Struggles in Discernment
Are you discerning a call to religious life? Do you find yourself wavering in your decision, or in your understanding of God’s call to you?
St. Francis de Sales, Founder of the Visitation Order, comprehended very well the delicate process of discernment. He outlined some of the struggles of discerners, and his own response to these situations in his Spiritual Conferences.
St. Francis de Sales writes: “I speak ..for the aspirants who are in the world, for whom we certainly ought to care, helping them in their good intentions. When good desires awaken in them in all the strength of their first fervor, nothing seems difficult to them. But when they are shaken by vicissitudes, then at once they imagine that all is lost, and all that they had aimed at must be abandoned; they desire, and yet they do not desire; what they feel is not sufficient to make them quit the world.
The only thing to be done is to be most careful to help them and teach them not to be astonished at these changes, encouraging them to remain firm amid all their varying moods.
I say to them, “Tell me, did you not feel in your heart an inspiration, or longing?”
“Yes” I rejoin, “the strength of the feeling, perhaps, but not in such a way that no affection of the kind was left within you.”
“Oh no” they answer, ” for we always feel some indescribable attraction drawing us in that direction; but what troubles us is, that it does not seem strong enough for such a resolution.”
I tell them in reply that they must not trouble themselves so much about these sensible affections, nor examine them so closely and minutely; that they are to be contented with that constancy of will which amid all disturbances, never loses the love of its first intention; that they need only to cultivate this and to correspond well to the first stirring of the soul.”
St. Francis de Sales, Spiritual Conference, Conference XVII
Reflection: How does St Francis’ description of the discernment process relate to my own? How can I observe his advice?