Friday, June 21, 2024

Vocation Awareness: Is God Speaking to Me?

Not too long ago, as I was sharing my vocation story, I was asked by a young adult, “What is the most wonderful thing about being a Sister?” Believe it or not, I was never asked that question before! I paused a few seconds and declared with much joy, “Telling others how much God loves us and how He speaks to us!”

My questioner reflected and then asked, “How do I know that what I hear is actually God and not my own imagination?”

My response to him was, “Good question! A lot of folks ask that.” I recently read shownotes from a podcast produced by Ascension that discussed this very notion1. The following bold-face questions are Jeff Cavin’s, but the explanations are mine. These are great stepping stones within the process of what we call discernment.

Does it agree with Sacred Scripture? – We all have to view Sacred Scripture as a whole, not just one piece or just one phrase. Praying daily with Scripture allows us to get to understand how God thinks. Even so, if we think we are being directed away from what is taught in Scripture, then this probably is not something we should venture toward.

Does it agree with Sacred Tradition? – I bet you never thought about the importance of Sacred Tradition when it comes to Scripture. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, (p. 113) “Read the Scripture within ‘the living Tradition of the whole Church’. According to a saying of the Fathers, Sacred Scripture is written principally in the Church’s heart rather than in documents and records, for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God’s Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture (‘. . . according to the spiritual meaning which the Spirit grants to the Church’).”

Scripture and Sacred Tradition are not about us. This idea might seem countercultural, since our current society puts us at the center of the universe. Actually, it puts the individual in the center of everything! By surrendering to the teachings of the Church, we are exercising living humility. This directly ties to the next way of discerning if God is speaking.

Will you become more like Jesus? – Does the action you are contemplating transform you to identify with Christ as He loves the Father and the people around you? Would He want to do what you are thinking about? If yes, why? If no, then run to the hills!

Is it consistent with your vocation? – We are all called to follow Christ in a unique and special way, to single life, married life or religious life. But above that, God directs us individually in a specific way to build up His Kingdom. Yes, even as a religious of 38 years, God still guides me on a daily basis.

So, is the action that you are discerning a match with your current state in life? The only “state” that might be transitory is the single state. Even so, there is a moral way of living in which single folks are called. If married, does it deepen your love for your spouse and your children?

Is it consistent with how God has made me? – This is a unique question. I always wanted to be a ballet dancer. As a child, I loved ballet class! However, as I grew, I realized that my body type and my agility would not support my love of ballet. I still love to watch people dance.

You might want to think about this question in the following manner: God has given every single one of us gifts and talents that are uniquely ours. These were given to us for a special reason by God to serve Him and our fellow human beings. The trick is to accept them and use them for Him!

Is there a peace deep within your heart? –  As you discern a question or a course of action, does it give you a sense of peace even if it is hard to do? The presence of peace is a sure sign that God is present in this decision.

Would those who know you confirm what you are about to do? We are not made to go it alone. God puts people in our lives to keep us on the path toward Him. The people you love and who love you are the ones with whom you should discuss a decision or a course of action. Seek their advice, as they can assist you in your discernment.

Does it build the Kingdom of God? – This is definitely a “churchy” phrase! What it means is, making heaven visible on earth right now! Does your decision make the reality of heaven present to others on earth. If yes, then go for it!

What is the fruit of your action or decision? – What are the by-products of your decision? Who is affected by it, and how? Even if it is hard, if it brings into fruition what God wants, then proceed.

Spend some quiet time with God – Pray and pray some more. Having a relationship with Christ means spending time alone with Him; not only talking with Him but also listening! By spending time with Him, you will come to understand how He works with your soul and what He wants you to do!

Are these the 10 commandments of knowing how God speaks to us? Not really. Remember, God is God and we are His sons and daughters. He can speak to us in anyway He wants. He is God and we are His creatures! But He does and will speak if we are open to Him. What an amazing God we have! These are just points to ponder as you discern.

1https://media.ascensionpress.com/podcast/10-ways-to-know-if-god-is-speaking-to-you/

By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness

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