Anticipation and Discernment


July 2016

Recently I was having lunch in a restaurant with a young man who wanted to talk about Glenmary and about discerning his vocation. We chatted a bit, but once the food arrived our conversation slowed as we focused on the meal in front of us. Before he began to eat his burger, though, the young man waited and watched with surprise at how slowly the ketchup was flowing from the new bottle. I may be dating myself, but the young man was not old enough to remember the old ketchup commercials that used the lyrics from the Carly Simon song "Anticipation." The ketchup-seller's message was that its brand was slow-pouring, but the taste was well worth the wait.

In some ways, discernment can be like that "anticipation." The discerner may not know what tomorrow may bring, but he is eagerly awaiting. Psalm 130:5 says, "I wait for the Lord, my soul waits and I hope for his word." Praying with the psalms and other Scriptures can be the ingredient to add flavor to a person's prayer and to help him find where God is calling him.

As a discerner, your anticipation could lead to some daydreaming while you wait. In your dreams, you can try to envision yourself as a priest or brother. Can you see yourself in a big city parish or a small, rural mission parish? Can you envision yourself going out to share the Good News with others? Can you see yourself joyfully serving in a small mission area where you might be the first Catholic priest or brother to minister in that part of the rural United States?

Anticipation does not mean sitting on your hands and doing nothing: we can tip that ketchup bottle a little. In Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis said, "We do not blindly seek God, or wait for him to speak to us first, for 'God has already spoken, and there is nothing further that we need to know, which has not been revealed to us.' Let us receive the sublime treasure of the revealed word." (#175) You can respond by trying new things to help you discover how your talents can be shared.

While discerning and anticipating, you can be an active participant. You can find ways to serve in your parish and ask yourself, "Do I feel comfortable proclaiming the Word?" Or maybe the parish has a ministry such as taking Communion to the sick or visiting people in jail. Maybe there is a food pantry or Habitat for Humanity office nearby. Stocking shelves and pounding nails are very good ways to get involved and actively discern and anticipate your calling.

God is anticipating—eagerly awaiting—your response. The people living in areas of Mission Land, USA, that still do not have a Catholic Church are anticipating the day Glenmary missioners will arrive. 

And Glenmary is anticipating your participation in a Come & See retreat/mission trip where you can actively discern if Glenmary and its mission areas are where you are called to serve. (Please contact us for more information.) Tip the ketchup bottle and imagine the taste.

Read previous columns by Brother David.