The work of discernment: "call and dread”

Blog Published: November 16, 2011
By Sister Maxine

I love this reflection on discernment! For me, it pretty much describes in a nutshell my experience of discerning God’s call, especially at times when I find an intersection where I thought only one road existed.

The reflection was written by Sister Mary Fran Gilleran, IHM, and was published in Midwiving a Vibrant Future, by the Leadership Council of Women Religious.

The work of discernment sets a challenge before us. We enter a process of choice and decision-making with many aspects to it. The deepest calls of our lives, the times when we know we have to choose, are profound moments.

These moments always seem to have two sides: call and dread. A call that challenges us, that we know is right, confronts us with dread at the same time. We know this call will require new demands of us. It will require taking on and letting go of familiar patterns and ways of being comfortable. It elicits dread even though we know it is time, it is needed, it is even good for us and for the whole.

Midwives of the new must know when to push for the next stage and when to simply breathe in and through both call and dread. They are two sides of the same invitation. There is a time to throw away. And it is all part of one process.

How does this reflection resonate with your experience of discernment?

Archived Comments

Regina November 16, 2011 at 5:50 pm

One of the reasons I love the song Yahweh by U2 – it’s all about this feeling 

Suze November 16, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Mary Fran has always spoken with much wisdom and yes, greatness. I am so happy these profound and true words have been preserved for all of those discerning. Wise words from a wise nun who I am so proud was one of us!

Marsha West November 16, 2011 at 6:12 pm

Call and dread. Resonates for me.

Karen November 17, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Oh yes, I think the two go together! When I married my husband 3 years ago, I went from being in my own home with my own things to incorporating my husband, his 2 children and 5 animals into my 4 walls. Talk about a stretching experience. The dread dawned on me the afternoon before my wedding – what in the world was I doing? In these 3 years, I have changed and grown, but it wasn’t easy and I had to abandon a lot of old ideas and rigid practices so that I could embrace new ones…It makes sense to me that any life-changing call, whether it is to marriage, a religious vocation – anything which will change the course of life in deep and wide ways, should fill us with some sense of dread – it is an undertaking of seriousness and consequence, not only for ourselves but for others. It should fill us with awe – but making the committment is the key. My friend recently sent me the following quote by Johann von Goethe which keeps me hopeful: “There is but one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless plans and splendid ideas–that the moment one definitely commits, then Providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. So whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” If we follow the call which we know is right, however much dread there may be in the beginning, we must know that God is with us in it and will walk alongside us with His provision.

Marg November 18, 2011 at 9:11 am

Well said, Karen…and Goethe!

Wren November 29, 2011 at 9:38 pm

This is the perfect reflection for what I am going through right now… very wise words! I want to write them on my bathroom mirror!

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