Discerning, Day 8

I feel (only) slightly guilty about leaving many of you in the lurch on this blog during my discernment days. As I reported earlier, I’ve been directly introduced to the work of the Catherine of Siena Institute and our parish’s effort to develop a greater lay involvement in the mission of Christ to the world. Amazing as it may seem, I have writer-aspects to my life other than blogging, and I’ve been trying to remain faithful to discerning those aspects as well.

One of the new ideas to which I’ve been introduced is the pairing of charisms, and looking at how this plays out in the Holy Spirit’s movement in the lives of believers. Knowledge and wisdom, for example, might seem even at a quick glance, to be natural partners, kind of like strawberries and cream.

In my case, I’m exploring the pairing of music and writing. I’ve had an opportunity to do more composing in the past year, and in charting out larger works based on Saint Paul, Tobit, and Ruth, I’ve found a lot of support from a few students as well as an actor and editor in the parish who have affirmed my direction. It’s become clear to me that composing is a combined charism that is probably present to me and for my community. What does that mean? Writing songs likely needs to have more of a regular presence in my schedule. Taking a few hours each week, minimum, to devote myself to the musical end of the writing I’ve done would seem to be in order.

I also write professionally, and while one of the main reasons I do this is to bring in additional income to support my family, this sort of writing is also at the service of the Church. One of the discernments I’m trying to sort out involves continuing this despite a possible clearer calling to involve more creativity and my artistic side in some new endeavors. If I needed to make a choice, would I accept less income in order to develop a charism? I suppose I would.

As I’ve been reflecting on writing this past week, I’ve done less here because more is percolating in my mind. I’ve been looking back at memories of writing: how I got started doing it, what early feedback I received, do I sense the closeness of God or just a neutrality from the Divine?

I have to confess that part of me considered entering the discernment process as old hat. I’ve been in spiritual direction since 1982. Discernment has been a part of graduate school, ministry formation, 12-Step work, my marriage, adoption, and other crucial life decisions. I’ve striven to work with parishioners and discern with them their best calling for the good of the community and the flowering of their own gifts. But I have to also confess my absolute delight that this process has uncovered new aspects for me, and new ways of looking at gifts discerned long ago.

For those of you who are growing impatient with my navel-gazing, I plead for your indulgence over the next few days. I hope to return to RCIA next Monday. I suspect there will be a dialing-down of snark on some church aspects, too. I’m less convinced than ever of the charism of being a “smart-ass,” and just because other Catholics may indulge in it, it doesn’t follow that I need to follow.

Meanwhile, if you’ve been a reader over the years, what observation would you offer on my writing here? If you’re relatively new, what has been your early impression. You can use the combox or take it off line to my e-mail address in the sidebar. Remember that no private e-mails are bloggable here unless you give me express permission to use them.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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2 Responses to Discerning, Day 8

  1. Jim McK says:

    Pentecost around here usually comes about when strawberries are ready to be picked. I usually bring some in for the last session of Mystagogia, and use them to explain the concept of “firstfruits”. Originally Pentecost celebrated the spring harvest, the first fruits to grow from the spring planting, and so the culmination of the new life of springtime.

    The first fruit promises more. The first taste of a strawberry promises more strawberries. And then peaches and apples and squash and corn and all sorts of wonderful things fresh from the fields. Things like strawberries, varying greatly from them, with all delighting.

    So it is with Pentecost, when simple gifts from the Spirit promise more and varied gifts to delight all at the harvest.

    I hope your harvest will be plentiful, and continue through all the days of your life. And of course I hope that the few fruits we have enjoyed here are a promise of even better fruits that will delight even more people and nourish the Church for years to come.

  2. Todd:

    Of course, I have a personal stake in this but I am delighted that you are looking at a possible gift mix of writing and music together because it is the first time that has happened – that I know of anyway. And after 16 years and 50,000 + people discerning, “firsts” become rarer and rarer. (Although I did hear a truly stunning “first” just last week.)

    (I’ve had people consider the possibility of both but usually they settle on one or the other. But a possible gift mix expressed through composition is very interesting. )

    Of course, (as I’m sure you are aware) since you have a good deal of training and skill in both areas, it makes your discernment of a possible charism in addition to that skill more complicated.

    Just FYI, actually having both charisms of knowledge and wisdom has turned out to be rare in our experience. Because they have a similar focus (understanding), they can be mistaken for one another superficially.

    I’m glad that you finding the discernment process enlightening. Thanks for keeping us abreast of your experience.

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