wisdom - Related Content

Action vs. contemplation in discernment?

Thursday, October 12th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


Every year, a cycle of radical busyness invades my life. I brace for it and always persevere. Strategy is embedded in the pages of my calendar and I make defensive moves to try to protect time for silence, creativity, fun and rest in addition to ever-present action. It is easy to be consumed by all of the good things ministry and life offer. 

Perhaps it is divine providence that, just as I am experiencing this annual tug of war with my calendar, Martha and Mary arise in the Gospel reading (Luke 10:38-42). Recall for a moment the familiar story: Martha is busy and Mary appears idle. Mary is praised while Martha is chided. I don’t know about you, but this story has played itself out dozens of times in my life. The script for me goes something like this: I am running around from place to place accomplishing what I see are priorities while so-and-so puts up her feet and relaxes, appearing not to have a care in the world. Jealousy wins, I lose, and the scenario frequently repeats itself. Yet there are times when I’m like Mary and choose to slow down, spend time in contemplation, while someone else is running around looking at me as Martha surely did. 


Image courtesy freeimages.com

The challenge is integration of both active life and of contemplative life. This happens for me when I’m working on something and I realize I need a break to refocus, or when I’m praying in Mary of the Angels Chapel and a new idea will suddenly occur to me. 

Discernment of religious life takes balance too. Discernment in action — gathering information, visiting communities and meeting with sisters — takes (and should take) a considerable amount of time and can feel like the most important part of the journey. But discernment in contemplation — praying for wisdom and direction, asking yourself what you are most searching for — is equally essential. It takes (and should take) ample time to sit in contemplation and consider what is in front of you.

This week I invite you to ponder… are both action and contemplation present as you think about your decision? 

Are you balancing these essential components for the discernment of religious life in your calendar?

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Grilling, chilling and discernment

Thursday, July 28th 2016 12:30 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


Image by Sister Amy Taylor

When I think of summer I revel in the possibilities of beautiful weather and time to slow down, relax and reconnect in person (not through Facebook) with family and friends. And with record high temperatures across the upper Midwest the media advises moving at a snail’s pace to save energy and stay coolanother change in our tempo.

Letting go of the urge to hurry in every moment—when the time comes to stop working and get to a gathering, when we can't rush around in the heat doing what we think we have to do quickly—can be difficult. After all, American culture demands instant results. I came face-to-face with this reality while vacationing for a week with my FSPA sisters. One day we decided to grill hamburgers for our evening meal. Typically, after a full day of ministry, we run home to quickly cook and put dinner on the table. Charcoal grills, however, can have cooking minds of their own: run hot and cold in the wind and placement of the coals; temperamental to the skill level of the one flipping the food. Grilling is not an instantaneous process but when you're on vacation, why rush? Why not enjoy the experience?

If you dig deeper into the coals, grilling can offer wisdom for the discernment process. Controlling an open flame takes a careful eye. Too much oxygen and the flames might jump wildly, too little and the coals can suffocate. Smoke can obscure vision and make breathing difficult. Multitasking or walking away can result in a seriously overdone dinner. In a matter of a few moments burgers can go from perfection to charred hockey pucks.

Just like grilling, rushing discernment can spark out-of-control flames, become all consuming, or stifle it out completely. Smoke in discernment can cloud vision; can surface in the form of anything that encourages distraction from the very personal and mindful process. The same holds true of too much trepidation thatlike putting the lid on the grillcan snuff out gifts and talents, slowly suffocate bright flames. 

Yet if we take the time to be attentive to the process we will discover our unique discernment temperature. Letting the coals of discernment provide the necessary inspiration can lead to sweet success, just like the enjoyment of roasting marshmallows in the dusk of a summertime barbeque.

Are you taking time this summer to nurture the coals and fan the flames in your life?

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