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Discernment: Living Questions & Listening

Anna Costello Duran, Young Adult MinisterAnna Costello Duran,
Young Adult Minister
August 25, 2023

The uncertainty I’ve experienced over the last few years has been palpable. At times it’s hung around me like a thick fog. Based on my 1:1 conversations with young adults, I think this experience is common; we’re living amidst lots of changes and seeking clear direction. As I transition from my role as part-time Young Adult Minister, I’d like to share a little about discernment in hopes of inspiring others to find guidance through this gift of our faith.

My discernment process is centered around asking questions and listening. To begin, I find a way to honor that my question is unresolved and release my anxiety around this uncertainty. Unless I empty myself of anxiety, my worried thoughts create too much clutter to discern what is God’s voice and what isn’t. When I need encouragement, I turn to Rainer Maria Milke’s quote: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart…live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” My first task is not to answer my question but to respect the process, place my trust in God, and keep my question front of mind.

There are many practices that have helped me find calm amid my uncertainty, from exercise to meditation to reciting traditional Catholic prayers. Within the sometimes overwhelming nature of uncertainty, I find cultivating silence is one of the most helpful tools. What helps you release anxiety and honor your unresolved questions?

Alongside living my question comes listening. There are many ways to listen to the Holy Spirit, from praying with scripture to assessing what is being spoken in the events and emotions of our lives (I find the Ignatian Examen prayer helpful) to allowing God to speak through trusted confidents. Scripture also teaches that there are many ways that God can communicate with us, from using a voice that “cracks the cedars” (Psalms 29:4) to speaking in “a light, silent sound” (1 Kings 19:12). How have you heard God’s voice with clarity?

My most recent experience of discernment was more jarring than subtle. After holding the question of when I would return to California ever since I arrived in Boston (and assuming that I would be here for about 5 years), the realization hit me that it was time to move home. I found my answer through tears of epiphany. I still feel heartbroken to leave the Paulist Center, a community that has rekindled my faith in the ability for Catholic spaces to foster healing, spiritual connection, and acts of justice. Simultaneously, the immense peace I continue to feel tells me that my choice is right.

We are all receptive to different forms of certainty. Some point to the fruits of the Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – as signals of resolving a question. Others seek signs in their daily lives or the physical world. For me, a strong sense of peace signals that I have heard God speak and that I have listened.

As I transition to my home state in mid-September, I know that the uncertainty of my life’s direction will continue. In an effort to empower others during times of change, we will host a Day Retreat for young adults ages 21 – 39 on Saturday, September 9th. The theme will be Pause, Discern, Connect. I sincerely hope all young adults interested in strengthening the connectivity of our Young Adult Community might join us!

Thank you Paulist Center Community for supporting young adults who are navigating uncertainty and finding our way!