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"I’ve Been Thinking"

This is the title of a book I’ve read this summer by Maria Shriver. One of her many reflections in the book was “Finding Peace in Your Decisions.” It caught my eye because our Ursuline Community began our Chapter* 2020 preparations with our Annual Assembly in July.

*A Chapter in the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland is a representative assembly of the members of the Congregation who meet every four years. It has two parts: a Chapter of Election and a Chapter of Affairs.

Each of Shriver’s personal reflections began with a quote. This one was:

"Life is full of tough decisions, and nothing makes them easy. . .
Try trust, try, and trust again, and eventually you’ll feel your mind change
its focus to a new level of understanding." Martha Beck

Shriver continues with an outline of St Ignatius’ “an age old, tried and true formula, (Process of Discernment), a step by step way to come to a decision through a process of inner reflection. Maria Shriver recommended this way of making a decision to “find clarity and peace.”

I’ve been thinking that the words of St. Angela Merici, the foundress of the Ursuline Sisters worldwide, had a similar but different way to discern, that is to find peace when making decisions. For example, Angela writes in her Chapter on Obedience, which is learning to discern God’s will. She writes “Obedience is in you like a great light which makes every action good and acceptable. . . And above all, obey the counsels and inspirations of the Holy Spirit who unceasingly sends into our hearts.” (Rule, Ch. VIII) Angela begins her process of discernment advising us to become aware of an inner light guiding the mind and heart. She counsels her sisters to listen to the Holy Spirit’s inspirations and guidance given to her as a gift from God.

Harmony in community, the liberty and individuality of each sister are Angela’s hallmark values. She said these offer a chance for change, flexibility and dynamic adaptability when making decisions. St. Angela Merici believed that dignity lies in our call, the call “to keep burning love in your heart,” (2ndTestament). And, how do we trust, and try, and trust again amidst all of the obstacles to unity and strong bonds in community life, in our present American cultural climate, in our Church, in our world?

I want to keep trusting Angela’s unique process of discernment and her simple and beautiful way of living in the presence of God. I and we want to contemplate and hear Angela’s words today: “We must pray God to enlighten us, direct us, and teach us what we have to do for love of God in this task,” the not- easy task of contemplation, reflection, discernment, and finding peace in making decisions in our lives and in our Chapter 2020.

What have you been thinking?

Sister Nancy Beckenhauer