Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Hearing God's callings

An anonymous blogger posed these questions: "Why does God have to be so elusive about communicating our callings? His silence can really be deafening. Why do we have to search and search and wait and wait? Please don't tell me that God speaks to some people and not others." Thanks for the questions, Anon, and I'm sorry if you've experienced some frustration in hearing God speak to you. But, He is communicating to you His callings. It is a matter of being able to discern his communication properly.

I have found in my own experience that discerning God's Will can be the hardest thing in life, if it's not obvious to us. I say this because I experienced much frustration in the past discerning my Call to priesthood. God can make it more obvious for some people, especially those who are called to marriage. He will often just bring two people together who clearly are meant for each other for the rest of their lives. And, I will remind engaged or married couples who are in love how blessed they are to see God's Will visibly in front of them (in the person of the other). It can be much different for those who are called to religious or single life because it is not so obvious or visible.

I'm not trying to equivocate my past frustration with yours, Anon, because I don't know what you've been dealing with or for how long, in terms of discernment. But, I have found that God can communicate differently to each one of us. In Scripture, He speaks to some (prophets, e.g.) directly and not to others. But, He still communicates to all (indirectly through the prophets). Mary and Joseph each received a communication from our Lord (through an angel) about His plan to bring Jesus into the world. It is easier for some to know God's Will, but I truly believe that God ultimately communicates His Plan to anyone who is listening.

How do we listen? How can we hear God speaking to us? In my experience of discernment of God's Will, I have learned that God speaks to us primarily through four ways:

1) Sacred Scripture
2) Prayer
3) Other people
4) Our experiences

Just last night, I had a conversation with a young woman who realized that Christ is speaking to her directly right now in her life through Sunday's Gospel: "Beware that your hearts do not become drousy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life" (particularly the 'anxieties of daily life'). If we are actively listening to God speak to us through His Word, it is amazing what we hear! The same can be said about hearing God speak to our hearts in prayer. St. Theresa of Avila once said that "Jesus is always speaking to us. The question is, 'are we listening?'"

I sometimes had a tough time hearing God speak to me through other people about my vocation because some faithful Catholics told me they thought I was called to be a priest, and others thought I should be married. However, there were some conversations with family members and friends that I do feel were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Finally, we should not overlook our experiences as ways that God speaks to us loudly and clearly. A good friend of mine felt strongly that God was calling him to be a monk. It wasn't until he went to the monastery and experienced life there for several weeks that he realized it clearly wasn't for him. He is now very happy as a parish priest in another diocese.

It is always wise to meet with a priest to better understand how God is speaking to us. Many Catholics have a "spiritual director" with whom they meet regularly. A spiritual director can help read the signs in a person's life, and how God is speaking to him or her. I know I would be pretty much lost without mine!!

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