Sunday, February 12, 2012

Discernment Talk

Yesterday, I gave a short talk to some 1st-4th grade Catechism students on the subject of discernment… vocation discernment, specifically. The course of the morning saw me in four different classrooms, engaging students and parents alike, working from my own knowledge and experience of the subject matter. I’m a cradle Catholic, and so when I was little I had a vague idea of what a vocation was, but that was the extent of it. I knew that God created me after His own pattern—the same way Momma made scarves with her sewing machine—and that He wanted me to do certain things. I didn’t know that there was a word for this idea, and neither did the second graders yesterday; if they had discovered the concept themselves and had to give it a name they would call it “destiny” and “fabulous”. Now, they know the proper word is “vocation” and someday they will be able to spell it. The third graders had a better idea of what a vocation is; they could name two of the three types (full answer: marriage, the priesthood/religious life, and the consecrated life). They could name the first two, which was all I could do when I was four. At that age, I decided I was going to be a nun but, not having had much exposure to nuns, I naturally didn’t really know what they were. I was under the impression that they were exactly like priests—except they were girls—and I actually convinced my cousin to let me hear her “Confession” in anticipation of my ordination (don’t worry, Marian, the Seal has been maintained!). The majority of the little Catechism kiddos do not see religious extremely often, either, and were quite taken with the photos of priests, brothers, and sisters I handed about. They think they dress weird (and, sometimes, I have to agree).
Despite that, if these Catechism kids ever found their own orders, the world will be introduced to some wildly colorful habits; green ones, purple ones, and camouflage ones, among others. After all this lovely imagining, I dove into what I was there to talk about: discernment, and my experience of it.
I wish that someone could have spoken to me about discernment when I was little. I wish that they had been there to remind me of that Openness to God’s Plan, which is all discernment is. Maybe then, I would have never gotten myself into such a mess over my vocation. After the age of four I learned what nuns really were. And though my admiration for the religious life was great, especially as exemplified by the saints, personal enthusiasm for it was drowned in the appealing prospect of being a veterinarian. By the time the notion of being a religious occurred to me again, I was thirteen and did not think that God could possibly be calling me to that. After all, He wanted me to be a famous author, right? So, I looked into third orders as a compromise. I’d be free to write books, God would have a sort of a vow, I’d have a community…it’d be great!
Naturally, it didn’t work out, and I began to feel that God was asking something greater of me. So there I was, thirteen years old with no idea what discernment really was, thinking about maybe, possibly, not really telling my parents that I wanted to learn more about the Poor Clares. I essentially discerned discernment for quite a while. While I did this, I let myself fall in love with a guy (and I fell hard). Don’t worry—I was a ditzy fourteen year old, but not a sinful one. I never committed any crime except getting very, very attached to the guy. So, by the time this Poor Clare idea became a bit more than an itch, my interests and my heart each were sliced in half both ways. It wasn’t fun. It still isn’t, though I have a spiritual director helping me out now. I just wish sometimes that there had been someone there to remind me through the years that I do not know what God wants of me and that I need to be completely open to finding out. Maybe I would have never gotten into such a mess. Maybe I would have guarded my heart better, saved it for God until I was certain what God wanted to do with it. Maybe I would have given Him an honest chance from the beginning.

I hope that my talk yesterday might help some of those little kids, prevent them from falling into the same hole as I. I hope they remain forever truly and totally open to God’s will for their lives. I had a good time with them yesterday, and from the curiosity shown by the kids, their enjoyment of the pictures I brought, and the questions the parents asked (during and after class), I’d say it turned out well all around. Next month I will be speaking with the older Catechism students and the Confirmation class.

….I love kids. I wouldn’t mind being a youth minister…

No comments:

Post a Comment