The Diocese of Des Moines
Reflections on The Annual Discernment Retreat
December 7, 2010
Written By: Joseph McAuliff

“Do you love Me? Can all things be done through Me and My Sacred Heart?” This is what I heard Christ tell me at the retreat that I had attended last winter to help further discern God’s calling for me to love Him. I went to Reconciliation, where the priest told me to go out and to pray in the chapel and look at the picture of Jesus and His Sacred Heart and just listen to whatever Jesus tells me, and that is what I heard. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is and always has been a huge devotion of mine. Ever since I can remember, I have always been fascinated with The Sacred Heart of Jesus. It started out as me drawing pictures of the Sacred Heart but it has since then developed into so much more, to praying and giving all of my joys and anxieties to take into His Sacred Heart, to the Sacred Heart leading me to my vocation that God has for me to love Him and serve Him to the best of my ability. The first words of this paragraph I initially heard from my Dad, with the point being that I need to trust in God and put all of my trust in Him and believe that all things can be done through Him. Once I did that, which was not a quick thing but rather a process that took some time, I was able to actually hear God’s Voice and not harden my heart. A lot of it came through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. In these meditations I was able to discern that I was trying so hard to love God out of fear, that I was not letting God love me. I was not accepting His love and therefore how could I hear His voice or truly love Him? This is all perfectly laid out in 1 John 4: 10-11 where God says through John’s hand, “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.” Once I read this, a light went on in my head, and a fire began to burn within my soul.    
My spiritual director Msgr. Bognanno once told me that God does in fact want what you want, but what you really want has to be for God and His love and to ultimately draw ourselves closer to Him. This helped me further strengthen my discernment and allowed me to completely just give it all to God, and in that love for God and realization of how much He loves me, I was able to hear His call for me, and see it through the gifts He has given me to share with the rest of the world, from the gift of prayer, to the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to my education, to my family and friends. All of these gifts helped me to hear God’s voice and His calling me to serve Him through a vocation to marriage. I am still open to anything God calls me to, and if God should somehow lead me down a different path I am open to it. It is all about serving God and loving Him to the fullest, and just by being open to anything that God calls you too, it is amazing how much is revealed to you and how much of it is right under your nose. By being open to anything that God may be calling you to, you allow Him to completely manifest Himself in your soul and it is only then one truly realizes that indeed, all things are possible with God.
The retreat was a great way for anyone discerning a vocation to the priesthood, or any vocation for that matter, for it helped lead me to discern my vocation to marriage. Ultimately, the retreat was a great way to grow closer to God. It helped me to discern my vocation to marriage, and to lead other people to God by raising a good Catholic family, leading my future spouse and children to God. Today we have so many distractions, so many voices coming at us from all sides through the radio, iPod, TV, Internet, Facebook, and cellphone. Yet, in this retreat you put all of that aside and it really becomes just you, and God. It allowed me not only the ability to hear God a little better, but also the ability to listen. The Creighton Retreat Center was a great place to have the retreat being that it was with God’s creation in nature, which is a great way to physically see God’s love in the work of His Hands. During the time I took the retreat I was going through the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. It was very fitting to be at the Creighton Retreat Center since Creighton is a Jesuit School and the Jesuit Order was founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola. A great deal of my discernment was done in these spiritual exercises, and the retreat center was a great place for deep meditation and solitude which everyone needs from time to time to really understand God and listen to His Voice. Elijah heard the voice of God, and it was in the form of a tiny whisper. In order to hear and even more so to listen to and understand a whisper one must be silent. In the same way we must silence ourselves both externally and internally to hear, listen to and understand the Voice of God. Once we do that we realize that truly all things are possible with God, and we see not only how much He loves us but how much we actually love Him despite all of our imperfections. It is only then that we can truly realize and allow God to love us and therefore be able to hear His Voice, harden not our hearts, and follow Him using all of the gifts that He has given us, for His greater glory and therefore our greater good.

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