Sherry makes an excellent point in her last comment about the importance of sorting one’s abilities, one’s job, one’s natural talents, and even one’s ministry from authentic charisms. I’m reminded of Thomas Merton’s classic expression from his prayer of abandonment:
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
In other words, I may think that my base posture of ministry and service is an expression of charisms, but it may not be. The task of discernment is to encounter God, and not what I think I’ve been doing right for God. Even if it has been for most of my adult life.
My wife and I had an in-depth talk about a lot of this this morning. Even if she weren’t also going through the process, I would want to get her valuable insight as part my own discernment. Talking things out after a lot of introspection time is valuable part of the process. What were some of the things I blabbed about? Let me caution that I may be straying from a strict application of Catherine of Siena Institute materials, but I’m just going where I think–and hope–the Spirit is leading.
I can’t deny the sense that a full and good discernment takes everything into account–absolutely everything about one’s life. In the early stage of experimenting with a charism, one is advised to try on different aspects of it. In other words, test it as a scientist might test aspects of the natural world. While Sherry counsels testing, scientists also make observations, and I’m pretty sure I’m on the right track in drawing from memory to do some work on discernment. The three ways to discern are looking at one’s inner experience, to assess one’s effectiveness, and to weigh the response of others. I’m hoping that this examen can work in concert with some actual testing. I also know that God works actively in response to our questions and our searching, and I’ve already had a few such episodes.
Last night I was filling in as rehearsal accompanist for one of the parish choirs. I got there about twenty minutes early and brought the text of my Tobit musical. I’ve been struggling with the depiction of Tobit’s lament. Somewhere I had the thought that I could expand on his reference from Amos by dragging in a key portion of Daniel 3 and flesh it out still further with Psalm 14. One musical idea I had penciled down on Saturday was unsatisfactory, so I varied the accompaniment. When the first choir members came by, I was noodling with a theme that had ninths and augmented fourths floating over a substrate of A minor and F major. It was soon time to put it all away and get to my director’s tasks. One of the guys said he really liked the beautiful theme I was playing. How do I handle that? I was pleased I had rediscovered an old note I had written myself, “Try Psalm 14 or 53,” and that added to the inner sense from Chuck’s comment.
I had given the score of another song to a friend–it’s on a short list for my recording project this fall. He said his wife had overheard him playing and singing it, and she said it was the most beautiful love song. I love the text, too.
While I’ve felt less excited about blogging the past week, I have felt more inner peace as I spend a whole lot more time nitpicking through a handful of words and a few musical sketches. Blogging? A thousand words on the internet seems pretty easy in comparison, but not always as fruitful an experience.
Okay, time to set aside the computer and get to the piano.