Friday, October 31, 2008

Discernment Tactics

I think I've waited too long to talk about the modes of discernment. If we keep talking about the priesthood and seminary life, when are we going to give out tools to make this possible? So I'm just going to mention things I used and feel free to add on. There is a lot of stuff out there. :) These are by no means in order of importance.

1. One of the most important things I rediscovered during my discernment was the power of confession to really conform my soul to Christ. I tend to have high standards - most especially for myself. Looking into my heart and seeing my own sinfulness and weaknesses, I always had the tendency to make a plan to overcome them. And it took me forever, FOREVER, to realize that this change, this conversion of myself, does not happen on my own power - no matter what my mental capabilities. Only through God's grace does change take place. Yes it takes my yes - but I was always saying yes. But I was just saying yes to myself. Skeptical as I am, I found out how powerful God's grace is only through His healing of me. And this healing, became a step on my own road to the priesthood. There is something amazing about realizing you don't have to do it alone. I like what someone once said of confession, it's like eliminating those last pockets of resistance. Yeah we're not big sinners, well hopefully, but we've still got these places where we resist God's call to love Him completely.

2. One of my other favorite discernment moves was something I just really like to do. I read so many biographies of saints. I started with JP2 and the monster that George Weigel wrote. Then I moved on to Padre Pio, St. Maximillian Kolbe, St. Catherine of Siena, Blessed Mother Teresa, and on and on. A good one I finished last year was St. Jean Vianney and now I'm working away at St. Thomas More. They've always inspired me. They start with so little and have so little support yet they rise to the heights of sanctity. What is it? I think it's love and it's trust. It's this sense that we can just keep it simple and love with everything we've got. And they make me want to live my life for Christ and find the happiness that only He can give. Plus, since I never really had a spiritual director during my discernment, I found my spiritual life growing through the spirituality I discovered in these books. If you aren't so good with books...the movie...St. great too.

3. Try doing something crazy for Christ. What do I mean? One of the things I look back on with fondness during my time of discernment were the days when I'd wake up ridiculously early, which at that time was like 6am but now that I wake up at 430am isn't so crazy, so I could get to an early daily Mass before work. Or I remember during Lent taking a bus out to this parish for the Good Friday liturgy after work and the rain just started pouring down. Other days I'd go to this place where they had perpetual adoration in Downtown LA. What I am getting at is just making these spaces for God in random places of your life.

4. I kinda already used this one in the last part but the Eucharist was really the center of my discernment as well. There is something to be said about receiving Christ into the depths of your being and realizing he is transforming you in those moments of intimate communion. Though I did not have a lot of faith in myself that I could become a priest, I realized I had a lot of faith that if God wanted me to be His priest, He would work it all out. It's the strength of the vocation that has gotten me here and will take me everywhere. I think Trevor also talked about this so I'll stop. :)

5. Try some experience in the parish - it's where you'll be if you do become a priest. :) I think this is once place where I was absolutely confirmed. My four years at the Newman Center in Davis were moments of complete change for me. I found myself leading and teaching - both things I had never done. Yet God called me to serve His Church through ministry at the Newman Center. And if anything, it just inflamed my heart with a desire for ministry, a hunger for souls, and a joy in serving Christ. I think this is so important to finding your calling. I remember, seriously, daydreaming about being a parish priest and serving in so many different ways. And this is when I was still in a relationship. Haha...

6. Spiritual Direction! I didn't do this, as I've already mentioned, when I was discerning. So I'm not a good example to follow. But I think this was at least in part because my first experience of spiritual direction turned into a lecture on prayer. That was a complete turnoff. Another time I tried talking to a priest, he had to go on vacation. I didn't have the perseverance I guess. But the reality is finding a spiritual director isn't easy. But thank God, if you need one, you can always ask the vocation director and he'll put you in touch with someone or just ask one of us. :) It's so important to find a spiritual director. And especially if you are considering a call to the priesthood, spiritual direction helps you to hear what is going on in your heart and in your relationship with God. In fact, everyone really needs spiritual direction and all the more if priesthood is on your mind.

7. There are also a lot of good books out there on discernment and priesthood. Just a few off the top of my head that are well worth checking out.

Priests for the Third Millennium - Archbishop Timothy Dolan
The Joy of Priesthood - Fr. Stephen Rossetti
Unchanging Heart of the Priesthood - Fr. Thomas Acklin

I can vouch for The Joy of Priesthood and most seminarians I know have read Priests for the Third Millennium. I haven't read it yet because I can't afford it. :) Anyways...I'll stop here or I'll never finish. Guys, feel free to add on as well. These are just some of my own thoughts. AMDG.

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