Monday, February 3, 2014

The Lord Gave Me Brothers

The music starts, 50 middle school teens and I begin the ancient dance around the circle of metal folding chairs.  This isn't the musical chairs of your youth, but a newer version, which seems to require body checking.  The music stops and the leader yells, "Elbow to chair!"  I begin the push inward as the teens jockey for the few available chairs.  One 7th grade girl goes flying, stunned from hitting my 6'5" frame.  She'll think twice again, from challenge me.  I quickly take a deep breath and survey the room.  Everyone seems to be uninjured.

The music begins again.  My dance moves hit the floor with each pounding of the beat.  Sweat beads from my brow in anticipation of the next chair I will conquer.  Around and around we go, when will the music stop?  "Tongue to chair!" yells the leader.  Audible groans fill the room, but my pride pushes me forward.  My tongue stretches as it licks the first obtainable seat.  "Yes, I'm safe!"  I suppress the thought of how many buts sat in this chair today.  Seconds pass, and awareness of this distasteful situation comes to my taste buds.  Quickly I search the room looking for the one person who'll understand my strange circumstance.  "When did my life become this?"  I said to the other parish youth minister.

Who else would of understood my current situation, but a fellow traveler headed on the same journey.  Our journey of discernment is not meant to be taken alone.  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)"  In relating to others we discover our unique way of giving and receiving love.  Therefore, discernment always takes place in the context of community.  It is not, "God and Me," but "God and Us."

While discerning a call to religious life you will have the assistance of a Vocation Director, a Spiritual Director, fellow discerners and other friars to walk with you.  Each will provide a unique perspective on your journey. The Vocation Director not only assist you in discerning a call to religious life, but is also discerning on behalf of the community, if you have a calling to life as a Franciscan Friar. He will ask, "Are you a good match with us?"  You might actually be a great husband in the waiting, or possibly a great Jesuit or Dominican.  If that's the case he'll point you in those directions.

You'll need a good Spiritual Director who is versed in helping others discern a call to religious life.  You can ask our Vocation Director for help in locating a good spiritual director in your area.  You can also visit the website Spiritual Directors International for a list of trained and certified spiritual directors.

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.

Search out others who are discerning a call to religious life, too.  The Province of Saint Barbara can provide you with opportunities to attend a discernment group or attend a "Come and See" retreat with other discerners.  Your fellow discerners have the potential to become some of your best companions on the journey.  As many a friar can testify during their own time of discernment.

Lastly, know that other friars are willing to walk with you.  Ask our Vocation Director to arrange for you to meet other friars in your area.  They will invite you over for evening prayer, dinner or other special occasions. 

Remember there is no failing the discernment process.   If you discern a calling to religious life; your discernment was successful.  If you discern a calling to married life; your discernment was successful.  There is no failure.  There is only success and the friars will be happy to journey with you as you discover the best way to live out our common vocation to love God and our neighbor.

Peace and all Good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM

The Province of Saint Barbara's postulants and friars end their monthly house chapter meeting with doughnuts and a prayer.  Every month the friars gather together
to support one another, review their life together, make adjustments to
and enjoy each other's company.

Personal Reflection:

According to the National Religious Vocation Conference new members to religious life found that the Vocation Director and other team members played a critical role in their discernment process.  Have you or do you plan to contact a Vocation Director to help you in your discernment process?  If not, what's holding you back?  Feel free to share your answer in the comment space below.

P.S.  Listed below is the contact information for our Vocation Office:

Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
1500 34th Ave
Oakland, CA 94601
Phone:  (408) 903-3422

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