Open to the Possibilities

by Sister Clare Bass
Originally published on the csjlife.org vocations blog.

At first I thought discernment was just a stage that I would eventually pass through. However, as I moved through formation and learned more about this lifestyle, I was surprised to know that discernment is not just a stage but a way of life for religious women—that is to always live with a discerning heart.

What does that mean? How does that feel?

It begins with having a relationship with God. God wants what is best for each of us. I take everything to God in prayer. Along the way I’ve learned God’s timing is not my timing. As I have matured, I have also learned to listen more, rather than talk all the time.

Stay open to the possibilities…

Eventually, you do have to make a choice. After a choice is made, some options are not on the table anymore but new ones present themselves. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “when one door closes, many more open.” Well, it is like that. Right now the focus is on the time leading up to making a choice. This time is called discernment. This time should be free from coercion, so it’s helpful to be aware of any pressure you feel and where it might be coming from. If there is a sense of urgency, notice and be aware of where it’s coming from, too. Sometimes there is a real deadline to meet for a major decision and, in other situations, there is not.

Stay open to the possibilities…

It might or might not be plausible to plan every detail in order to have a precisely calculated decision. Instead, there is time spent in the “middle space,” moving between the known and unknown. It feels uncomfortable at first. There are a million and one questions and few or no answers. This is the time of trust. Trust in God, yourself and others to whom you are close is paramount during this time. Be aware of how the Spirit is working and moving in your life. Notice what is most pulling at your heart and stirring you to action.

Stay open to the possibilities…

Newness and change will come. Do I want more of the same? Or do I welcome change and whatever the newness might bring?

Living with a discerning heart means staying open to the possibilities. In my personal experience, the times when I have been able to stay open and try something new, my expectations, more times than not, have been exceeded. For instance, I never thought I would ever work in a nursing home. It ended up being a life-changing experience, and I am grateful that I was open to that possibility. At first, I felt that I could not be a consecrated religious sister, that it would not work. But, as I prayed, trusted and became open to the possibility, being a Catholic sister turned out to be my life vocation.

Looking back on my journey thus far, I remain ever grateful for all those times I stayed open because I would not be where I am today in all aspects of my life if I were closed to newness, to possibilities. This does not mean I have not struggled or had hard times, because I have. Along with staying open to the possibilities, I have a willingness to follow through and make it work, but that’s another topic for another day.

Much peace and many blessings today and always, fellow pilgrims on the journey!

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