Paths always trigger many thoughts and lead me into prayer. God leads each of us by different paths and He is a God of surprises. Sometimes the path is smooth, sometimes rocky, sometimes sunny, sometimes shady, sometimes it climbs so steeply we are winded trying to climb it. Sometimes it wanders and then separates into different paths and we need to stop and discern which is the path we are to take. I guess that is when discernment is most important. We want to stay on the path God has designed for us, but we have come to place where the path divides and we need guidance to be sure of the right path.
We are all familiar with the parable of the Rich man and poor Lazarus who sat begging at the door and who was not given any notice by the Rich man who not only ignored him but did not even let him have the scraps from his table. I was praying over how Lazarus died and was received into the bosom of Abraham. It seems that Jesus chose Abraham as all the Jews would know of Abraham and also know how hospitable Abraham was to whoever came to his door. I think that the Jews would have grasped the lesson that Jesus wanted to give about taking care of those who are suffering and this parable is reinforcing the works of mercy that Jesus preached about feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, etc. I hope we grasp the deeper meaning and welcome the migrants and refugees who have come seeking shelter.
At breakfast I shared that I had been thinking about the Trinity. I have been reading Richard Rohr's meditations about the Trinity. We went around and each said what the word meant to them. I was the only one to name the three Persons in the Trinity. I have a real relationship with each one. I have been cultivating my relationships since the time I spent at the Trinita in Rome in 1959.
Live in gratitude and joy and you will spread His Love to all. I have been thinking about another quotation from St. Madeleine Sophie:
"Try to acquire the virtues so necessary to win hearts: gentleness, affection and evenness, the fruit of patience, together with that ardent love of Jesus which I desire for you."
My theory is that a grateful person is a happy one and the joy attracts others; maybe I think it is easier to work at gratitude than to have patience. I wonder, too, if one can be gentle and affectionate even without patience. I guess I have been working for years at being patient with myself and then with others. I find some situations difficult and need to try not to show impatience, but when I am grateful, it seems easier to be patient.
St. Madeleine Sophie said that interior life "is the first need of our heart, and only God's glory and zeal for souls should distract us from it. Even in the midst of external work, we should be attracted to union with God. Thus whatever we do will be sealed by God's grace and we will be able to communicate to others the Spirit of God that we possess."
It is important for discernment to know that we do have the Holy Spirit with us. Discernment deals with a life unfolding; we are all on a journey to God. Discernment helps us to see how God is leading us. Remember, the goal of discernment is to know the will of God and then to do it.
On June 16, the pope spoke at the opening of the gathering of Rome about "The Joy Of Love." According to the article in America, he affirmed the need "to stay in touch with the movement of the Spirit in discernment." This means "listening to what God is saying within our given circumstances". Discernment does not stop with a description of situations...it always goes beyond and succeeds in seeing behind every face, every story, and every situation an opportunity and a possibility."
"Discerning then, means listening to the voice of the Spirit and facing our unfolding history with its needs and challenges, and - above all - with an eye on individual persons and their concrete lives."
There was an excellent article in America, the August 18 issue, entitled "Watching for God: The gift and challenge of discernment in "The Joy of Love" by Antonio Spadaro and Louis J. Cameli. I intend to take a few of their ideas to share with you, but it will be tomorrow before I post them. They do say that we need an accurate understanding of discernment to understand the Pope's document, "The Joy of Love". The word discernment is cited about fifty times in the document.
In "The Art of Spiritual Direction" by W. Paul Jones there is a helpful way to discern with others when you need to do this. It is really personal discernment with a few who will listen well, ask probing questions and make suggestions; persons who are supportive and who know you reasonably well. They need, of course, to be persons you can trust. You come together and begin with prayer, then listen carefully to the person asking for help to know what God is about in his or her life; questions may be asked for clarification. The person shares with the others everything that seems pertinent to the situation. I think there should be some time to reflect and pray in silence before the listeners begin to share the feelings, perceptions, they have had in listening. They do not give advice. They then listen to the person to see where things are now. Usually the person takes a few days to reflect on the decision to be made before deciding, but sometimes it has become clear through the questions of his listeners. Then the ending prayer would be that of thanksgiving.
After a good discernment, there is peace and I think there is the joy in knowing that one has truly sought to know what God wants and choose that. Remember it is always between two good things.
Sometimes it is too hard to discern when your heart is saying one thing and your head another. Maybe that is when you need to be patient. Pray for light and it will be given to you.
I remember when I first asked a Jesuit about my vocation to religious life, he suggested I write down on one side of a piece of paper all the reasons for and against it. Well, I had many reasons on the side of the paper that was against entering the convent and only one on the other side. However that one was that I thought Jesus was calling me and wanted me to be a nun; I had all these reasons of what I wanted - to marry and have lots of children being one of the strongest against being a nun, but God's wanting this for me seemed to outweigh all the other reasons.
Tomorrow there is a summit to try to solve the problem of the migrants and refugees; I believe that 120 nations are taking part in this and the Holy Father has asked for prayer. It is important to not only help now but look to long term solutions for so many who cannot return to their own countries.
To continue to talk about my year in the Institute of Religious Formation which really changed my life and gave me new ministry.
We were in what we called, the IRF and we were IRFers!
1. It was a wonderful group of priests, brothers, and Religious from many different congregations. Many of them were in training to be Master or Mistress of Novices, Formation Directors, or just going into Spiritual Direction; we had a few who had been Provincial and were having this year to prepare for other ministry. The schedule was class all morning with our Jesuit Directors, Liturgy and social every Tuesday evening, faith-sharing groups that met in late afternoon or evening, and then workshops on week ends given by some of the best presenters brought from all over. Each of us also had spiritual direction with an approved person from a list. I had Father Tom Prag, S.J. and had the good fortune to have asked him to give me my first individually directed retreat before the IRF began and he also directed my 30-day retreat in Spain at the end of the course.
Discernment was taught and practiced by us all during the year. It is always learning to choose between two good choices. For me, the question is what does the Lord want me to choose? For this, one must really be indifferent and then pray. Sometimes we just know in prayer that this feels right and so the choice is clear. At other times we need to weigh the reasons for and against each choice and see what is more pleasing to the Lord and more in line with the Gospel. Other times we need to examine how the Lord has been leading us to know what is the better choice at this moment. Sometimes we think we have made the correct choice, but then something happens and it is not confirmed.
When I was doing the ongoing formation in Chile, I had to do what we call communal discernment with communities. Sometimes it would be about an important decision for the Province, other times it only involved the community. Sometimes, even after a good decision was reached, the circumstances would change or new information came to light that would not confirm the decision. It became a way of life for many of us and even today I take time to discern before agreeing to many things that are important in my life but may not be important to others. I want to do always what pleases Jesus; discernment is necessary to make the right choice.
So often we do not know exactly what God wants us to do or where He is leading us. When we do not know what path to take, we need to discern. I am just finishing the life of Concha Camacho who was Superior General of the Society of the Sacred Heart from 1970-82. Those twelve years were a time of great change for us as we had lived our religious life within our convents and, only after Vatican II did we realize that we, as an Apostolic Congregation in the Church, were to go out to assist others. I was in Chile as the time and we went from four school communities to nineteen small communities living mostly in poorer places to help with education in the parishes. We still taught, but we were responding to the needs of the Bishops. At any rate, it was a time of great change and Concha insisted on discernment to know what God wanted from us. Discernment was to be practiced on a personal level, in community, in the Province and Concha and her team set the example.
I owe her so much. When she arrived for a visit with her team in Concpcion, Chile, she decided that it would be good for me to apply for the Institute for Religious Formation at St. Louis University as Father Futrell, S.J. was going to teach all the Provincials about discernment and he was co-director of the Program with Dave Fleming, S.J. - so I was sent back to my hometown for this Program. You can imagine the delight of my parents! I think I did not know what was going to happen, but that year has influenced the rest of my life. I will share more of this tomorrow, but I just wanted to say how grateful I am still to Concha for having this inspiration.
Until I began helping with Third Grade reading, I did not know how much I missed teaching younger children. It is a real joy to be with them and I also enjoy seeing my Senior lad once a week. It is such a blessing to have the school here and I will be going to another football game this Saturday. When I walk around the grounds after lunch, it is fun to watch the various activities the boys engage in and then watch the girls who seem more likely to be deep in conversation with a few boys present, but most of the boys seem to invent active games. One of their favorite games seems to be getting in a circle with six or eight and bounce a ball back and forth off their knees. Amazing to watch them. The tennis courts are filled during my morning walk and I wonder if they just arrange their classes to have the early period free for tennis. The schedule of the classes seems to be different each week and must give someone a great deal of work to keep rearranging each week. I am glad that I no longer need to do that! In Chile, as Head of the School, I also had to plan the schedule for the High School and then the Grade School. Since many of our teachers also were teaching in the public schools, it was quite complicated and often I would finish late at night. Now, it is good not to have that kind of responsibility. It is time to enjoy life! I mean by that to enjoy the interior life each of us has with the Lord. Still, one does not spend 65 years as an educator without learning that we are always educating by what we do or do not do, by what we say or do not say, by what we write or do not write...
Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, Mater Dolorosa. It is a special Feast of Our Lady in the Society and some of our houses were consecrated to Mary under this title. Mary stood at the foot of the Cross; she was a strong, courageous, faithful and loving woman and still is. Perhaps she helps us to understand the mystery of the value of suffering.
I began the period of preparation for Final Profession in Rome in 1959 with forty-five other Religious of the Sacred Heart from all over the world. Our Mother General came to give us the opening conference on the day itself and it is one of the few things I have kept all these years, but I am afraid I must have lost it in this recent move. In looking for it, I found an article on the Sacrament of Reconciliation with wonderful quotes from Vatican II and Pope John II and it seemed so helpful I was wondering where I had found this as it was all in Spanish. I was quite astonished to find my name at the end of the article. I did write it, I think, when in charge of ongoing formation in Chile. I forget why but find it really helpful today. Maybe Our Lady of Sorrows wanted me to find it.
Hello, my name is Helen Rosenthal, RSCJ. Those initials stand for Religious of the Sacred Heart in Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish. Since my religious congregation began in France in 1800 and now is all over the world, we have kept the RSCJ. By now you know that I am not only known as Dr. Helen Rosenthal, but also as Sister Helen Rosenthal.
I am the oldest of four children. We were all born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. We lived in a big house with a playroom on the third floor. On Sundays we either went to my paternal grandmother's house where her six children would gather faithfully for supper or we would have my mother's father and our great aunt and uncle for a roast beef dinner at home. In summer, I would go to the lake with my Dad and I still love to swim.