Discernment Questions

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ultimately, we want to do and be what God wants us to do or be. This is because we know that His will for our lives (since He is all-good, all-loving, all-knowing, etc.) entails the best possible everything for not just us, but the whole world.

I'm down with that. That's the easy part.

The hard part is, of course, discerning. That's why were all here on this 'blog. My question right now is, what ought a discerner pay attention to? I mean, besides "everything." Is there some sort of importance ranking we might employ? It seems to me that

  • desires
  • dreams
  • likes and dislikes
  • talents
  • family situations
are all significant, but perhaps ought to be subordinate to
  • convictions
  • prayer/spirituality
  • long-term obligations
  • health
[Of course, the question of morality (vice and virtue) goes without saying. God doesn't will sin.]

I'd like to be able to subordinate all of the above things to the will of God. If He says "jump," I think we're supposed to ask "how high?"

But I'm torn. If He should ask me to give up, say, singing Renaissance liturgical music for the rest of my life, I'd like to be able to jump on board that plan. And I am able to entertain that situation serenely...for a while...until I hear a piece of polyphony again. But as soon as I hear it or sing it, I'm back at the drawing board in terms of that "holy indifference" state that St. Ignatius talks about. I start making bargains with God and telling him that I can only survive such deprivation if I get to sing Gregorian chant on a regular basis instead.

Is that sort of preference something a discerner should be heeding, or should she be weeding it out? Does it say something about what God wants, or is it just selfish? I guess liturgical music is a bad example, because it is a preference which borders on a theological conviction...but still, there are many, many holy and healthy religious communities who don't have plainsong or polyphony in their liturgies. Neither of the two I'm very seriously looking at do. It's a stumbling block which I'll gladly vault over if the Lord asks me to...but I don't know how to know.

The same goes with use of gifts and talents. Sure, I'd love to be able to give up playing violin and translating Latin, if the Lord asks me to do so. But can I? Perhaps I should consider it an obligation to use these talents to their utmost. Or are they "disposable?"

And what if one consideration contradicts another one? Let me combine my two examples: Most communities with gorgeous liturgical music are cloistered contemplatives. Most communities who actively contribute their time and talent to the "betterment of humanity," etc., etc., are decidedly lacking in the Medieval and Renaissance music category. On a very practical level, it seems as if I need to choose between the two. To say nothing of prayer and spirituality and rhythm of life!

What's a discerner to do?


Mark Wednesday, April 30, 2008 at 11:12:00 PM PDT  

Let me combine my two examples: Most communities with gorgeous liturgical music are cloistered contemplatives. Most communities who actively contribute their time and talent to the "betterment of humanity," etc., etc., are decidedly lacking in the Medieval and Renaissance music category. On a very practical level, it seems as if I need to choose between the two.

- It does indeed seem like that, but I would contend you do not have to!

There are groups where a deep liturgical life fuels a deep apostolic life. They simply have to be found! :D

Quantitative Metathesis Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 6:18:00 AM PDT  

Perhaps I need to work on my patience, then! ;-)

Future Bride of Christ Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 9:52:00 AM PDT  

Ahh, I find I have the same problem in regard to the Mass. most communities that are in full communion with Rome, and which have traditional or Tridentine masses are cloistered, whereas most active community liturgies are lacking reverence and substance.
I too must keep searching for the "right community" But like you I am afraid of my desire for a traditional liturgy and music perhaps being more of my own will than that of God.
We should talk sometime. Anyway, Take care.
-Sequoia Sierra

Dan G,  Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 1:07:00 PM PDT  

I'll respond to your post by telling a little of my experience-- it's not what you asked, but maybe it will help.

During years of spiritual searching, singing in good parish choirs was very important to me. It was one of the main things I looked for when choosing a parish. It played a role in my spiritual growth.

When I entered the seminary (five years ago) I discovered that it was only by means of music that, up to that time, I had been truly praying. I had emotional barriers against even seeing what I was truly feeling, much less telling anyone else about it; and against knowing how to tell God about this candidly in prayer. Music enabled me to get past those barriers. Soon I was being helped to take the barriers down and be able to pray truly, directly.

Those first couple years of seminary, whenever I would go back to my home parish and hear my old choir, I would long for it strongly. To a fellow seminarian from the same parish I would say, "We had this every week! And now, never!"

But it has passed. I still love and appreciate the music when I hear it, but I am okay without it. I pray best in silence now-- better than I did before with music-- and prayer is what was really most important to me in all that. So not only is responding to my vocation more important, but it turns out that lacking that music doesn't even hurt anymore. Perhaps, if God should lead you down a path without the music you now love, it will be the same for you.

Quantitative Metathesis Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 2:27:00 PM PDT  

Let us pray for each other as we search! And if you ever do want to compare notes, my email is galadrielsong at hotmail dot com. :-)
In Him,

Quantitative Metathesis Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 2:32:00 PM PDT  

dan g-

Thank you for that! I think I may be experiencing a little of what you describe...I have certainly learned a lot about prayer in the last two years (since I've had a spiritual director). You give me hope that perhaps all I need is more patience. ;-)

God bless you in your vocation!

Mark of the Vineyard Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 4:57:00 PM PDT  

Is playing instruments prohibited in contemplative communities? Is all one's time directed towards prayer, or could one find time to learn music?

Quantitative Metathesis Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 5:11:00 PM PDT  

Oh, certainly contemplatives can and do play instruments! Personally, I plan to bring my violin anywhere I go. :-)

viking Monday, May 5, 2008 at 9:28:00 AM PDT  

I would recommend to you the Franciscan Friars of the immaculate. They seem to have some of the traits you are looking for. It seems to me that you might be ready for a retreat, to help you with your discernment. Visit those of the communities you are interested in, and pray that the Holy Spirit guides you to make the right decision

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