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?


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