Discernment Reflection: Peace and God’s Providential Care

I was invited to attend an evening of recollection last night and so my reflection is inspired by Father’s remarks, with discernment in mind. Discernment is at the same time very similar and very different for each person. In this reflection I hope to bring up two points which will help us all through these things. I have to admit being on the tail end of my formation the active part of discernment is pretty much over. It is the Church is who is doing the active discernment and even that will come to and end soon. I am looking back to my beginning some long eight years ago and also to what other men have shared with me in the recent past. So here it goes!

We are all familiar with the greeting of the angels to the shepherds “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of goodwill”. (Luke 2:14) Father began his talk with this point and said that “men of goodwill” are those who seek God’s will. For those of us who are familiar with the early stages of discernment we know this does not seem to be the case. We seek God’s will but peace isn’t very stable or present. And it is to this reality that I want to speak. It is very true that our peace comes truly from God, in knowing Him, loving Him, and serving Him; in other words from knowing and doing His will. So how can this peace be absent, or at least seem absent, when we are discerning His will for our state of life?

I don’t believe it is absent, I think we loose sight of it and so the question is how to regain it. And that is where Divine Providence comes from. There are many variants of this expression “There is no evil from which come no good” this expression simply means that God’s providence, if we allow it to work, always brings us something good no matter how disagreeable or undesirable the current moment is. Turning our attention back to discernment and providence this is key.

Those who genuinely seek God’s will in their lives do so because first and foremost they have had an encounter with Him. For some this is a dramatic moment, a conversion where they feel like St Paul being knocked off a horse for others it is a reality much more gentle and subtle. They’ve been close to God or have gradually grown closer, with a keen sense for His presence and perhaps even His call. Regardless of how it happens we all begin on this quest to find His will and from there things become different.

As we go through the experience of discernment and we begin to lose our peace or get lost in the lack of peace we do well to look at how providence has worked in our lives. Begin first of all by prayer, a frank and honest conversation with God about how you feel. Then ask yourself “How did I get to this point” look back at your life and revisit those moments when you first began to think about the priesthood or to experience this call. Look back in recent events for moments where God was working in your life. This sounds easier said than done, and perhaps it is. While Divine Providence was Father’s second point, his third was recollection

Perhaps this will sound cliche but it is true, especially in discernment. So here are the practical steps, 1) consistent and regular prayer 2) brief pauses where we can turn our mind and heart to God and 3) a nightly examination of conscience where we can look for God’s Providence in the day and our life. In conclusion I leave you these words of our Lord, words we hear in every Mass “My peace I leave you, my peace I give you”.