All posts tagged: discernment

What Are the Options for Authentic Identity-Discernment in a Secular Age?

The present cultural moment in the United States is often described as a “secular age.”[1] Included in this description is the reality that today many people are on a “quest” to understand their “identity.” People have both a heightened awareness of the need to form their identity, especially their religious identity, and an increasing ability to do so. In this paper, we will argue that the quest for identity so prevalent in contemporary culture can be an opportunity for the “new evangelization.” We will develop our argument in three parts. First, we will utilize contemporary sociological research to investigate aspects of the present cultural moment in the United States that contribute to the contemporary quest for identity. Second, we will appropriate the work of 20th century Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988) to theologically analyze the notion of identity. Finally, if the analysis in this paper of the present cultural moment, through a socio-theological lens, is accurate, what begins to emerge are various ways in which the present age might be an opportunity for …

Notre Dame Vision: Reality Imagined

Reality ignites our imaginations more than possibility does. We can imagine amazing things but only when we first look at what is real and in front of us. Reality reveals possibility, and that is what Notre Dame Vision did to me. My mom is indefatigably resourceful. She looked up opportunities I never would have bothered to find. My junior year of high school, she found a retreat at Notre Dame and sent me the website’s promotional video. Being a high school boy, I watched it while inhaling dinner. I was sold. I was less sold on Notre Dame the institution. My college search had been unexciting. Though I was going to Vision, one thing was certain: Notre Dame was not Catholic enough. Two days at Vision ended that illusion and Vision turned out to be pivotal for my faith. That summer poured gasoline all over the flame I’d received at Confirmation that year. It introduced me to the prayer attributed to St. Teresa of Ávila, “Christ has no body now but yours,” a prayer that …

Advent and Discernment

The Vocation of Discernment It strikes me how frequently opportunities for discernment become moments of crisis in life. As an undergraduate in my senior year, the impending future after graduation is a popular topic of discussion amongst my friends and classmates. The various dimensions of how life will look after graduation have been coming together like the pieces of a puzzle for the past four years. Yet for many seniors, a few pieces of that puzzle have yet to be found—the image of the future is incomplete. When we realize that we cannot gaze at our future selves with clarity, a sense of urgency and anxiety can set in. This often seems like the appropriate time to employ a spirit of discernment by asking God what he wants us to do with our lives and how we can proceed forward. The process of discernment involves not only listening for the words of Jesus, “Come, follow me” (Mt 1:7; Mk 4:19), but also preparing to go where he beckons. Disposing ourselves to hearing these words often …

Three Views on ‘Having a Vocation’

When I was in grade school, the whole idea of having a vocation seemed rather clear to me: I learned that I had a vocation either to the priesthood or to marriage, and that was it. Anyone not choosing to be a priest (or brother) or a nun was definitely not taking the high road, in some way being less than generous with God or failing him somehow, but marriage was still an acceptable option. We had the choice of a moral life in the standard married state or in the deluxe consecrated life. No one really talked about why there was a difference in value between the two acceptable states, but it was clear that anyone not choosing one or the other of these states of life was somehow a moral shirker. Once I had met the young Jesuits teaching in my high school I chose to become a Jesuit, and becoming a priest was simply one way of living that life. I am certainly grateful for that, but over the years I have …

Autobiography of a Small Haven

I was born on Day 3 of the universe. (I don’t have a birth certificate but you can check Genesis 1:1-2:3 to verify). I watched as God lovingly drew all of my parts together: a crystalline lake, a cluster of trees, some lovely assorted pebbles, and my favorite part, a soft patch of cushy soil right in the center. That was my favorite part because I knew that if a human one day happened upon me, they could sit on my soil patch, be enclosed by my trees, and look out onto the lake. I was so excited when God whispered to me that one day, one of his loves would love him right in me. He told me that I would be a haven for someone, and his beauty made me beautiful. (I would tell you that I am the best, most perfectly picturesque spot on the whole lake, too, but his humility made me humble). 4.54 billion years into my existence (not that I was counting or anything), humans were a-bustling about my …