You Are Called: Week 5

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Sunday 7 July 2019 


Most powerful Holy Spirit, come down upon us and subdue us. From heaven, where the ordinary is made glorious, and glory seems but ordinary, bathe us with the brilliance of your light like dew. Amen 


Jeremiah 1:4-10, 20:7-9

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, 
‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’ 
Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.’ But the Lord said to me,
‘Do not say, “I am only a boy”;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you. 
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,

says the Lord.’ 
Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,
‘Now I have put my words in your mouth. 
See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.’

O Lord, you have enticed me,
   and I was enticed;
you have overpowered me,
   and you have prevailed.
I have become a laughing-stock all day long;
   everyone mocks me. 
For whenever I speak, I must cry out,
   I must shout, ‘Violence and destruction!’
For the word of the Lord has become for me
   a reproach and derision all day long. 
If I say, ‘I will not mention him,
   or speak any more in his name’,
then within me there is something like a burning fire
   shut up in my bones;
I am weary with holding it in,
   and I cannot.

Daily journaling

Your mission

Monday 8 July 2019 


Most powerful Holy Spirit, come down upon us and subdue us. From heaven, where the ordinary is made glorious, and glory seems but ordinary, bathe us with the brilliance of your light like dew. Amen


Joan of Arc (1412-1431), daughter of a peasant, began to hear her voices when she was only thirteen.  It was the middle of the Hundred Years’ War, and England had conquered much of France.  The voice told Joan to go to the Dauphin, the prince not yet officially crowned King of France, and seek to lead the French forces against the English.  With Joan in a suit of white armor at its head, the French army defeated the English at Orleans, and the Dauphin was crowned king. Later Joan was captured and became a prisoner of the English, who had her tried for witchcraft and heresy. These excerpts come from the official record of the trial.  She was found guilty and burned at the stake.[1]

(From Trial Testimony of Thursday, February 22)

She then said that, since the age of thirteen, she had been having revelations from Our Lord through a voice that taught her how to behave.  And that the first time she was very afraid.  And she said that the said voice came at noon, in summertime, when she was in her father’s garden during a fast day, and that the said voice came from the right, toward the church.  And she said that the said voice is rarely without light, which always comes from the same direction as the said voice [Latin record adds here:  And when Joan herself came to France she heard that voice often.  Asked how she could see the light of which she spoke, since it came from the side, she answered nothing to this, but went on to other things.  She said that if she were in a forest, she could clearly hear voices coming to her.  She said in fact that it seemed to her a worthy voice and she believed that this voice was sent from God.]

She went on to say that after hearing the said voice three times, she knew it was the voice of an angel.  She also said that this voice had always taken good care of her.  Asked what advice this voice had given her for the salvation of her soul, she answered that it taught her how to conduct herself and that she should go to church often. And then the voice told her it was necessary that she go into France…and told her two or three times a week that she must leave to go into France.  And that her father knew nothing of her departure.

With this, it said to her that she must hasten to go and that she should lift the siege at Orleans; and that she should go to Robert de Baudricourt, captain of Vaucoulers, and that he would provide her with men to accompany her.

To which she responded that she was nothing but a poor girl who knew neither how to ride a horse nor how to lead an army.

And after her words with this voice, she went off to the house of an uncle, where she remained for a week.  And that afterward her uncle led her to the said Robert de Baudricourt, who she recognized even though she had never met him before.  And this she knew because the voice had told her who he was.

She went on to say that the said Baudricourt refused her twice.  Then on the third occasion, he welcomed her and gave her men to escort her into France, just as the voice had told her…

She then said that when she left Vaucouleurs, she assumed male clothing, and also a sword Baudricourt had given, her, but no other armor or weapons.  And she said she was accompanied by a knight and four other men; and that on that day they took lodging in the town of Saint-Urbain, where she slept in the abbey.

She also said that on the way to Chinon, she passed through Auxerre where she heard Mass in the great church; and that she often had her voices with her…

She said she never asked anything of the voice except at the end, for the salvation of her soul.[2] 

Daily Journaling

Facing an unknown

Tuesday 9 July 2019


Most powerful Holy Spirit, come down upon us and subdue us. From heaven, where the ordinary is made glorious, and glory seems but ordinary, bathe us with the brilliance of your light like dew. Amen


Anonymous, The Cloud of Unknowing 

Chapter 17

That a true contemplative will not meddle in the active life nor with what goes on about him, not even to defend himself against those who criticize him.

In the Gospel of St. Luke we read that our Lord came to Martha’s house and while she set about at once to prepare his meal, her sister Mary did nothing but sit at his feet.  She was so intent upon listening to him that she paid no attention to what Martha was doing.  Now certainly Martha’s chores were holy and important.  (Indeed, they are the works of the first degree of the active life.) But Mary was unconcerned about them. Neither did she notice our Lord’s human bearing, the beauty of his mortal body, or the sweetness of his human voice and conversation, although this would have been a holier and better work. (It represents the second degree of the active life and the first degree of the contemplative life.)  But she forgot all of this and was totally absorbed in the highest wisdom of God concealed in the obscurity of his humanity.

Mary turned to Jesus with all the love of her heart, unmoved by what she saw or heard spoken and done about her.  She sat there in perfect stillness with her heart’s secret, joyous love intent upon that cloud of unknowing between her and her God.  For as I have said before, there never has been and there never will be a creature so pure or so deeply immersed in the loving contemplation of God who does not approach him in this life through that lofty and marvelous cloud of unknowing.   And it was to this very cloud that Mary directed the hidden yearning of her loving heart.  Why? Because it is the best and holiest part of the contemplative life possible to man and she would not relinquish it for anything on earth.  Even when Martha complained to Jesus about her, scolding him for not bidding her to get up and help with the work, Mary remained there quite still and untroubled, showing not the least resentment against Martha for her grumbling.  But this is not surprising really, for she was utterly absorbed in another work, all unknown to Martha, and she did not have time to notice her sister or defend herself.

My friend, do you see that this whole incident concerning Jesus and the two sisters was intended as a lesson for active and contemplative persons of the Church in every age?  Mary represents the contemplative life and all contemplative persons ought to model their lives on hers.  Martha represents the active life and all active persons should take her as their guide.[3]

Daily Journaling

Contemplation and action 

Wednesday 10 July 2019 


Most powerful Holy Spirit, come down upon us and subdue us. From heaven, where the ordinary is made glorious, and glory seems but ordinary, bathe us with the brilliance of your light like dew. Amen


Elizabeth Leibert, The Way of Discernment

If we are to contribute our best to the reign of God, we need something beyond our everyday vision and imagination.  We need greater desires; we need “the more.”

Ignatius knew that the most effective laborers for the reign of God would be those who could generate their own zeal.  They would not have to depend on their environment providing all the right stimuli, or on feeling rewarded, or on receiving kudos from others; they would persevere through thick and thin to bring about the object of their desire.  He developed a method for eliciting in his companions great desires that centered on cultivating the imagination and employing appropriate asceticism.  His strategy still works today.

If we can’t imagine any other world than we presently inhabit, we will not desire more.  To move toward deeper desires, then, we must school our imagination, learn to imagine that which is not yet.  Scriptures, especially the prophetic books, urge us toward a vision beyond our mundane experience.  Contemplative prayer clears out our old images and readies us for new ones given us by the Holy Spirit.  Testimonies and the lives of strong and holy exemplars, of today’s saints, can stir up our imaginations.  We can associate with people who share our great desires or whom we admire, and let them stimulate our imaginations.  When our energy flags, we can return through prayer and memory to our authentic desires, allowing them to come alive again.

The way to great desires is always pitted with conflicting desires, our own and those of others.  We can remain divided in our desires, or we can engage in a struggle between opposing desires.  A focused asceticism, or self-denial for the sake of greater purposefulness, can help us temper desires that dampen our imaginations and allow us to settle for less than God desires.  Notice that asceticism is not for the sake of killing off parts of our selves, but for the sake of marshaling our full energy around our deep desires.

To summarize:  desires underlie all our motivation; discernment urges us to choose well among these desires.  Our experience as love and saved sinners allows us to believe that discernment can happen.  We can enter into a process of sifting through the ambiguities of our situation. Our experience as co-creators of God’s unfolding purpose in creation underlies the importance of discerning well. It matters to the continual outworking of God’s creative life.  Growing in spiritual freedom through spiritual indifference is simultaneously the essential prerequisite and the goal of spiritual discernment.  Without this spiritual freedom, discernment, as such, does not exist.  With it, discernment becomes a powerful means of growing in holiness.  Finally, seeking great desires, the “more,” invites us to stretch beyond our limited horizons to do something great for God.[4]

Daily Journaling

Seeking the “more”

Thursday 11 July 2019


Most powerful Holy Spirit, come down upon us and subdue us. From heaven, where the ordinary is made glorious, and glory seems but ordinary, bathe us with the brilliance of your light like dew. Amen


St. John of the Cross, The Ascent of Mount Carmel

Faith, according to the theologians, is a habit. It is both certain and obscure. It is an obscure habit because by it we believe truths revealed by God that transcend all natural understanding. Paradoxically, the excessive light of faith is a thick darkness.  Just as the sun overwhelms all other lights, so faith overwhelms greater and lesser things. The light of faith transcends the faculty of intellectual vision and disables the understanding because the understanding extends only to natural knowledge.

By him or herself one only knows after a natural manner; that is, things that one attains by means of the five senses.  One only knows objects which present themselves to the senses.  Things beyond one’s understanding whose likeness one has never perceived would give one no illumination whatever, no knowledge at all.  Can a person born blind really understand what color is?

So it is with faith.  It tells us of things which we have never seen or understood. So we have no natural knowledge concerning the things of faith.  We hear about them and believe what we are taught.  We bring our natural understand into subjection to what we hear.  Faith comes from hearing.  It is not knowledge that enters by the senses, but is only the consent that the soul gives to what we hear.  Things that we believe by faith are not illumined by our understanding, which has been rejected for the sake of our faith.

Obviously then, faith is a dark night for the soul, a dark night which paradoxically gives the soul light, light it could not have in any other way.  The more the soul is darkened, the greater is the light that is given to it. [5]        

Daily Journaling

Practicing faith

Friday 12 July 2019


Most powerful Holy Spirit, come down upon us and subdue us. From heaven, where the ordinary is made glorious, and glory seems but ordinary, bathe us with the brilliance of your light like dew. Amen


Henri Nouwen, Discernment

Discernment as “Being Seen”

I am struck by the way Jesus “saw” Nathanael under the tree in the Gospel of John.  Even before meeting him, Jesus said of Nathanael:  “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” When the two men met on the road, Nathanael asked Jesus with amazement:  “How do you knowme?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the gif tree, I sawyou.”  Jesus’s seeing through Nathanael under the fig tree was such a powerful act of discerning what was in his heart that it caused Nathanael to proclaim:  “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”  To which Jesus remarked, “You believe this because I told you I sawyou under the fig tree? You will seegreater things than these…You will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (John 1:47-51).

This wonderful story about seeing through to the heart of things raises a deep question:  Do I want to be fully seen by Jesus?  Do I want to be known by him?  If I do, then a faith can grow that will open my eyes to heaven and reveal Jesus as the Son of God.  I will see great things when I am willing to be seen.  I will receive new eyes that can see the mysteries of God’s own life, but only when I allow God to see me, all of me, even those parts that I myself do not want to see. 

….Once we are willing to see and be seen by God, we can look for signs of God’s presence and guidance in every appearance presented to our senses.  Discernment becomes a new way of seeing (and being seen) that results in divine revelation and direction.  This heart knowledge enables us to lead a life worthy of the calling (Eph. 4:1). [6]

Daily Journaling

Willing to be seen 

Saturday 13 July 2019


Most powerful Holy Spirit, come down upon us and subdue us. From heaven, where the ordinary is made glorious, and glory seems but ordinary, bathe us with the brilliance of your light like dew. Amen 


Karl Barth (1886-1968) moved in 1921 from serving as a pastor in his native Switzerland to teaching theology at a series of German universities.  He eagerly supported the Confessing Church in its opposition to Nazi efforts to take control of the Protestant churches and in 1934 wrote the Barmen Declaration, the Confessing Church’s basic statement of its faith.  Refusing to take an oath to Hitler, he had to leave Germany, and taught theology back in Switzerland from 1935 until his retirement in 1962. His greatest work, the Church Dogmatics, unfinished after many long volumes, argued that Christianity must start with God as revealed in Christ, and nothing else.[7] 

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics

We speak of the vocation of man confronting and corresponding to the divine calling.  It is clear that in so doing we give the term a meaning which transcends its customary use in the narrower technical sense.  Vocation in the usual sense means a particular position and function of a man in connection with the process of human work, i.e., his job; and then in the broader sense a whole group of such positions and functions. Now obviously it can also be part of what we understand as human vocation that a man has his “vocation” in this technical sense.  For many men this will really be so.  There are also men, however, who do not legitimately have a vocation in this technical sense. 

…When we see the vocation of a man as his destiny already disclosed and imposed as the will and law of God, so that he needs only an inner call to recognize and apprehend it, to what purpose is the calling of God, Christ or the Gospel?  What more can this be than his perhaps not absolutely necessary self-direction to vocation?  Calling, then, shrinks necessarily to what Karl Holl describes as “awareness of God’s presence in every moment of life.”

….We now assume that a man has sought, chosen, entered and to the best of his ability filled his sphere of operation according to the plan and providence of God.  The command of God has called him to this place, and according to this command he has now tried to work in it under the will and plan of the divine providence.  He will remain in it so long and so far as the command of God summons him to do so. On this presupposition he must prove his faithfulness in this vocation.  1 Cor. 7:20 is relevant in this connection:  “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.” But what does it mean to abide in his calling?  It certainly means that he must not glance aside at the callings of others.  It certainly means that he must apply himself wholeheartedly to his own.  It certainly means, therefore, that he must not allow this application to be challenged or disturbed by the thought of other desirable or very different callings.

…We are not to think here of what is usually called a change of vocation.  This, too, can be commanded.  It was Calvin—Luther would not have written this—who expressly said of 1 Cor. 7:20 that it might be fitting for a tailor to learn another trade, or a salesman to switch to farming, and therefore why should not a doctor become a minister or a minister a doctor or politician, a scholar a man of affairs or a man of affairs a scholar?  Such later changes do occur in the life of a man, and they can do so in faithfulness to his one calling which makes them necessary even though so sharp a change is involved.  …Finally, sickness or age may bring with them quite unbidden the problem of finding and occupying new spheres of operation.  We have to realize that in every such transition the more serious and possibly all the problems which confronted us at the first choice of our way will be raised again in a new and perhaps even more urgent form.  There will again be involved a human choice with all the possibilities of error and failure which this entails.  The more serious the change in question, the more we have to ask ourselves whether it is really the calling of God and not just our own caprice that we think we must follow. 

…As an instructive example, we may city the verdict of August Bebel:  “Strictly speaking, the worker who drains sewers to protect humanity from unhealthy miasmas is a very useful member of society, whereas the professor who teaches falsified history in the interests of the ruling class, or the theologian who seeks to befog the brain with supernatural, transcendental doctrines, is an extremely harmful individual.”  We must be careful not be guilty of what is here stated to be the activity of theologians, and if we cannot do better than this we should make all haste to become good drainers of sewers.  Similarly, if the professor of history cannot do better than teach history which is falsified in the interests of a class, to the sewers with him also![8] 

Daily Journaling

Faithfulness to our calling 

[1]William C. Placher, Callings, Twenty Centuries of Christian Wisdom on Vocation (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Wm. B. Erdmans Publishing Co., 2005), p. 190.

[2]The Mission of Joan of Arc, ed. And trans. Nadia Margolis, in Medieval Hagiography, An Anthology, ed. Thomas Head (New York: Routledge, 2001), 814-17.

[3]The Cloud of Unknowing, ed. William Johnston (New York:  Doubleday, 1973), p. 71-72.

[4]Elizabeth Liebert, SNJM;The Way of Discernment (Louisville, KY:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), p. 36-37.

[5]William Meninger, OCSO; St. John of the Cross (New York:  Lantern Books, 2004), p. 35-36.

[6]Henri Nouwen, Discernment(New York:  HarperCollins, 2013), pp. 7-8.

[7]William C. Placher, Callings, Twenty Centuries of Christian Wisdom on Vocation (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Wm. B. Erdmans Publishing Co., 2005), p. 429.

[8]Karl Barth, Church DogmaticsIII:4 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1985), 599-602, 641-42, 645-47, 522-29, 534.

The Commission on Ministry offers this six-week program to help participants discern their call to serve God's Kingdom. Each week includes a theme, and each day offers a prayer, reflection, and journal entry assignment to aid vocation discernment for laity. The program's principal book is Gordon Smith's, "Consider Your Calling, Six Questions for Discerning Your Vocation."