The Importance of Peers a reflection by S. Janet Gildea included in latest issue of E-Voc, the electronic newsletter from the Vocation Team of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati for single women wondering what new thing God is calling forth in their lives.
Discernment is mostly a very personal process. Each of us is faced with big choices and major decisions that, while they certainly impact other persons, are experienced primarily from our unique individual perspective. In discernment we open up the process of our decision-making to the Holy Spirit for guidance. The God who created us knows our hearts and exactly the way to get through to us – because God “gets” us. As the psalmist says, “You know me through and through, from having watched my bones take shape, while I was knit together in my mother’s womb” (Ps. 139:14-15).
But going it alone with God is not without risk. “How do I know if it’s God or if it’s just me asserting what I want?” is a frequent question from all who discern. That’s where spiritual direction is crucial. A trained director listens along with you and helps to sift through your experiences of God in prayer, your emotions, questions, the stuff of which your life is made, all in order to sense where the Spirit is leading you. The wisdom and insights of an experienced director help you to trust the leanings of your heart.
Another important resource can be the experience of others who are currently on the journey of discernment. It might seem obvious that talking with someone who is still finding their way can be encouraging. But daring to say out loud to a peer the things that are bubbling up in your heart has a very different kind of benefit. In vocation discernment, for example, with someone nearer to your own age you can share concerns about celibacy, small numbers, big responsibilities, and the absence of entire “middle” generations; the expectation of being understood would be very different from that of a “wisdom figure.”
Where can you find these peers? Vocation directors can provide contacts, of course! But there are also plenty of resources available online. The Future of Charity Blog (see Page 2) offers some options. Giving Voice (for Sisters and discerners in their 20s and 30s) has a Facebook page that could give you some leads. The Catholics on Call Young Adult Conference each August is a place to meet up with others discerning a call to serve the Church as lay ministers or in consecrated life. Universities with graduate studies in pastoral ministry often have younger spiritual directors-in-training. And there is a generation of young adults who have been serving the Church for years already, creating online resources like this podcast from God In All Things, interviewing Becky Eldredge, who speaks about her ministry as a spiritual director, writer, wife and mother of three
You don’t have to go it alone on the path of discernment!
Communications Assistant Director
Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati
5900 Delhi Road
Mount St. Joseph, OH 45051