What do I want to be?" "What do I want to do with my life?" These are questions we all ask ourselves, especially during our college years, as we choose majors and, sometimes, switch majors. However, behind these questions is a much deeper one: "Who do I want to be?"
We are all called by God to live authentically. By virtue of our baptism, we are called to follow Christ every day of our lives. Most of us are called to be married, some to remain single, and still others of us are called to the religious life and priesthood. How is it that we come to know what God desires for us? This is at the heart of vocation discernment. As a Catholic university in the Augustinian tradition, Villanova seeks to help its students to discover how God is calling them in life.
If you wonder what life might be like as an Augustinian friar, or you are just curious about religious life, priesthood, or ministry in the Church, call Fr. Thomas McCarthy, OSA, 610-519-7548, stop by the vocation office next to the Church or send an email to augustinianvocations.org
Catholics on Call is a sponsored ministry of the Bernardin Center at the Catholic Theological Union (CTU) in Chicago. It provides resources and conferences for young adults who are discerning a life of service in the Church as a lay ecclesial minister, priest, deacon, or religious sister or brother.
Writer, teacher and activist Parker J. Palmer stands firmly on the ground of the Quaker tradition as he encourages us to look within to see the gifts and weaknesses of our own lives which open a way to our vocation. His book, Let Your Life Speak, is a moving telling of the journey toward integrating our true self into the work of our life. He states, “The deepest vocational question is not “What ought I to do with my life?” It is instead the more fundamental and demanding question “Who am I? What is my nature?” Find an excerpt from the book here.
Nancy Bieber, teacher and spiritual director, compares discernment to braiding together three different elements in our life: willingness, attentiveness and responsiveness. She embellishes those themes throughout her book, Decision Making and Spiritual Discernment: The Sacred Art of Finding Your Way, and she includes reflections for meditation in each chapter. She keeps the reader engaged on the head, heart and soul levels.
Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV, has a commitment to teaching the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola in ways that are easy to understand and to apply to our spiritual lives. His website offers videos of his talks in which he gently makes Ignatius’ wisdom accessible to all.
In this short article on discernment, Catholic philosopher, Dr. Peter Kreeft offers an insightful reflection on the questions, “Does God will only one path when we are faced with a decision? And, if so, how do we discern it?” In reflecting on these questions, he says that discernment is necessary because God does not tell us exactly how to apply the Gospel to the everyday circumstances of our lives. Kreeft suggests that the “good is plural” even for one person; there are always multiple (and often competing) goods which continually require us to shape and reshape ourselves anew. Thus, he articulates five principles to help us discern God’s will within the particulars of our lives.
Rev. Joseph Loya, OSA, PhD.
Fr. Loya, an Augustinian priest who teaches in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Villanova University, applies the principles of organizational psychology to the spiritual life. Drawing from his expertise in Eastern Christian anthropology and spirituality, Loya suggests that we separate the essential from everything else in order to clearly prioritize what is essential in our daily life.
In an accessible and inviting article, theologian and Augustinian priest,Fr. Joseph Loya, considers the inter-relations of tears, repentance, and forgiveness from the perspective of Eastern Christian spirituality. Here, sin has more to do with spiritual pathology, injury, and brokenness; accordingly, salvation is more therapeutic than juridical. Mourning over both our sins and our inability to endure their ill effects expresses the sincerity of our repentance and the intensity of our desire for forgiveness. “Tears—a concomitant and culmination of repentance—are also a turning point in homecoming, a pledge of return, and a first fruit of its joy.” Loya concludes with an examination of Lent as the liturgical season which uniquely expresses the blurring of sadness and consolation, repentance and joy.
The linked article is to be found in FORGIVENESS, a publication comprising papers from the 2008 Villanova Theology Institute Conference. This volume can be obtained through the Theology Institute at Villanova University: http://www1.villanova.edu/villanova/mission/theoinstitute.html
If you have ever been confused about Western Catholicism, often called the Latin rite, and Eastern Catholic churches and Eastern Orthodox churches, these 2 short videos provide a cultural, historical and theological background in a short, concise, and perhaps over simplistic, yet valuable summary. Fr. Don Sawyer Ph.d. accompanies his narrative with graphics and liturgical rites that enhance his presentation.
Most [Roman] Catholics would be surprised to discover that there's another side to their faith that they have yet experienced - the Eastern side of life. In this article, you will get a glimpse into Catholicism in the East and the diversity and richness it brings to the tradition, liturgy, and spirituality of the Church. It will leave you, perhaps, wanting to discover more.
"Church, Home, Faith, and Family- the Eastern Catholic Experience" is a short article which presents insight into the traditions of Eastern Catholics. It provides the ideals behind the way their churches are built and designed.
Another article, "The Christian Family Tree: Celebrating Jesus Together”, expresses the concerns about the ecumenical movement. It presents the recognition that both the Eastern and Western Churches are founded upon similar basic beliefs, and have therefore hopes of achieving unity.
You can download both articles below:
Rev. Martin Laird, O.S.A.,is profiled on Religion and Ethics Newsweekly on PBS. He teaches the ancient Christian spiritual practice of contemplation—clearing away distractions to become aware of silent union with God. Laird is interviewed at a retreat in Maine and at Villanova University, where he begins his classes with 15 minutes of silence.
In two very readable volumes, Martin Laird presents prayer as the cultivation of stillness and attentiveness that lead to a deepening experience of the simplest, yet most obscured, truth about who we are as persons—we are not separate from God. For those seeking a sustained exploration of this interior journey and the obstacles encountered along the way, Into the Silent Land and A Sunlit Absence will provide an experienced guide and a caring companion. Laird is a patristic theologian and an active practitioner of contemplative prayer.
Rev. Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Keating introduces us to an understanding of prayer as something much broader than particular forms of prayer. He describes contemplation as a dimension of human life that is basic to who we are as persons. It is a gift that “has been given” and therefore does not need to be discovered outside of ourselves. According to Keating, our practice of contemplation contributes to the growth of the whole human race and our “corporate search for the unknowable God.” We only need to awaken to this fundamental truth of our human existence.
For a short clip of Thomas Keating addressing a conference of people from the corporate world, click here.
Contemplative Outreach, offers practical support in developing a more intentional prayer life. It presents three particular prayer practices and provides concrete guidance in the practice of each: Centering prayer, Lectio Divina, and Welcoming prayer. It is in the daily practice of some form of prayer that we can open ourselves to the loving presence of God in our midst.
Gary N. McCloskey, O.S.A., Praying_with_the_Augustinians in Catholic Digest
Developing René Girard’s understanding of desire as mimetic or imitative, James Alison, a British priest and lecturer living in Brazil, offers inquisitive Christians a way of understanding prayer as the space within which we open ourselves to be re-formed by the loving regard of an abundantly peaceful God. It is only by becoming increasingly attentive to God’s loving regard for us that we can begin to be people who are truly able to see one another as neighbors, friends, sisters, and brothers. See his “Prayer: A Case Study in Mimetic Anthropology.”
Sr. Joyce Rupp is a beloved spiritual writer and speaker. Through her books, poetry and prayers she has helped others to embrace their life in a prayerful way. In this short interview, you can get a sense of her spirituality. In May I have this Dance? An Invitation to Faithful Prayer Throughout the Year, Rupp takes you on a guided visualization of “The Falling Leaves”. She often uses images from everyday life to bring people closer to God. In her classic book Praying Your Goodbyes, Rupp shows her willingness to address life’s darkness and she offers solace and aid in making peace with loss. Here you will find her work, Prayer of one who is feeling lost.
If you find yourself running in many different directions and need a moment’s peace, Pray-as-you-go.org offers podcasts of daily prayers based on the Scripture readings of the day. Each prayer begins with music that sets the theme which is followed by a reading of Scripture and poignant questions for personal reflection. Setting aside ten minutes for this prayer during the day can be a simple way of attending to God’s loving presence.
For those interested in praying with the “Liturgy of the Hours,” DivineOffice.org provides podcasts of Morning, Noon, Evening, and Night prayers, complete with an opening prayer, psalms of the day, Scripture readings, and a closing prayer. It also makes available a concise explanation of the origins and significance of this practice within the Christian tradition.
Interested in learning more about ministry and religious life? Wondering if you have the gifts for service? Overwhelmed by the possibility of God’s call to ministry and service in the Church? Check out www.vocationnetwork.org, an online ministry dedicated to helping young women and men sift through the many questions that often arise while discerning a call to religious life.