Thursday, October 30, 2014

Consider Your Gifts

If every vocation is a call to service, we should consider our gifts and experiences and try to judge how they best match up with the needs of the world and how they align with our desires.  In doing this it quickly becomes clear that many options may match our desires, but not our gifts.  For example, I might have a desire to be a professional basketball player and therefore come to the conclusion God is calling me, but if I lack the talent and skills even though I have the desire it become clear I'm not called to this profession.  The opposite can happen too.  I might have the skills and talent to be a great chef, but if I lack the desire, it becomes clear that I am not called to this profession.  The same holds true for religious life.  You need both desire and the ability to minister and live as a Franciscan friar of the Province of Saint Barbara.

To begin the discernment process you'll need to reflect upon your abilities, talents, and experiences.  Then you'll ask, "Can these gifts be used in the mission of the Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara?"  Compare your gifts to our Mission Statement:
The Franciscan Friars of the Province of Saint Barbara are members of a Roman Catholic religious order, from a diversity of backgrounds and cultures, 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.
The next step is to test the use of your gifts against our mission of serving the poor, promoting justice & peace, caring for creation, and bringing about reconciliation.  I recommend starting with direct service to the poor or marginalized.  As you volunteer or work among the marginalized become aware of the movements of consolation and desolation before, during and after engaging in each experience.  As you reflect on your experience 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 and generous heart? 

These two movements well help reveal the movement of the Holy Spirit in your discernment process.  Read the blog post "Consolation and Desolation" for more information on using this discernment tool.

Next, take your experience and engage in theological reflection.  Theological reflection is an essential ingredient in the process of spiritual discernment.  It holds the possibility of discerning God's presence and/or direction.  It's the process of standing before your experience 'open' to what may or may not be revealed through the lens of faith.  Read the blog post "Theological Reflection" for more information on using this discernment tool.

Next, share you experience with your spiritual director and/or vocation director.  This person will listen to your story with an ear for the movement of the Holy, of the Divine.  They will also help you discern between your voice, the world (family, culture, and society) and God's voice within your experience and theological reflection.  Read the blog post "Spiritual Direction" for more information on using this discernment tool.

Lastly, remember to be nourished by the Word and the Eucharist at Mass in order to be sent forth in mission to serve the poor and marginalized.  Read the blog post "Freely You Have Received, Freely Give" for more information on why Mass is important for discernment.

Finally, at this stage in the journey you are trying to put on the "habit" of serving the poor and marginalized.  You're trying to see if you have the abilities and the desire to work with the poor and marginalized as a possible religious brother or priest.  Through this process you ultimately ask, "Am I called to love and be loved by the poor and marginalized as a religious brother or priest?" and "Am I called to love and be loved by God as a religious brother or priest?"  Your experiences and relationships with the poor and marginalized will help reveal your calling on how to love God and neighbor.

Peace and all good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM

The Gubbio Project was founded by Louis Vitale, OFM a Franciscan friar
of the Province of Saint Barbara.  This ministry is one example of our outreach
to the poor.  How can you be present to the poor and marginalized in your area?

Personal Reflection:

To begin the discernment process you'll need to reflect upon your abilities, talents, and experiences.  Then you'll ask, "Can these gifts be used in the mission of the Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara?"  What gifts, talents, skills and experiences would you bring to religious life?

Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
2201 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Phone:  (408) 903-3422
Email: 
vocations@sbofm.org
Facebook:  www.facebooks.com/SBFranciscans.Vocations
Website:  www.sbfranciscans.org

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Call to Action

My hand were folded in prayer, resting on the back of the pew.  My knees began to ache from kneeling.  This was my daily ritual after noon Mass.  I was praying for God's will to discover my vocation.  One day I felt an interior voice begin to rise within me a voice that boomed, "Scott, stop praying and start doing!"   The words reverberated throughout my body and especially within my thoughts.  In that moment my prayer quickly changed to, "Lord, give me the strength to do, instead of just to pray."

One can not simply discover their vocation by praying; one must do.  We are called to try.  That is ultimately what God ask of us.  It's in the trying we discover our personal vocation.  And through our experience of loving we can then ask:  Am I called to love and be loved as a religious brother or priest?  Am I called to love and be loved as a diocesan priest or deacon?  Am I called to love and be loved as a father with children? or Am I called to love and be loved as a single man?  One does not know the will of God unless one tries on their options. 

We cannot discern whether we should do something, but only whether we should try to do it.  For instance, you cannot discern to marry Susan unless you begin to date her.  You can't begin to discern religious life unless you experience the Order's prayer, fraternal and ministerial life.  These observations also make it clear that some vocational paths require the consent of more than one person.  Therefore, we have to be prepared to receive the answer no.  In the other's no we come to know God's will in that particular circumstance.  This is not a sign of failure, but a sign of successful discernment! 

The surest path to happiness is to discover what God is inviting you to do and to accept that invitation.  By living out your personal vocation, you will do the most good, and in so doing will find fulfillment both here and hereafter.  God also does not want us to simply settle for the easiest path, but challenges us to choose the greatest good for our lives. 

We are reminded of this in the story of the rich young man who approached Jesus and asked what he should do to gain everlasting life.  He was not choosing between good or evil.  We were told that he kept all the commandments.  Jesus told him what to do if he wished to be perfect and to live the greater good.  The scripture (Mt 19:16-22) makes clear what reason itself tell us:  we are not called simply to avoid evil and do good, but to do the greatest good.  What is your greatest good? 

Our vocation director and friars are here to help you discover your greatest good.  We can arrange opportunities to experience a "Come and See" retreat, join a monthly discernment group, or immerse yourself in one of our outreach ministries to the poor and homeless.  In other words, we invite you to try on the life, test the stirring of your heart, respond to the movements of the Holy Spirit to follow Christ in a more radical and greater way. 

May God bless you and keep you on this journey of faith called life!

Peace and all Good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM

One way to try on the Franciscan way of life is to volunteer at one of our sponsored ministry like the St. Anthony Foundation in San Francisco, CA.  What ministries to the poor are in your area?  Consider volunteering with them.

Personal Reflection:

How have you tried on religious life?  What are some concrete ways you've tried to experience the friar's prayer, fraternal and ministerial life?

Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
2201 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Phone:  (408) 903-3422
Email: 
vocations@sbfranciscan.org
Facebook:  www.facebooks.com/SBFranciscans.Vocations
Website:  www.sbfranciscans.org

Monday, October 6, 2014

Companions on the Journey

A bright light illuminated the sky.  It could be seen for miles around.  Was the forest on fire?  The townspeople began to run towards the woods of Santa Maria degli Angeli with buckets of water to put out the flames.  When they arrived, they saw Francis and Clare, with their two companions, deep in prayer, covered by a brilliant aura, for they were filled with the Holy Spirit. 

Clare and Francis of Assisi were spiritual friends, companions on the sacred journey.  They were present to each other seeing and honoring the sacred mystery of the others soul.  They witness this mystery and reflected it back in word, prayer, and thought.  They helped one another respond to the Holy Spirit hidden in the depths of each others soul.

Francis, like us, needed the assistance of others to discern the direction of God's calling in his life. During one such instance Francis experienced a tension within himself about the direction of God's calling, a creative tension between his desire for a life of contemplation and a life of preaching.  Francis asked Brother Sylvester and Lady Clare to pray that he might know which way to choose: the "contemplative" or the "active" life.  The answer from both was the more difficult challenge: to continue in active ministry, even with his strong inner desire to live a more contemplative form of life.

Discernment is not meant to be taken alone, as shown through the example of Francis.  We are called to journey with others.  It is in relation to others that we discover how best to live out our common vocation:  To Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27).  It is in relating to others that we discover our unique way of giving and receiving love.  Am I called to love and be loved as religious brother of priest? Am I called to love and be loved as a diocesan priest or deacon?  Am I called to love and be loved as a married man with children?  Or am I being called to love and be loved as a single man?

Entering into a time of discernment is about reflecting on our experiences of loving and being loved.  A task we are all called to; not just those discerning a vocation to religious life.  It is for this reason men in discernment are encouraged to find a spiritual director, friend or companion; a person who understands the art of listening carried out in the context of a trusting relationship.  This person will listen to your life story with an ear for the movement of the Holy, of the Divine, utilizing the two movements of consolation and desolation (Read Consolation and Desolation).  Lastly, a spiritual director will help you discern between your own voice, the world (family, culture and society) and God's voice.

To find a spiritual director in your area contact our Vocation Director or visit the Spiritual Directors International website for more information on spiritual direction and assistance in locating a spiritual director.

May God bless you with a holy friendship as he blessed Francis with Clare.

Peace and all good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM

How to seek and find a Spiritual Director with Spiritual Directors International

Personal Reflection:

Consider purchasing the book "Ten Evenings with God."  This book is written by the Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio, OSF.  She is a professor and chair of Spirituality Studies at the Washington Theological Union and has written a simple book that takes the frustration and panic out of life's decision and shows us to seek God's will means to know God.  This would be a great resource to use with your spiritual director.

Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
2201 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Phone:  (408) 903-3422
Email: 
vocations@sbofm.org
Facebook:  www.facebooks.com/SBFranciscans.Vocations
Website:  www.sbfranciscans.org