As Franciscan friars and followers of St. Francis we are called to cultivate this spiritual vision for the natural world as brother and sister and our need to care for creation. If you are interested in our way of life you'll need to clarify your willingness to serve the poor and marginalized through caring for creation. The poor and care for creation are linked together. It's the poor and marginalized who are the first to suffer the consequences of the abuse of the earth's resources.
While discerning our way of life you'll need to test your desire and abilities to promote and practice this vision within your family, neighborhood, community, etc.... Look for local opportunities to get involved in your community around environmental issues.
As you volunteer or work in this field you'll need to become aware of the movements of consolation and desolation before, during, and after engaging in this work. As you reflect on your experience you'll 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 experiences 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 experiences 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 experiences and theological reflection. Read the blog post "Spiritual Direction" for more information on using this discernment tool.
Remember to be nourished by the Word and the Eucharist at Mass in order to be sent forth in mission to love and serve the Lord. Read the blog post "Freely You Have Received, Freely Give" for more information on why Mass is important for discernment.
Lastly, at this stage in the journey you are trying to put on the "habit" of serving the poor and marginalized by promoting care for creation and living in balance with the earth and her resources. You're trying to see if you have the abilities and the desire to live within and promote this spiritual vision as a religious brother or priest. The work is not easy, but it's the love of God that sustains and nourishes us in this work.
Peace and all good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM
For more information on St. Francis' vision of the created world as brother and sister and how it informs our understanding of "Care for Creation" read Franciscan Keith Warner, OFM article published in U.S. Catholic Magazine.
Office of Vocations
2201 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Phone: (408) 903-3422