A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘choices

With a bit of chaos in my life right now, I find it can be hard to see other people’s problems since I’m feeling overwhelmed.

As Christians, we’re called to do exactly that—to see others’ needs and help meet them, to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15*).

We may find we see and try to minister to the needs in our community and beyond but fail to see the needs in our own family.

Shen Yun

Working hard at trying new activities and attending different events with my son.

We have to remember that, when we get married or become parents, our focus has to shift from me to us. No longer do we get to think only of our preferences about where we live and work, how we balance our home and work lives, or how we’d like to spend our free time; instead, we have to think about how these choices will affect our spouse and children.

Today, we focus so much on ourselves as individuals that we struggle with this shift as a society:

  • Parents work long hours to advance their careers or pursue hobbies with the same intensity they did when they were single, and they miss out on time with their children.
  • Many children do extracurricular activities five nights a week, meaning family meals may be rushed or everyone eats at different times.
  • Some of us are so caught up in community or parish activities that we’re too busy for family time.

That’s not to say that using our talents in our jobs, relaxing through hobbies, or taking part in the life of our parish are bad things. Far from it. But do we think too much about the me (what I want to do, what my goals are, what would make me happy) and not enough about the us (how our family is affected by our choices)?

As summer gets closer and we push the pause button on school and extracurricular activities and, just maybe, work slows down a little, the time is right to look not only at where we’re headed as individuals but at where we’re headed as a married or an engaged couple or as a family—and to ask God’s guidance in seeing where we need to make changes and in transforming our lives as a result.

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic Edition.)

 

In the past few days, I’ve spotted some brave chipmunks dashing across a busy street with farm fields on one side and forest on the other, both sides offering good cover and food sources.

This morning, as I took my dog to the groomer, one such chipmunk paused in the middle of the road, as if trying to decide which way to run. Fortunately, it dashed to the other side a few car lengths before I reached it.

Sometimes we’re like that chipmunk. We freeze, unable to decide between two good alternatives:

  • Stay in a job we enjoy or leave for a position that offers new challenges?
  • Continue on our career path or return to school for retraining?
  • Stay in the neighbourhood we love or downsize and move closer to work?
  • Keep working in a ministry group or move on to something new?

Even after weighing the pros and cons or asking family and friends for advice, we may feel torn and ask ourselves where to go from there.

In her autobiography, The Story of the Springtime of a Little White Flower, St. Thérèse had this to say about choosing which way to go:

As Our Lord is now in Heaven, I can only follow Him by the footprints He has left—footprints full of life, full of fragrance. I have only to open the Holy Gospels and at once I breathe the perfume of Jesus, and then I know which way to run….

We need to go beyond making lists and asking others’ opinions to look at our decision through the lens of faith. Here are some things we could do:

  • Book a counselling appointment with our parish priest or spiritual director to talk through our concerns.
  • Pray a novena to our patron saint and ask him or her to intercede, or pray the rosary with the intention of seeking guidance in making a decision.
  • Light a votive candle for our prayer intention before or after Mass.
  • Ask the members of our parish’s prayer circle to pray for us.
  • Spend time reading the scriptures and let God speak to us through the Bible.
  • Seek direction in making the right decision through Christian meditation.

Whatever decisions lie ahead of us, I pray that we would turn to our faith in making our choices.

Who is the man that fears the LORD?

Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.

~ Psalm 25:12*

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

I remember an old commercial plugging “The Game of Life” board game. Someone trying to choose which path to follow said, “Decisions, decisions…”

Sometimes we struggle to make what seem to be simple choices.

For a week, I debated whether to accept a friend request on Facebook. The choice should have been easy—just click one box or the other—but I was torn. I thought and prayed about it, and I finally reached a decision over the weekend. Not only was I relieved to have made a choice, I also knew that it was the right choice. Suddenly I felt motivated to take on craft projects and mending that had waited for the mood to strike me, sort clothes to toss or give away, and basically take on the world.

While making this decision took far more mental energy than it should have, my example shows how making the right choice can lift a weight from our shoulders.

But what if the decision is mission-critical—a question of conscience?

Beginning at s. 1776, the Catechism teaches us about moral conscience: what our conscience is, how it’s formed, how it helps us reach decisions. The Church recognizes that sometimes making the right choice is difficult but we “must always seriously seek what is right and good and discern the will of God expressed in divine law” (s. 1787).

That may feel like a lot of pressure to choose well, but the Catechism goes on to offer this observation:

To this purpose, man strives to interpret the data of experience and the signs of the times assisted by the virtue of prudence, by the advice of competent people, and by the help of the Holy Spirit and his gifts (s. 1788).

Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it (s. 1806).

In an age that places a high value on independence, many of us make decisions based on our experience and the virtue of prudence, but we don’t necessarily bring others’ advice and the help of the Holy Spirit into the process.

I pray that we would be willing to benefit from the wisdom of the people God has brought into our lives and to ask for the gifts of the Holy Spirit so that we’d be better able to make good decisions.

Holy Spirit…Grant me the gift of knowledge, so that I may know the things of God…Grant me the gift of counsel, so that I may choose what is more conducive to my spiritual development…Grant me the gift of wisdom, so that I may rightly direct all my actions…(from “Prayer for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit” by St. Alphonsus Liguori, quoted in The Confirmed Catholic’s Companion: A Guide to Abundant Living).


Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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