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 be loved and love as a religious brother or priest in the Order of Friars Minor? Am I called to be loved and love as a diocesan priest or deacon? Am I called to be loved and love as a husband and father? Or am I called to love and be loved in the single state of life?
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). A spiritual director will also help you discern between various voices you might confuse for God's voice and will. Is it my voice speaking, the voice of the world (family, culture, and society) or even the evil one that I am confusing for God's voice and will. This is why spiritual direction is so important because we can easily fool ourselves into believing we are following God's will.
Finding a Spiritual Director:
Start by asking your vocation director for a recommendation. They will know spiritual directors in your area that are familiar with religious life. You can also contact a local Catholic retreat house. They often maintain rosters of spiritual directors in their area.
Suggested Resource to use with your Spiritual Director:
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.In Closing:
May God bless you with a holy friendship as he blessed Francis with Clare.
Peace and all good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM
Office of Vocations
1500 34th Ave
Oakland, CA 94601
Phone: (408) 903-3422