Discernment – What Is Your Mission? – Part 5 – A Spiritual Reflection
When it comes to determining one’s “mission,” Augustinian spirituality has its own rich tradition in helping people during any discernment process. First, set aside QUIET time for personal reflection and prayer. St. Augustine placed great emphasis on “interiority” or “findingthe truth within.” So make this a priority. It doesn’t have to be in a chapel. St. Dominic wrote that “taking a walk through the woods” was actually a kind of “Prayer posture.” (Wow, Dominicans, Augustinians, Jesuits… these reflections are all kinds of ecumenical aren’t they?)Using a technique called “Centering Prayer” or a slow reading of the Bible (Lectio Divina) can work. Next, reflect on your core values. If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. What are several values that are really important to you? Write them down. Want some help? Ask others for their input. Ask your BFF, “What are the values that you think I would want in my future husband/wife?” If you’re married, ask your spouse, “What are the values that you think are most important to me from your perspective on this decision? The next step involves some homework: establish a teaching and research agenda. Pope St. John Paul II placed a high premium on priests developing the “Intellectual Dimension” of their lives. This applies to lay people as well. Archbishop Chaput has been known to suddenly ask people, “So what books are on your nightstand right now?” How would you answer that question? Your information pursuits and your conversations with others have to encompass more than just what people think. You need to feed the decision making process in a strategic, purposeful and intentional way. Think about strategies for deeper conversations with contemporaries, mentors or professionals. Go with them for a meal (and leave the phone in your room!). Attend a seminar or motivational talk. Go back and solicit further feedback from spouses or friends based on what you find. If you want to go deeper or continue this inquiry long-term, get connected and stay involved. Affiliate with others who share your ideals, your interests, your journey. Nurture professional relationships with people and professional associations. Find ways to contribute your talents and skills. You will always learn more when you have to teach a topic than when you are merely learning about it.
So, in summary, if you put these together, God will begin to help you “shake out” answers concerning your discernment.
A final point: Augustine taught that the purpose of life was the search for God, but never alone! Discernment within the Augustinian context is always done in the community and for the community. Thus Villanova strives to nurture a concern for the “common good.” It does this by inviting its members to “discover, disseminate and apply” knowledge, while advancing a “deeper understanding of the relationship between faith and reason.” It calls on men and women of faith to “accept the challenge of responsible and productive citizenship, in order to build a just and peaceful world.” (Villanova University, University Mission Statement).
So, I’ve been writing about discernment from various perspectives for several weeks now. How about discernment specifically about St. Monica. A discernment process about the parish has been going on for about a year-and-a-half. The weekend of December 16-17, I shall outline what parishioners and I feel we have heard the Lord tell us. Over the next few weeks, I shall begin to slowly reveal aspects of this. Stay tuned!