Discernment

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​​How did you discern your vocation, your call to follow Christ? Who were the people who mediated that call?

– Daily Reflections for Advent & Christmas: Waiting in Joyful Hope 2016-17 by Bishop Robert F. Morneau

I don’t consider what I believe or what I do through that belief and faith to be a vocation. That may just be my mind’s unwillingness to grasp the meaning of that word, and I may simply need a little more time to wrap my head around it. To me vocation equals job, so for vocation, I think more of priests, nuns or religious women, deacons, even ministry lay people, but for me simply as a follower of Christ, I don’t think of it or call it a vocation. Perhaps in time, it will become that in my mind whether or not something changes tangibly or not.

So for me, this discernment, which is another word I had to wrap my head around, is about my call to follow Christ. I didn’t recognize the call to follow at all. I came to the physical building of a church for solace, for meditation, for silent ranting, and conversing with G-d. Jesus was not part of the picture.

I don’t doubt not that He led me there, but it wasn’t with a neon sign although there was a street sign. Looking back on it now, it would have been a really sad excuse for a Hallmark channel movie; so improbable, so contrived if I’d thought of it as a five step program.

But there I was led, and once I settled in to looking inward and selflessly instead of the opposite, things fell into place spiritually. Once the call came, there were no doubts, no second thoughts. I, the queen of second guesses and wishy-washyness was shocked with which the ease of following Christ came to me.

I was looking for nothing, and I received everything. Once He reached out to me, He was there. I knew all the things I needed to know, and each step was taken with little thought, but all heart. No regrets.

The people in my life didn’t so much mediate the call as supported it, both before and after.

Prior, I had a friend who emulated forgiveness and love thy neighbor. It hadn’t occurred to me that these were Christian values until I saw it in action under no labels. Watching him forgive what I could never made me acutely aware of how many grudges I held, even if I thought there were a few strong ones, it was a few too many. I began to see things in a different light. My circle of friends supported me and held me up when I would falter, and none of that was expressly Christian or Christ-like; but was just good and decent and human.

Humanity.

Empathy.

Pushing courage into my veins like an energy drink.

After those friends, my church family was so welcoming. Before I was Catholic. Before I would ever hear the call; embrace the call, they were there in all of there capacities.

The women in the pew who talked to me, never once asking me where I’d come from or why I was there (since I wasn’t Catholic).

The priest who I was wary of since my start at Masses came before his return from Roman sabbatical. I do not like change. Any change. My middle name should be wary-skeptical-cynical.

His first homily on or around the anniversary of my friend’s mur/der about a red steamer trunk and his sabbatical that sounded remarkably like my recent pilgrimage to Wales was so profound that it left an indelible mark on my soul.

He also welcomed me into the counseling room, not so much counseling as counsel and talk, and never once asked when I would be joining the church or attending Sunday Mass. Not once.

In fact, no one in this parish community ever asked me when I would be converting. They welcomed me anyway.

The church secretary who became my godmother, so knowledgable, so kind, so full of grace to answer my questions, and fill me in on things I may not be as mindful to not growing up in the church. She is my guide and my friend.

All the people at the daily masses who said hello and smiled at me.

The medical and hot water heater help through the St. Vincent de Paul Society, never once questioning my church going (or not going), not knowing me from Adam, and helping. These men and women have a calling; a vocation.

I was never asked for a donation.

I was never asked for anything before in my heart I knew I could give it. And somehow, they also knew.

I could feel people praying for me. My life did not miraculously improve overnight, but I could feel it – people, friends, acquaintances.

Holy Spirit.

Seeing through the RCIA program, amazingly and profoundly at how much they were teaching me that I already believed since childhood and couldn’t quite put a finger on.

So many people involved and encouraging through a simple head nod and a smile.

The people (you) who read my things here and tell me their stories of their own callings or ask questions about mine or simply hit the like button. It is all part of that mediation, the meditation, the call and the give back.

The calling had been there all along; I only had to quiet myself down to hear it.

On the 3rd Day of Christmas, My True Love gave to Me:

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…hope.

In reading today’s reflection from the Morneau book, I read this statement: Pessimism can sweep through the human heart.

I have not felt that as much as I have in this past year. One thing after another, beginning with David Bowie and Alan Rickman and most recently with George Michael and Carrie Fisher. I can’t list all of the names that have affected me this year, so, so many, none more important and felt than my mother-in-law who passed away suddenly in June. And then there’s the election. This year has been a lot; too much in fact.

In our home, everything is clouded with the loss of my children’s last grandparent, the only one my youngest two knew.

It’s been a hard balance to maintain, keeping things hopeful for my kids while continuing to honor the memory of their grandmother. I could talk for hours about her, and in the next few months I will talk some more.

This is our first Christmas.

One of the things that was difficult for me was Christmas shopping. I’d see something and think that it was perfect for her, and then I’d remember and walk on by. It was too much.

Then I embraced it.

She loved cardinals. We always gave her a cardinal ornament for Christmas and often also for her birthday in January, so instead of walking past the cardinals, I bought two for our tree. I thought it would upset my husband, but he said we should hang them near the top.

I also went to our local Irish import shop for a Celtic necklace for my close friend, and while I was there, I noticed the candy set out for Christmas. I decided to buy a selection to give to the kids in honor of their grandmother and her homeland, and the accent they knew so well and loved.

It is only recently that I understand that word, bittersweet – the simultaneous joy and sad; the pessimism with the path to hope that we only need to find, to shine a light on the dark.

Meditation: Does too much reading of history or current events threaten your hope? What are some ways of sustaining hope in a world wrestling with so much darkness?

From Daily Reflections for Advent & Christmas: Waiting in Joyful Hope 2016-17 by Bishop Robert F. Morneau

The current events of these last few months have been straining. Is there too much reading of history or current events? I don’t know. History lets us see how far we’ve come, and gives us the knowledge that we will overcome all of this, including our new president, which is the most worrisome thing I’ve had to face in these last couple of months, but I’ve seen the hope in the pages of my friends, in Robert Reich and Ezra Klein, in Connie Schultz, and in the recent remembrances and quotations of Carrie Fisher, a strong woman who took her faults and failings and showed us how to live with them and become better despite or even because of them.
We are wrestling with darkness, but whether we light a candle as we curse the darkness, we are still assured that the sun will rise in the morning, and that is our cue to rise as well; to rise up. Hope springs eternal because hope is eternal.

Advent Reflection – Dec. 8 and Dec. 9

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What role does music play in your faith life? What role does Mary have in your Christian discipleship?

From Daily Reflections for Advent & Christmas: Waiting in Joyful Hope 2016-17 by Birhsop Robert F. Morneau


Music plays such a profound role in the church I attend, both the physical parish and the church of my heart. We are blessed with a beautiful choir and our musical director is so talented and has such an amazing voice. For the Immaculate Conception, he sang Ave Maria, and each Christmas I look forward to his singing of O, Holy Night. It defies description and takes my breath away.

I have always been a fan of Gregorian chants and Welsh choirs are the voices of angels.

It is not only hymns and church music that brings me spirituality. I have an affinity for modern, albeit alternative music that lets me travel in my mind to many places and thoughts. My current favorite is the Hamilton soundtrack and my collection of Supernatural and The Walking Dead music. They truly do feed my soul in ways that only writing typically does.

If the flute is being played, we dance. At Christmas parties and wedding celebrations we eat and drink in moderation. If a dirge sounds, we mourn the loss of a loved one or repent of our sins by doing penance, by practicing asceticism.

From Daily Reflections for Advent & Christmas:Waiting in Joyful Hope 2016-17 by Bishop Robert F. Morneau

We’ve had this difficulty all year – of trying to discern when to dance and when to mourn. This whole year has been a long, drawn out pop culture funeral beginning with David Bowie and Alan Rickman followed by Prince and Muhammad Ali, and continuing most recently with Florence Henderson and John Glenn. Some of them have been harder on my heart than others, but so much of my childhood has been disappearing before my eyes.

It is always difficult to continue living our daily lives with so much sorrow hanging over us. Each death brought me down, but I got back up. We get ourselves back up and we keep going. Because that’s what we do.

After my mother-in-law was hit by a car and almost died three years ago, we thought she’d live forever. She wasn’t supposed to walk or leave the hospital, and she did. As hard as it was, and as long as it took, she was home, she was walking and she was doing great. She is the epitome of energy and independence and inspiration. We are fortunate that my daughter seems to have inherited all of that from her.

We were stunned while on a visit after school let out that she passed away suddenly at the end of June. We were with her earlier in the day, talking, joking, she admiring my daughter’s taste in clothes as well as the discount we got in buying it. Bargains and garage sales made her happy.

Her passing made all the others less significant, and it’s taken a lot to get through it.Thanksgiving without her was difficult and I know that Christmas will be even harder. We didn’t see her for Christmas, but we spoke to her throughout the day. She is missed every day. Her birthday is in a few weeks, and we will continue to struggle with this loss that is so deep and devastating.

Advent Reflection – Dec. 1

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​Each of us has to decide on what or whom we will build our spiritual security.

-From the Reflection portion of Daily Reflections for Advent & Christmas: Waiting in Joyful Hope 2016-17 by Bishop Robert F. Morneau

While we’re in anticipation of the birth of Christ, it is a good time to evaluate or re-evaluate our own spiritual security and/or foundation.

Today is World AIDS Day, and while things are much better than they once were, there is still a long way to go as we strive to help those afflicted and find a cure.

Two days ago was Giving Tuesday, a charitable follow up to Black Friday. Before the end of the year, our family will contribute to:

ACLU
Planned Parenthood
NAACP
Random Acts, and

my local church parish or St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Three of these have stemmed from the recent election here in the United States. Find where you want to support with your money, time, and talents and discuss your reasons with your children. Let them make their own suggestions for charitable contributions.

I’m pretty clear on my spiritual foundation and when I have concerns or a lack of faith, I find a way to think more about it and get through that period.

I’m enjoying praying and meditating privately on a daily basis.

I’d like to share this article that I read this morning on Vox

Advent, explained

Advent Reflections

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This is the first week of Advent, the four or five weeks culminating in the Nativity and the birth of Jesus. It is a time of waiting, of searching, of journeying, always moving forward but not forgetting what and where we’ve come from.

My church gives out a small meditation/reflection book for Advent (and also for Lent), and it is the perfect size for a five minute read. As I mentioned on Sunday, it is the opportunity to either read it and begin your day or take a longer time and meditate on it, perhaps discover your own reflection.

I won’t guarantee a daily reflecton, but as I read each day’s pages, I may write some thoughts down and share them here.

This week is the first week of Advent, but it is also filled with other meaningful days: Today begins the Novena of the Immaculate Conception, the nine day prayer period that concludes with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. In addition to a holy day of obligation, this is also my church’s patron. I read the prayer for the today’s first day, and will pray it each day until the feast day. I will also pray the rosary, one of the links to the Holy Mother.

We also have a series of half days from school, the penultimate episode for the mid-season of The Walking Dead, mid-season finales of all our other shows, my niece’s Sweet 16 birthday, my daughter’s winter concert with chorus, and my 50th birthday in four days.I have four more of my 50 Reflections to complete before then, and a wonderful birthday surprise to share that my family gave me this past weekend. (I mentioned some of it in my reflection called Adventure that posted on Sunday.)

Today’s Meditation Questions/Suggestions for discernment from the Robert F. Morneau book, pictured above:

What happens to your heart when you are looked at in a loving way? When you look at others is it a stare and critical analysis, or is it a childlike look of affection?
I find myself doing both the critical stare and the look of affection at various times throughout the days. I enjoy watching my two youngest children sitting side by side, one on their tablet, the other reading a book with three other books piled next to her, not fighting, not yelling, not arguing. There are even moments that we need them to do a chore or errand, and we leave them be because it’s so nice to have the brotherly and sisterly peace that is so often missing at their ages as they compete and try each other’s patience.

It’s important to be able to recognize the critical stare and sort out if it’s warranted, even in a small way. I try to pull myself back from that judgment and look away, then start again for a more compassionate thought process.

I know that with our current political climate, I am having a much more difficult time not being judgmental and angry, but I have been walking away more, and instead of 24/7 cable news, I’ve been picking a few programs for a few minutes a day to catch up on breaking news and I save important articles to read before I post or make comments. I’ve only had one breakdown/rant and I refuse to go back to where I was as a political junkie in 2012 when I quit cold turkey. I plan on being politically active and advocate for my beliefs, but in keeping that critical stare at bay, I can think more, discern more, let G-d lead, and act more.

Advent is waiting, and waiting is okay. It is the time we need to gather ourselves, both physically and spiritually to greet this new year, to collect our thoughts, meditate on what’s important, and meet Jesus in his birth. G-d will meet us where we are; we need to meet him as well, and then journey together.