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Gather with gratitude on this Thanksgiving Day.
As we gather around the table in a spirit of thanksgiving to God for the blessings of friends, family, community and food, may we also reach out to those who are separated from loved ones, those who are mourning losses, and those who are homeless or hungry. May we also remember in our prayers of thankfulness all those who have grown, harvested and prepared the food that graces our tables today.
There are some common experiences that every generation shares and become markers of life. For my parent’s generation it’s the recollection of “Where were you when you heard the news that President Kennedy was assassinated?” Before 9/11, the world event question that I related to was “Where were you when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded?” It was during my science class as we watched the TV, set up with excitement for the landmark launch. That delight turned instantly to horror and grief after the shuttle exploded moments after take-off. My teacher rushed to turn off the TV and hurried us out of the classroom, taking us to the bathroom to distract from what we had just witnessed. Tears and shock were on our faces; teachers huddled in the hallway, whispering and wondering what to do.
Image courtesy of freeimages.com
Another defining moment was upon us last week as a total solar eclipse caught the attention of many (as captured by “National Catholic Reporter” in this post-eclipse reflection). I was in the St. Rose Convent Adoration Chapel as slowly the stained glass windows darkened and the warm tones of color disappeared. The eclipse altered vision for those outside the walls of the chapel but inside, prayer continued and the Blessed Sacrament remained the same.
FSPA prays 24/7 before the monstrance in the adoration chapel.
The eclipse has prompted an excellent question for discernment: where does your true light come from? What happens when obscurity of trial transcends as parents and friends try to dissuade you from pursuing religious life? Parents often dream of grandchildren; friends anticipate weekend fun, going out and dancing the night away. To them, religious life can feel like a dark choice — darkness of grief for what they will have to let go of. It's their own experience of a discernment eclipse.
But just like a real eclipse, darkness only lasts a short time and light always returns. Most parents genuinely want their child’s happiness and letting go of fictitious grandchildren is all a part of the discernment journey as they too learn to envision it as their own future. Encourage them to go out and have new life experiences of their own.
Good friends allow room for the friendship to grow and change. Dancing slowly shifts to different activities, just as it usually does for everyone with changes in interests.
God is always with you — even when it feels like you’re discerning in the dark. Learning to rely on God, on bright days as well as those filled with shadows, is life changing. The light is always there: you might just have to look through the lens of your heart instead of your eyes to see it. And perhaps your experience of an eclipse in discernment will be life-defining; a “Where was I …” moment.
This week I invite you to ponder…
What kind of moments are defining your discernment?
What type of special glasses — lenses for envisioning religious life — do you need to see clearly a discernment eclipse?
*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.
"God creates ways to fill in the holes we're convinced might swallow us up"
Image courtesy pixabay.com
Life, as well all know, includes instances in which things don’t work out the way we plan and dream. It could be an important exam that, despite long hours of study, garners a bad grade; disappoints and shatters your confidence. Or, perhaps it is the sudden end to a relationship that breaks your heart. It is in these raw, emotionally exhausting and vulnerable experiences that we stand before God, mourning our losses and grappling with what feels like the worst time in life — one leading to doubts and questions of our own motives, goals and identity.
If you’ve ever sunk to the depths of such despair — your own rock bottom — you will understand this week’s first reading as we hear the words from Baruch. The people are in agony; separated and lost with thoughts that they have been forgotten. But this is not true. God calls them to new life; reminds them that all is not lost. They will be happy again. They will have all they need. They are called out of mourning, reassured and given a renewed sense of purpose. With God’s encouragement, the fading light of what looks like the end can actually reveal the footholds of a new beginning — not only survival but hope and happiness.
God‘s light and love never dissipates. Friends and family pray you through, even if silently; under the guise of leaving you to find your own way through grief or challenge. They, like God, have not abandoned you in your time of need.
The Gospel is yet another source of encouragement, reminding us all this Advent season that every experience in life can be a stepping stone as we move into the future. God creates ways to fill in the holes we’re convinced might swallow us up.
As we reflect on the second week of Advent let us consider …
• How has God guided you along a treacherous path to restore your joy?
• How are you paying it forward and helping a friend or family member who may be suffering?
• How have you experienced disappointment or loss on your discernment journey?
• How has God been with you … every step of the way?
Are you discerning religious life? Walking with someone who is? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. And, stay tuned to Show me a sign for new videos in the FSPA discernment series!