Friday, August 17, 2007

Enquirers and Discernment

Experience over the past few years has shown me that the number of enquiries about vocations fall during the summer months. But not this summer. Enquiries are up on previous years. I wonder has it something to do with our poor summer weather? In any case, many of those who have been in touch over the past few weeks have been asking about 'discernment'. What is it and what does it entail?

There are five essential elements to discernment:

Prayer: Vocational discernment can only take place in the context of prayer. The type of payer here is important - namely wanting to know and desiring the will of God in my life.

Openness to the Holy Spirit: Being genuinely open to the promptings of the Spirit is a pre-requisite. If and when the particular option (religious life or priesthood) gives rise to feelings of contentment, joy or peace - then this is a possible sign that the option one is making is in line with God's plan for me.

Recognise the result of prayer: Having prayed earnestly, look for the feelings that have emerged. If your discernment continues to be positive, then the next stage is the prayer to make a firm decision and to actually choose making a commitment.

Seek confirmation: The process of discernment between yourself and God needs to be confirmed with the help of others. Here a vocations director will assist you in clarifying your decision at other levels e.g. practically, emotionally, spritually. Other professional people assist by helping you understand the decision you are making or have made.

Motivation: At all times through the process of discernment, check what your real motivation is! If you have followed the prayerful route and recognise that it is God who is motivating you in the direction of serving Him, then you are on the right path. If not, seek help and do not lose heart.

To sum up then: discernment is a process which should lead you, through prayer, to understand where God is calling you. It is a difficult journey, but the rewards of genuinely seeking God's will are truly worthwhile.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Feast of Saint Dominic

Today, August 8th, is the feast of Saint Dominic - founder of the Order of Preachers. It is a day of great celebration for Dominicans throughout the world - a day for the Dominican family, of friars, nuns, sisters and laity to ponder the legacy of Dominic.

It is tempting to try and situate his legacy in the context of our own time - our own period in history. To do this is to do a disservice to the charism of Saint Dominic. The principal charism is of course that of preaching. This is interesting since no text has preserved the content of his sermons for us! Marie - Humbert Vicaire OP in his excellent Saint Dominic and his Times (Darton, Longman and Todd, 1964. London) reminds us that evidence from the early brothers of the Order tell that "Dominic preached frequently to the brethren 'almost every day'. Whatever his fatigue might be when he arrived in one of his houses, he immediately called his brethren to chapter and began to preach. He did the same in the case of religious who gave him hospitality. Moreover he did so for the travellers whom he joined along the road."

The Constitutions of the Order contain the formula which Saint Dominic is said to have repeated many, many times - namely: 'To speak of God or with God'. This indicates clearly enough that he envisaged a preaching that should be positive, doctrinal, theocentric and an exposition of Christian revelation.

This remains the task of the Order today. It is, of course, an urgent task - as urgent as it was in Dominic's time. It is a task that captures the minds of many - even in these past twenty four hours I have received enquiries from three individuals who want to explore the way of Dominic, the way of preaching. The spirit and charism of Dominic is alive in the twenty first century.......may it continue to bear fruit in abundance.