This year, Feb. 14 was both Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day. I’m still noodling on the deeper meaning behind the coincidence; what seems to be so contradictory, and yet is so real to daily life – the ever-entwining nature of love and sacrifice, the constant paradox of joy and pain, struggle and triumph in this Heaven-bound trek.
This is my last amateur attempt to reflect on a broader understanding of the fruitfulness of faith to which we are called as Catholics – Navigating with Faith Perspective as the foundation for Natural Family Planning; embracing, yet reaching beyond fertility and inviting us all into constant co-creatorship with God.
For those of us diligently and sincerely trying to be faithful to the Church’s teachings, no matter our fertility status – how can we grow and go deeper into intimacy with God on this journey of love and life? How do we daily renew our commitment to care for the souls entrusted to us, our own included? And how do we know we’re on the right path? That we’re in tune with God, with His will, with His grace?
As I’ve met people here and there, young and old (yes, mostly older), doing this and that around the diocese – one common string of questions seems to plague us all.
Is my yes enough? Am I actually giving God the yes He wants? And do I deeply believe that He wants to give me true joy and lasting happiness in return?
And because I have the same questions, I look for answers. In bits and pieces, as time – and precious moments of silence – permit. That’s why I love words, because they attempt to make the abstract concrete, what seems beyond our understanding somehow within our grasp…even when the only things at our fingertips seem to be unanswered needs, unchecked pendings and unmet expectations.
I have found lots of insight in many places – too many to share even in one column per publication. But I found an incredibly concise summary in a reflective article by professor and author Peter Kreeft on discernment. I highly recommend it; in fact, you should really just set this column down and go find Kreeft’s piece online – no need to waste time with my meager synopsis.
In the vein of St. Augustine he proposes: “If you truly love God and his will, then doing what you will, will, in fact, be doing what God wills.”
How many Scriptures tell us God doesn’t want our sacrifice, He wants our heart? Isn’t that what our Lenten practices are really all about – detaching and purifying from what separates our heart from His?
The five principles Kreeft offers can help loosen many of the mental knots we tangle ourselves up in.
1. “Always begin with data, with what we know for sure.”
2. “Let your heart educate your mind – let your love of God educate your reason in discerning His will”.
3. “Have a soft heart, but a hard head… Soft-heartedness does not excuse soft-headedness, and hard-headedness does not excuse hard-heartedness.”
4. “All God’s signs should line up.” He lists seven essential guides and concludes, “If one of these seven voices says no, don’t do it. If none say no, do it.”
5. “Look for the fruits of the Spirit, especially the first three: love, joy and peace.” If we are “loveless, joyless and peaceless, we have no right to say we are sure of being securely in God’s will.”
That is a tall order; but what a promise of freedom it holds. If seeking the fruits of the Spirit in our hearts and in our homes makes up the whole of our Lent, even the whole of our lives, I think we can safely say we will not abandon Christ on Calvary and thus share in the fullest joy of His Resurrection, this Easter and our own at the end of time.
Kreeft summarizes his understanding of discernment as “more like a game than a war, more like writing love letters than taking a final exam.”
May you discover your Secret Admirer this Lent … and let the games begin.
Together on the journey, Jenny.