Tag Archives: Discernment

The importance of silence

FraAngelicoPeterMartyrEnjoinsSilenceWant to know a great secret for success in prayer and discernment? It’s something that we’re often lacking in modern times, thanks to mobile devices, technology in general, as well as our interior hunger and misguided attempts to be filled. You might have figured out that what I’m referring to is silence.

Silence, or stillness, absence of noise, is a tenet in most religions for their prayer or meditation. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said in a series on Christian prayer, “…I would like to speak of the importance of silence in our relationship with God. In Christ’s own life and prayer, and especially in his experience of the Cross, we see a constant interplay of word and silence.” We can see this in Christ’s own example. He who lived all but three of his thirty-three years in silence—these years are spent in ordinary life and work, unknown to the world. Mary, too, is our model—she was silent in her Fiat in the face of the world, she who kept all things and pondered them in her heart. Silence is something significant, something to strive after.

There are several ways to incorporate silence into our lives. In prayer, silence allows us space to hear God speak to us. Obviously most of us won’t actually hear audible words from the heavens, but rather in inspirations the Holy Spirit gives us in times of prayer. St. Dorotheus said, “Be on guard against many words, for these extinguish completely the holy and most reasonable thoughts as well as the inspirations coming from heaven.” For example, if you always talk and don’t allow your friend to speak, then you won’t get to know your friend at all. How much more our Friend! “To hear God’s Word requires the cultivation of outward and inward silence, so that his voice can resound within our hearts and shape our lives,” said Benedict XVI. If we allow Him to speak in the silence, He will reveal His plan for our lives, including that of our vocation.

Silence inside of prayer is one thing, but how can we cultivate this outward and inward silence Benedict XVI referred to? We can be diligent and guard silence. Of course we don’t all need to be Desert Fathers and run off to a cave in the wilderness. Most of us need to refine this silence in the midst of our busy work days, inside our homes, both of which can be quite lacking in silence.

Outwardly, we can take steps towards greater amounts of silence in our day. Perhaps we can turn off the TV more often. Is it on in the background making noise and we don’t even realize it? Do we watch too many hours in the day? Turn it off for a while. What about the radio? Is it always on with either talk or music? Do you always have it on in the car? Try switching it off sometimes. Allow this silence, even if it’s not comfortable at first—maybe increase the time each time. We can also practice silence in other ways besides sound. One thing I am guilty of is reading on my iPhone as I’m going to bed. This, like the rest, isn’t necessarily bad but one good practice is to guard silence at night to pray, examine our consciences and be with God mentally as we prepare for sleep at night. Reading and other visual tasks or interruptions are not silence. Take note of your day and how often your senses are put to work. Some of these are unavoidable—like billboards on the highway as you drive, calling your attention. Nevertheless, many of them we are in control of and can begin to limit in order to add a few more minutes of silence in our day so as to allow a little more space for God to speak to us. This exterior practice of silence lends itself to interior silence. Psalm 46:10 says “Be still and know that I am God.” How often do we do this? If we are always ‘plugged in’, always listening to someone else’s voice, we aren’t allowing ourselves to be still in God’s presence.

The practice of silence has another benefit in that it lends itself to the development of virtue. Take, for instance, the four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. For prudence, “the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it,” silence allows us time to seek God’s counsel in our decisions. Exteriorly, it keeps us from speaking too much. Jesus told us that we will be judged for every idle word. If we pause in silence to see if what we say or do is necessary, we will probably make more prudent choices. Justice, “the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor”, is another one that would increase through proper use of silence. On one hand, it is necessary to speak up in the face of injustice or when charity demands it. However, some of the greatest faults against justice: gossip, back-biting, calumny, slander can all be avoided by discreet silence. How many verses in the Bible, how many saints have warned us about our tongue destroying our neighbor!

Fortitude “is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good”. When we are silent about our neighbors’ faults that affront us, when we suffer attacks and misunderstandings and bear it in silence for Christ, we practice fortitude. The “moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods”, temperance, also relates to silence. St. Francis de Sales said, “…silence…does not refer so much to a literal use of few words, as to not using many useless words.” He goes on to warn about extremes—not being excessively stiff or reserved nor incessantly chattering and babbling on frivolously.

St. Josemaría Escrivá wrote, “Silence is the door-keeper of the interior life.” It helps us pray better and be more in touch with God and what He wants to tell us. It seems that it also can be, when applied correctly, the key to greater virtue in our exterior life.


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October 6, 2013 · 2:23 PM

Big Man On Campus

photoFather David Hasser has gone back to school! Well, sort of. Now that the universities are back in session, he has returned to making his campus rounds. What does he do on campus? Grab a Purvis burger at TripleXXX, go to football games? Some of that, but with a greater and higher purpose. I recently interviewed him in order to find out what it is that he does and why it is important for the Office for Vocations.

Father generally spends the weekends in Muncie at the St. Francis Newman Center at Ball State. Then, he makes the trek down to Indiana University on Tuesday, sometimes passing through the southern parishes of the diocese, Marian University and/or IUPUI. He stays overnight at the Newman Center Rectory at IU, then travels north again, this time heading to Purdue for the rest of the week. It’s a lot of driving (about 7-8 hours a week) but he uses this time to pray or for formation through audio sources. Before he even gets to campus, he has his work cut out for him.

Making contacts with students and setting up individual and group activities or meetings is the bulk of his “homework” before hitting the campus scene. He does this so that he can build relationships with the students and to be an available presence in order to encourage them and help them in their vocation discernment. Much of this is done around the Newman Centers on campus but isn’t limited to what is available there. In fact, much of his work needs to be done through social media. Students today are very plugged in and it is important that the Office for Vocations is present online as well.

Even though the social media tool is a significant part of reaching out, a personal relationship counts even more. Father is available to the students in order that he can build these friendships to connect and understand them in their daily experiences and discernment processes. These relationships are built through the activities on campus—yes, even grabbing a burger at a local hangout on occasion. Getting out of the office aids to focus on the individual, to break out of the stereotypes or presumptions that people have about religious life or priesthood, to get to real conversation about vocations, beyond what is available in a pamphlet. In fact, many of our current seminarians accredit their personal relationship with the Vocations Director, past and present, and/or other seminarians for their discernment towards beginning seminary. Father aims at being relatable to the students, while always professional in keeping with his priestly office.

While it’s not always possible to meet with each student individually, this time on campus and Father Hasser’s presence at activities at least lends itself to having familiarity with him, “a face with the name”, for when young men and women have questions about their vocation. It seems to be common that the young people often begin to discern when they are away from home and the comforts of their home parish and home activities. Many people don’t go to their childhood pastors with questions of discernment—it seems that this is a relationship that almost has to be rebuilt or re-established to allow breathing room for their discernment and for active discussion. Often the Vocations Director helps with this by his availability and openness, his presence on campus where the person is undergoing a process of self-discovery while away from home. Often Father Hasser encourages the young person discerning to reconnect with the priest at his or her home parish who has known him or her for a longer time.

I asked Father about the short and long-term goals of these campus visits. He said that the short-term goal is to increase the number of students from our Diocese that he can meet and with whom he can build relationships. The long-term goal is to help the priests in our Diocese actively invest in their college-aged parishioners who are away. So far he sees that the visits have borne fruit, in that relationships have been established, seeds are planted and nurtured, discernment is occurring. He is also helping with education, catechesis and awareness about joyful vocations.

A final thought that Father Hasser added was about discernment in general. He said that our human nature desires to understand the reality in which we live: we desire to understand who we are, where we come from, where we are going, what our gifts and talents are and how the Lord invites us to make ourselves a gift for others through words and deeds. Discernment is the activity of asking these questions of the Lord and seeking answers that will enlighten our perspective on life. He says that discernment is deeply personal and revealing of our inmost being. It requires a lot of vulnerability and courage, adventure and stamina, assets and forfeitures. When young people finally want to ask for help and guidance in their discernment, they will first look for a relationship in which they can put their trust. A relationship of virtuous trust isn’t something that is readily available or bought, rather something that is shown and proven through time in tangible ways. The activities and schedule that Father Hasser follows is an attempt to show this to the students, to prove his virtuous trustworthiness to as many of our potential discerners as possible. That is why he does what he does.

As a final note, there is something that YOU can do to aid Father Hasser on his campus visits. Encourage the college students from your parish to be actively involved in the Catholic communities on campus and to even find Father Hasser. It is often easy for the young people to slip through the cracks and become inactive while at college, due to many other academic and social commitments and activities. We, as a community, desire that none be lost. You may give a contact email to Father Hasser so that he can try to meet up with the student and visit with them while on campus, or give Father’s email: frhasser@priestforever.org to students while they are off at the university. And of course, prayer is always helpful too! Thank you in advance for your help in this important ministry!

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September 22, 2013 · 7:12 PM

Seminarian John Strong

rsz_0pwqq24_eydhzalxjbvlsrh-gdkrphm4xedpue7rna0Seminarian John Strong

Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Lafayette, IN

1. What is your parish of origin?

I was born and raised in the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Lafayette, Indiana.

2. What were the largest influences in your discernment?

There are many influences in my discernment to the holy Priesthood. I would, nevertheless, have to start with the perpetual pull that I have on my heart for Priesthood. This ‘pull’ or ‘tug’ on my heart has given me a deep desire to serve the Church through this absolutely necessary vocation. So, first and foremost, the perpetual ‘tug’ on my heart that has been given to me by the Lord is my largest influence to my discernment.

Another large influence in my discernment has been my love of the Church. I love everything about the Church. I love the people. I love the Mass. I love the Sacraments. I want to spend all of my days in service to the Church, and spend all of my hours bringing people into union with the Bride of Christ. The sacramental life that a priest administers is the grace that allows the People of God to live a Christian life. I feel a deep desire to bring people the Sacraments and expose this to the sacramental life.

3. What programs, events, parish groups, etc. impacted your discernment?

Many programs, events, parish groups, etc. impacted my discernment, but none so much as the Knights of the Holy Temple. Through the grace of God, I, along with seven other young men, started a chapter of the Knights of the Holy Temple at the Cathedral in 2005. During my high school years in the Knights, I was able to grow in many ways. I was able to develop my leadership skills. I was able to grow spiritually through a close proximity to the Eucharist during the Mass, as the Knight’s primary duty is to serve at the Mass. Among other things, I was also able to discern that I would want to spend my life this way – in service to others and in bringing others to Christ.

On top of the Knights, I have also had the privilege of sponsoring two men to Confirmation, and three men in the R.C.I.A. (Rite of Christian Initiation) process. Through my experiences with these great friends of mine, I was able to grow in many ways, where an increase in prayer was my most profound growth. The people I sponsored taught me a lot about my abilities; they deepened my desire to service, and they helped me to understand, to a fuller extent, my desire to bring people into the Church.

Through prayer, the guidance of others and my experiences within ministries of the Church, the Lord is guiding me into my vocation: a vocation to His Holy Priesthood. Please pray for me as I continue this journey in seminary.

4. What Priests were influential and why?

There have been many priests in my life that have been very influential to my discernment to Priesthood – for the sake of time, I cannot mention them all. With that said, the first Priest that was influential in my discernment was Fr. Timothy Alkire. While in school at St. Boniface, I was able to grow close to him. He showed me that Priesthood is a joyful and good life. That example still reverberates with me to this day. The next Priest that has had a significant influence in my discernment has been Fr. Brian Doerr. I met Fr. Brian at my oldest sister’s wedding, and I got to know him very well when I was in the Knights of the Holy Temple at the Cathedral. I have received a lot of support in my discernment through him. As a matter of fact, he is the first priest to mention the idea that I might have a vocation to the holy Priesthood. The next priest that has had a significant influence on my discernment is Fr. Christopher Shocklee. During my early years of college at Purdue, Fr. Shocklee would talk to me – in person, on Facebook, on the phone, etc. – and support me in my discernment of the holy Priesthood. He continues to be there for me, as I will occasionally ask him to help me solve a philosophical or moral conundrum. The final priest that has had a significant impact on my discernment is Fr. Jeffrey Martin. His faith has always been an example to me of absolute trust in the Lord. He has helped me through a lot, and I really appreciate all of his support as he has helped me through the application process of applying for seminary. Thank you, Lord, for bringing these great men into my life!

Count on our prayers, John!

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September 1, 2013 · 7:46 PM

Seminarian James O’Connor

rsz_fh5anwfjq_d7eivuypkxbjcezfgclo3gpcptrq0c0umSeminarian James O’Connor

St. Joan of Arc, Kokomo, IN

Towards his discernment, James largely attributes prayer, Mass, adoration, as well as SJA/SP’s trip to Italy, visits to both St. Meinrad and Mount St. Mary’s seminaries, and people asking him if he had ever considered the idea of becoming a priest. He was involved in many activities that aided him in his discernment process. Included are various retreats in high school (The Call, Destination Jesus,  JFest, a confirmation retreat at St. Meinrad), and attendance at Christ Renews His Parish at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, both as an attendant and a lay director. He also volunteered at St. Joan of Arc, St. Patrick and OLMC in the youth groups, the Young Adult Conference and the Knights of the Holy Temple.

James mentions four priests in particular that helped his discernment process. Father Brian Doerr: “his leadership and example with the Knights and his belief in me personally throughout high school and college helped me recognize what I should expect of myself”,

Father Ted Dudzinski V.G.: “his presence, strength and wisdom throughout my college years helped me as I struggled to find direction and where I belong in life”,

Father David Hasser: “his presence and capacity to be a strong leader and such a jovial guy at the same time showed me that, though I would be undergoing a great deal of formation over the years, I need not be afraid of losing sight of who I am, while striving to become the best-version-of-myself so to serve God as best I can”, and

Father Richard Doerr: “He and his flock really put the final nail in the coffin with the idea, so-to-speak. 🙂 He helped me refocus and stay focused on what is truly important in life while I was navigating the corporate world”.

Thank you for your decision to begin the journey towards priesthood. Our prayers are with you, James.

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September 1, 2013 · 7:33 PM

Seminarian Sean Aaron

rsz_llshffzumpsnk-7atc9gisso5ozjysewrz5tcob-xaaSeminarian Sean Aaron

St. Joan of Arc, Kokomo, IN

Sean attributes his discernment process to a combination of prayer, adoration, silent retreats and confession. He was involved with Christ Renews His Parish, RCIA, high school religious education, as well as volunteering at his parish festival. These activities, plus his work/career and coaching youth were instrumental in his discernment to become a seminarian. Father Kenneth Raczek, who is a family friend, is an example to Sean in his own love for the priesthood and his calling. Sean’s uncle, Father John M. Kinney, was called to the priesthood at an early age and inspired him by his love for his vocation and his enjoyment in teaching the faith to others. Father Ted Dudzinski was another influential priest for Sean in that he was centered in prayer, the Mass and the sacraments, and led by his example.

We will be praying for you Seminarian Sean Aaron! Best wishes at the start of the year of studies!

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September 1, 2013 · 7:23 PM

Seminarian Nick Brown

rsz_a5-d5yukatrjovke6a7d3wpgyqncupeqyq0tr7g1asySeminarian Nick Brown

St. Alphonsus, Zionsville, IN

Nick attributes his influence in discernment to his friendships with Father Brian Doerr and seminarians James Baxter and Michael Bower, as well as his first semester at St. Louis University. Prior to entering seminary he was involved in a number of activities in high school: cross-country, basketball, track, St. Alphonsus Golf League, Knights of the Holy Temple, Carmel Deanery Youth Council and Young Disciples. In college he was part of the Alpha Delta Gamma fraternity. He says that the KHT, CDYC and YD all helped him to be a leader and show himself and others that our faith is important and needs to be lived out. He states that his involvement in the fraternity helped him to see the temptations of the devil and that delving in earthly things isn’t fulfilling.

We wish Nick all the best as he starts his first year in seminary as a sophomore at St. John Vianney.

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September 1, 2013 · 7:22 PM

Seminarian Miles Newkirk

rsz_egibflyywieqm95yc-mwprkxrqskovovc7dr490r-zgMiles Newkirk

St. Maria Goretti, Westfield, IN

Miles attributes a great deal to his participation in the Knights of the Holy Temple, though the biggest factor was spiritual direction and talking to others about seminary. He was involved in his youth group, Senior Retreat and other retreats, and these helped guide him towards his current path. The priests that were most influential for him spiritually were Father Hasser and Father Shocklee, as well as Father Kevin, who he says was very supportive and informative for his decision.

We wish Miles the best as he starts his journey and our prayers are with him and his family!

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September 1, 2013 · 7:16 PM