Those who have seen the new Pixar film, Finding Dory, will have seen how cleverly Pixar threaded the movie with good human virtues, the beauty of family life and the importance of good friendships.
The main character is Dory, who is in search of her parents. Dory is a dory fish and suffers from short term memory loss.
Her journey to find her parents was sparked by her tumbling upon a shell which reminded her of them. She remembered their kindness and gentleness.
She remembered their undivided concern and attention. Her memory of her childhood gave her the encouragement she needed to search high and low for her mum and dad.
She did find them with the help of her good friends and a great deal of team work. Dory remembered she was loved!
The search for God’s will is somewhat similar to Dory’s search for her parents.
The path of discernment isn’t a straight one. In the vast ocean of our personal desires and goals, discerning a divine call can be confusing at times.
It requires patience, prayer, honesty, trust, good friends, supportive parents and an encouraging wise priest for guidance.
I wish to highlight in this short article two essential stages of discernment. I hope that the thoughts presented here will be of some help to you.
God loves you – the first stage of discernment
Before a person can begin to discern their vocation, the key ingredient is to know in the depth of one’s heart that he or she is loved by God. This knowledge frees our hearts and minds with joy and gratitude.
It is only within this freedom that one can embark on a fruitful and rewarding journey to seek God’s will for him or her. God’s love is the bedrock of discernment.
At times we can be too quick in thinking about pursuing marriage or a religious vocation.
Dory committed herself to finding her parents when she suddenly remembered their undivided love for her.
Discerning a vocation is similar. We need to be convinced of God’s love for each of us and ground ourselves in it.
A man and a woman do not marry on the day they first meet. They take time to know each other and grow in their friendship and love. The same is true with discernment in general.
Once a person’s heart is grounded in the bedrock of God’s love then that person is in a ‘good space’ to seek how he or she can respond freely and responsibly to that love which loved him or her first (1 John 4:10).
How do I know God’s love for me?
St Thomas Aquinas taught that creation is the first proof of God’s existence. One way of knowing God’s love is by observing what he has done – by reflecting in prayer on what he has done for us – especially for you!
He became incarnate in the Virgin Mary and lived among us. He healed the sick and raised the dead. He forgave people of their sins. He died on the cross for us. He promised us eternal life. He gave us the Eucharist – the Mass. He gave us his own Mother to be our Mother too, etc.
In the first stage of discernment, our own wounds and frailties can hold us back. Our inadequacies and sins can cause havoc and discouragement. This discouragement saps fear and doubt in the heart. The ‘pull’ of the secular world can distract our hearts.
Another place where we experience God’s love for each of us is in Confession.
Confession is the soul’s cenacle of the contemplation of God. Despite our brokenness, he loves us still.
God’s love and forgiveness reminds us that we are not forgotten by him. He remembers us because he loves. He loves because he is God and he is our Father. How can one not want to respond to such a love? It is within this dynamic of love – given and received – that the second stage of discernment unfolds.
Love and trust – the second stage of discernment
“Lord you love me this much. What do you want me to do for you?” These are the simple words of a heart that has gone through the first stage of discernment.
From this stage, the path of discernment begins to mature and grow. This is a maturity and growth that is watered by God’s love and his grace. Response has become desire.
Desire will become blessedness once the call is heard, received and accepted. To discern a vocation is an act of love.
Love Jesus and trust him. He will show you his will. You will find your path to serve him in this life and be happy with him in the next.