Is that Catholic?
There is always tension between missionaries and pastors. Missionaries tend to be focused on the kingdom and Pastors on the church. The kingdom is not easily defined but represents the mysterious realm of God that has begun already but will only be fully realized in the next life. The Church is more easily defined by its many signs, customs and doctrines.
Jesus used the customs, manners and language of his “church” to begin his proclamation of the Good News. But he showed how within the salvation history of Israel God had acted in ways that transcended (and offended) Israel’s religious expectations. For this Jesus was hustled to the cliff at the edge of town to be thrown to his death.
The Good News is echoed in everything that is true, good and beautiful. The Good News is found in the wisdom of every people, culture and religion. God’s action is not limited by our dogma, sacraments or theology.
Mindfulness is a wisdom that has come to our time not from the west or the Christian Church but from the east and from Buddhism. Mindfulness practice does have expression in the west and the church but the popularity of mindfulness practice, and its gentle power to bring us home to ourselves came from the east.
Mindfulness practice can be of greater help in vocational discernment because it helps you be with your contradictions and stress in a non-adversarial way. Much of the old language of discernment counseled prayer for strength with difficulties. The wisdom of mindfulness helps us to integrate our struggles and contradictions within the greater body of our experience. Praying for strength can be a subtle form of self-rejection or excommunication of a part of us.
Jesus preaching reveals that everything belongs and that means everyone, like widows from Sidon and lepers from Syria, belong in the kingdom. But this does not mean that anything goes. Mindfulness means observing different parts of ourselves. The observer is not the observed. Gradually as observer we strengthen the belief that we have many experiences, positive and negative, but that we transcend our experiences.
Without this space that mindfulness can create we usually act out or repress our experience both of which causes more problems. Mindfulness creates a fertile space in a discerning person. A mindful gentle patience, or longsuffering, is a faithful resilience that can faithfully wait until the time and way to act is clear.
A faithful practice of mindfulness can help the young discerner see the nature of the distractions that arise within themselves and how to mercifully withdraw our life from them. Doing this you become a missionary like Jesus who can speak from the tradition of the Church and in a narrative of universal wisdom.
By Mark Blom, OMI – Vocation Director – OMI Lacombe Canada Province
Feel free to contact Fr. Mark for advice about discernment and vocation direction. He can meet with you by phone to conduct a short vocation assessment to help you find your way. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for an appointment.