Are you willing to go where discernment takes you?
Recently, St. Rose Convent was the unexpected destination for about 100 people traveling on a mystery tour. They arrived for Mass and were given a tour of Mary of the Angels Chapel.
Pondering their presence I began to wonder: “Would I get on a bus with people I don't know and go wherever it stops?"
Discernment can sometimes feel like taking a mystery tour. When I am discerning I’m not always sure where I’m going, and often times someone else is driving. That someone else may be God, driving me along as I listen in prayer, as community members invite me to new opportunity, as family and friends reflect what they have noticed in me. We are all traveling the mysterious journey of life as it unfolds.
As you reflect on your life ... what is your level of trust in situations when you feel like you are not totally in control, or when you can't see around the next bend in the road? Are you finding yourself on a mystery tour of discernment?
The weather here in Wisconsin has been a bit confusing lately. One morning it is sunny with unseasonably warm temperatures and the next it’s cloudy and flurries are blowing through the trees. And on several recent mornings I have encountered fog.
I find fog has a variety of effects on me: frustration and fear because I can no longer see what is in front of me; wonder as I watch it crawl across the Mississippi River; and inspiration when I see the first sunbeams reveal the beauty around me. If we are willing to acknowledge it, fog has the ability to be a gift and offer moments of transformation. It invites all of us to slow down and be present to what is right in front of us. When we walk or drive through fog, the way forward can be revealed in small sections of the roadway. We have to rely on that now moment—not what we see a few minutes down the road but what is right in front of us. We can’t spend time looking back or too far forward.
Have you ever thought about how fog can be a gift found in your discernment journey? Discernment can be filled with many foggy moments: moments in which we want to see through it, to know what we will encounter. Fog can be a symbol of the mystery that we walk in each day as we discern the next part of our life journey. Perhaps in these foggy moments we can take time to pause and ponder what the now moment is inviting us to.
Where are we going? When are we going to get there?
These are questions I recall asking incessantly, as a child, every time my family would get in the car and head out of our driveway for a road trip. Sometimes we had a plan and direction; others, we went out for an adventure and looked for signs touting interesting destinations and attractions along the road.
Life, I‘ve discovered, offers both of these experiences: sometimes I know exactly where I’m going but, more often than not, it reveals itself in the right place, at the right time. Yet I know that God is in everything—the things I plan and the surprises around each twist and turn.
Religious life is also a transformative road trip; each generation guided by its unique calling in the world. Some ministerial routes are planned according to congregational tradition while others are detoured to guide us to new destinations of need.
It reminds me of the story of the Good Samaritan, taking his own road trip. He had a plan when he started his journey yet when he came upon someone in need not only did his itinerary change but, I imagine, his heart was transformed too.
FSPA gather together to envision, plan for and celebrate the future of religious life.
This weekend, our congregation will come together for community days: a convergence of all FSPA ministries and experiences and ideas. Our hearts and minds are pointing to the future of religious life with the intention of our conversations and prayer to help us live into our now and what is to come. For, as Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration Eileen McKenzie writes in her poem “Rebirth” (published in a “Global Sisters Report” article on June 6), women religious are uniting on the road to the way:
Where are we?
What’re we doin’?
We’re sharin’ and carin’
And rarin’ to go.
Haven’t been there before.
But we know the Way.
Caring and sharing
Questioning and praying
Laughing and dancing
Accompanying and crying
Witnessing and proclaiming
Healing and teaching
Trying and failing
Trying again and failing again
That there’s no “right way”
And that Way is
Rising again to
Where are we going again?
Haven’t been there before.
But we DO know the Way.
As you walk your own road of discernment this week, reflect upon how you may be coming upon a turn towards religious life. Your gifts and talents may be precious fuel for propelling us into the future.
What scenery is catching your eye?
What needs are you discovering along the way?
How is your discerning heart transforming on your journey?
From wherever you are in the world, join us in a moment of prayer as FSPA meets to discern the future of religious life.
Watch Sister Eileen’s discernment reflection--her own journey to religious life--in the FSPA vocation series "Called."