We sat across from each other at the coffee house. He slowly raised his head. He looked into my eyes and began to speak from memory:
My mission is to love, when others fail to love. To notice, when others fail to notice. To befriend the lonely and forgotten. I am called to love. I am called to love with the tender compassion of God.As he spoke tears fell. My friend had discovered his purpose, the meaning which would animate and bring wholeness to his life. A life that had been filled with suffering.
My friend was severely neglected as a child and carried the wounds into his twentieth year. His father was in jail. His mother was bipolar. He grew up in poverty and addiction. He was shunned and bullied throughout school. He was now homeless, couch surfing with his sister, and suffered from a rare genetic disorder called, Trimethylaminuria (TMAU) which causes a person's sweat, urine, and breath to give off a strong almost unbearable fishy/body odor.
At the urging of his cousin, he came to the young adult group I facilitated. We were studying a series called, "Healing the Purpose of Your Life." Based on a book with the same name by Dennis, Sheila and Mathew Linn. The book provided a simple way to discover your purpose and meaning for your life. It used Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises.
The Spiritual Exercises grew out of St. Ignatius of Loyola's own experience of feeling lost and then finding his way. Ignatius had been a soldier who lived a wild life. He often daydreamed about the gallant deeds he would perform and the worldly glory he would obtain. (Does this story sound familiar - St. Francis?) Then, on the battlefield of Pamplona, a cannonball shattered his leg. During his recovery, Ignatius read a life of Christ and a book of the lives of the saints. As Ignatius meditated on what he read, he experienced consolation and he remained "cheerful and satisfied." As he meditated on the dreams of worldly glory that he previously enchanted him, he experienced desolation and felt "weary, dry and dissatisfied." As he pondered these two different movements of consolation and desolation, he discovered his personal vocation.
While discerning your personal vocation to love God and neighbor, it's important that you become aware of these two movements of consolation and desolation within your life. You will need to put on and practice the "habits" of the friars in order to discover if it brings you consolation or desolation. These two movements will help reveal your personal vocation.
Applying the Examen to our Ministry:
The Franciscan Friars of the Province of Saint Barbara are dedicated to serving the poor and promoting justice, peace, care of creation, and reconciliation in the joyful and prophetic spirit of St. Francis of Assisi. Discernment will be a time to put on and practice the "habit" of serving the poor, promoting justice, peace, caring for creation, and bringing about reconciliation. As you practice these "habits" you will need to become aware of the movements of consolation and desolation before, during and after engaging in each ministry.
As you reflect on each ministry you will ask: Did I experience desolation? Did I feel weary, dry and dissatisfied? Did I feel consolation? Did I feel cheerful and satisfied? Was I able to engage in these activities with a joyful spirit?
Applying the Examen to our Fraternity-in-Mission:
As you reflect on your experience of fraternal life and prayer, you will ask: Did I experience desolation? Did I feel weary, dry and dissatisfied? Did I feel consolation? Did I feel cheerful and satisfied? Finally, you will ask did I feel at home with the friars?
When you experience a life of consolation you become physically, emotionally and spiritually alive; as my friend experienced in discovering his mission, his way of being, his way to love and be loved. Finally, take your reflection on consolation and desolation to your spiritual director and vocation director for further examination.
Peace and all Good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM
What are you most grateful for today? What are you least grateful for? If you were to ask yourself these questions every day, what pattern would you see? Feel free to share your answers in the comment section below.
Office of Vocations
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Oakland, CA 974601
Phone: (408) 903-3422