious life. If so, suggest a good time to call you.

Welcome to my new blog!

I am excited to share many insights and guidance for women who are discerning their vocational call. Check back soon for regular updates!