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Discernment

by Br. Michael Taffe, OSB
Before initiating any task, St. Benedict urges his monks, “First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to Him [God] most earnestly to bring it to perfection (Rule of St. Benedict, Prol 4). This is something we do in a number of different ways at the Abbey. For example, the first thing that we do in the morning is to gather together as a community for prayer. A prayer is recited before every meal. At the beginning of every meeting and gathering, we also say a prayer. All of these prayers are our way of offering our work to God, asking for assistance in our work, for general protection, and requesting that our hearts be open to do God’s will throughout the day. As Christians and monks, we want to openly and immediately respond to God’s will, both on communal and individual levels. A word often used for determining God’s will and desire is “discernment.” This word comes from the Latin word, discernere, which means, literally, “to sever or separate”. The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that “discern” might mean to separate, but also “to recognize something as distinct.” Therefore, when thinking, reflecting and praying on what we should do, we want to separate or distinguish whether our response is the result of God’s will or not. For example, we may want guidance on how to deal with a difficult family member or co-worker. Other decisions may be more life changing: should I enter a religious community or marry a particular person? Naturally, this often is not as simple as it sounds. The obstacle that usually gets in the way is oneself! This does not mean that we do not want or desire what God wants, but rather it is easy to confuse OUR will with God’s will. So, how do we separate our desires from God’s will? The first step is that of regular prayer. In order to “hear” God’s voice within us, we need to have a regular relationship with God. There are often subtle and not so subtle indications of God’s will all around us. However, if we have not taken the time and energy to unite ourselves more to God, how can we really expect to decipher these signs? As we sit before God, we ask for guidance and assistance. Of course, there is also the old saying that “God writes straight with crooked lines,” which means that there may be a number of false starts on our part to get where we need to be. Another helpful step may be in talking with someone who has a long-term relationship with God. These people are often called spiritual directors. God does work through other people. At times, when we think about signs for what to do, we expect lightning and thunder, or some elaborate sign from nature. Yet, God’s sign could be that of a wise person, who after prayer and listening, tells us that such a path does not seem to be so wise. Our individualistic society tells us to rely solely on our own hearts, yet Jesus will also have us look to others. As we consider various steps in our discernment, one of the major ways we believe we are on the right track is whether we have a sense of peace in our hearts. There may also be a feeling of renewed energy in life and in our relationships. A good guide is from the letter of James: “The wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits” (Jas 3:17). By these fruits we will know we are on the correct path. If you do not believe you have the relationship with God that Jesus is asking you to have, well, now may be a good time to start. As much as you are able, set aside time for quiet and prayer each day (which sometimes can even be as you are driving to and from work). Practice opening yourself to God as you consider various decisions. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness for those graces that you have received. Further, know that God will continue to search for you and to meet you with grace and joy! Our Partners-in-Prayer program has been set up to help folks nurture this relationship with God on a regular basis, where they live. One of our goals as a monastic community is to provide a place of peace and quiet so that people can listen to God in their discernment. As monks of Assumption Abbey, we continue to hold you in our prayers throughout the days, months, and years. May God bring all of your good works to perfection.
Spiritual Reflections Spiritual Reflections

Discernment

by Br. Michael Taffe, OSB
Before initiating any task, St. Benedict urges his monks, “First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to Him [God] most earnestly to bring it to perfection” (Rule of St. Benedict, Prol 4). This is something we do in a number of different ways at the Abbey. For example, the first thing that we do in the morning is to gather together as a community for prayer. A prayer is recited before every meal. At the beginning of every meeting and gathering, we also say a prayer. All of these prayers are our way of offering our work to God, asking for assistance in our work, for general protection, and requesting that our hearts be open to do God’s will throughout the day. As Christians and monks, we want to openly and immediately respond to God’s will, both on communal and individual levels. A word often used for determining God’s will and desire is “discernment.” This word comes from the Latin word, discernere, which means, literally, “to sever or separate”. The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that “discern” might mean to separate, but also “to recognize something as distinct.” Therefore, when thinking, reflecting and praying on what we should do, we want to separate or distinguish whether our response is the result of God’s will or not. For example, we may want guidance on how to deal with a difficult family member or co- worker. Other decisions may be more life changing: should I enter a religious community or marry a particular person? Naturally, this often is not as simple as it sounds. The obstacle that usually gets in the way is oneself! This does not mean that we do not want or desire what God wants, but rather it is easy to confuse OUR will with God’s will. So, how do we separate our desires from God’s will? The first step is that of regular prayer. In order to “hear” God’s voice within us, we need to have a regular relationship with God. There are often subtle and not so subtle indications of God’s will all around us. However, if we have not taken the time and energy to unite ourselves more to God, how can we really expect to decipher these signs? As we sit before God, we ask for guidance and assistance. Of course, there is also the old saying that “God writes straight with crooked lines,” which means that there may be a number of false starts on our part to get where we need to be. Another helpful step may be in talking with someone who has a long-term relationship with God. These people are often called spiritual directors. God does work through other people. At times, when we think about signs for what to do, we expect lightning and thunder, or some elaborate sign from nature. Yet, God’s sign could be that of a wise person, who after prayer and listening, tells us that such a path does not seem to be so wise. Our individualistic society tells us to rely solely on our own hearts, yet Jesus will also have us look to others. As we consider various steps in our discernment, one of the major ways we believe we are on the right track is whether we have a sense of peace in our hearts. There may also be a feeling of renewed energy in life and in our relationships. A good guide is from the letter of James: “The wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits” (Jas 3:17). By these fruits we will know we are on the correct path. If you do not believe you have the relationship with God that Jesus is asking you to have, well, now may be a good time to start. As much as you are able, set aside time for quiet and prayer each day (which sometimes can even be as you are driving to and from work). Practice opening yourself to God as you consider various decisions. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness for those graces that you have received. Further, know that God will continue to search for you and to meet you with grace and joy! Our Partners-in-Prayer program has been set up to help folks nurture this relationship with God on a regular basis, where they live. One of our goals as a monastic community is to provide a place of peace and quiet so that people can listen to God in their discernment. As monks of Assumption Abbey, we continue to hold you in our prayers throughout the days, months, and years. May God bring all of your good works to perfection.
Spiritual Reflections Spiritual Reflections
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