This is part of a series of a year long journey through the book, “Franciscan Virtues Through the Year“. If you’d like more information on Old/Independent Catholicism, or would like more information on my denomination, or feel called to a vocation, click here!
Yesterday, I received a text message from a brother Franciscan who is a year ahead of me in his four year vows. He’s decided that after a period of discernment he needs to renounce his vows.
This shook me up a little bit. Not just because we’re a very small group of Franciscans and any loss is huge, but because in some ways it was a kind of shake up for my own vocational choice. Why have I taken this particular course of action, when I could’ve just been a very religious person without any formal congregation?
Why would I choose a faith walk that would put me under scrutiny by Roman Catholics, Christians, Queer peoples, just about anyone in fact? Right now I’m taking part in a weekly centering prayer group that meets in an old convent chapel. The majority of people who participate I’m convinced are Roman Catholic. I’ve spoken about my experience as a Catholic, but haven’t specified that I’m a member of an Independent Catholic congregation.
The skill of discernment is a process of learning how to filter out the voices in our heads that are attached to our fears, our desires, our passions, our lusts, our prejudices, our ideas; in filtering those voices out we become more accustomed to what the voice of God sounds like. We become more accustomed to what the sound of silence is like, we get comfort from knowing that sometimes we ask questions that don’t have immediate answers, or sometimes have answers that aren’t what we want to hear.
Discernment is about going into the garden, asking God whole heartedly for what we hope for, what we desire, in full acceptance of the fact that our desires may be contrary to what the will of God for us is going to be. It’s about assessing our gifts and talents, our flaws and our failings, and asking: Where am I best going to be of use? What is the message I’m supposed to share? What am I supposed to learn? Where do you want me to go?
I’m working up a script right now for a retreat that I want to put on for the Queer community here in Regina over Pride, and potentially for an international Queer activist conference being held in Saskatoon in October. I have no idea how this will go over. I have no idea if anyone will come, if anyone will want to hear what I have to say, if people will come and hear what I have to say and disagree with what I have to say. But in my process of discernment, I’ve come to realize that God wants me to do this. And, as has happened in the past, maybe do this to an empty room. Putting one’s self out there sometimes means doing so, and waiting, and nothing happens. It’s a reality!
And this vocation, in this particular denomination, in this particular fashion, is difficult. We are a community spread all over the world that keeps in touch via e-mail, Skype, conference calls, telephone calls, and we meet a few times a year. But in many ways we are united only in our prayer lives that happen twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty five days a year.
Listening to voice, for the voice of God is a process that takes time, takes commitment, and ultimately is a complete act of surrender that has to be done over and over and over and over again. It is a discipline like any other that asks us to be still, to be silent, but also to be active and constantly as a servant who doesn’t know what time his master will be returning from the wedding feast.
I’m sad that my brother Franciscan has made the choice that he has, but at the same time I accept that in his leaving, there is something being show, a lesson to be learned, a truth to be understood. We each have to find our own way, in our own way. It’s not up to us to chase, or coheres, or preach. It’s up to us to live our vocation, to discern how, and to use words only when necessary. Our lives have been so wrapped up in challenging, in interacting, we’ve forgotten that what is more important is the why rather than the how we challenge and how we interact.