Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Navigating Decisions with the Gift of Council

A little more than 12 years ago, I was a teacher and a technology coordinator at Bishop McDevitt High School, as well as the chairperson for the Diocesan Technology Committee. Livia Riley, then the Superintendent of Schools, had a vision to equip our schools for 21st century learning. With the assistance of the Technology Committee and the Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13, she sought to receive a very large telecommunication grant. The Technology Committee was responsible for writing a significant part of the grant. The committee met on a weekly basis to hash out not only how to build a network that extends the entire length and breadth of the Diocese, but also how to maintain it and train teachers how to use it.

Once the grant work was completed, the Technology Committee began writing a job description for the Wide Area Network Coordinator. This person would initially interface with various vendors to build the network and then maintain it with the help of the IT Department. During the course of writing the job description, the IT Director turned to me and said, “Sister, do you want this job?” Immediately, I announced, “I already have a job; teaching at McDevitt!”

About a year later, after the Diocese was awarded the grant, the position opened and I was offered it once again. I prayed and prayed and prayed about this huge leap of faith. You see, I was a teacher. I thoroughly enjoyed working with students! I could not see myself out of the classroom at all! I kept asking God, “What is the prudent thing to do? Are you really calling me from teaching?”

Needless to say, the decision to leave the classroom was truly one of the hardest things I ever did. I remember parking across the street on the first day of school after I had left. I watched the kids going into McDevitt and cried horribly. I dried my eyes and then drove to the Diocesan Center to begin an entirely new ministry.

Discernment. Prudence. Council. These are so important in any major decision. They are also significant as I continue my series on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

So, what is the gift of Council? As Father John Hardon, S.J. says, “The Gift of Counsel is ‘to render the individual docile and receptive to the counsel of God regarding one’s actions in view of sanctification and salvation.’ Primarily, this gift enables a person to judge individual acts as good and ought to be done, or as evil and ought to be avoided. The counsel is made in view of one’s own personal sanctification and one’s ultimate supernatural end. Therefore, this gift prompts the person to ask himself, ‘Will this act lead to holiness? Will this act lead to Heaven?’ Clearly, this gift is linked with the virtue of prudence; however, while the virtue of prudence operates in accord with reason as enlightened by faith, the Gift of Counsel operates under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, the counsel given may be that for which reason alone would not be able to give an explanation … This gift also has great effects: preserving a good conscience, providing solutions to difficult and unexpected situations, and helping to give counsel to others, especially in matters of personal sanctification and salvation.”1

When I first read that quote, I felt as if my mind was exploding! Confession time: I never totally understood how the cardinal virtues (prudence is one of them) and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit were intertwined. Yet, I understood that grace builds on nature. In other words, one has to be open to the workings of God in order to receive a grace that He is willing to give. One has to be ready to live within the Will of God – just as Jesus did – to properly make a decision.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with your gifts so we might live in union with the Will of the Trinity! Amen!

1http://www.sjohio.org/assets/templates/mycustom/ethereal/files/lesson/holyspirit/lesson_06b.pdf

By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness

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