Vanessa Santilli’s Lenten retreat helped her find what she wanted to do in her life. Photo by Daniele Raimondo

Clarity comes with God in the discussion

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  • September 27, 2012

TORONTO - Discernment has many different paths. Last Lent, my own personal discernment took me on Lenten Listening: A Busy Person’s Retreat run by Faith Connections, Regis College and the Toronto Area Vocation Directors Association. I came home with more than I bargained for but just what I needed.

Seriously contemplating whether or not I wanted to pursue freelance writing full-time, the retreat paired me up with a spiritual director in my area with whom I visited three times over the course of six weeks. Never having received any sort of formal spiritual direction before, I went into the sessions hoping to have a clearer idea of whether this was what I truly wanted.

Stepping inside the convent attached to Loretto Abbey Catholic High School, my alma mater, the silence seemed to ring through the long halls. Our sessions were held in a library on the first floor. The quiet made me choose my words carefully as each sound seemed to punctuate the stillness.

It came as a surprise to me that we spent the entire three hours together discussing freelancing within the context of God and faith. After listening to me discuss said career path, my spiritual director called this a vocation, or, a “God seed.”

“We are all given a mission in life,” she said. “Maybe you are being called.”

It was an odd juxtaposition to hear this phrase, given that it’s usually spoken with reference to the religious life. I had never heard it used to describe a desire to write.

Lent came to a close and I parted ways with my spiritual director. Months later, I can still vividly recall the words that made the strongest impression on me: “The most important thing is to think of your work as service,” she told me. “How can you serve those around you for good through your talents?”

Over the course of the retreat, participants were also asked to spend 15 minutes praying daily, no matter how packed their schedule was. An exercise in discipline in the beginning, this time allowed me to further reflect on all that was said during the spiritual direction sessions.

Above all else, be patient and trust in God, my spiritual director told me. But at some point, you have to take a leap of faith. I did, leaving my full-time job at The Catholic Register to pursue freelance writing about two months ago. 

It was during this retreat that the path ahead became clear. It was a scary realization, but a very real one. Once that happened, there was no turning back.

As I discerned without God, I felt lost. I wasn’t sure how to proceed or if freelancing would be the right road for me. But once God was brought into the discussion, I was given the clarity I had been longing for.

“If you knew what was going to happen, it wouldn’t be a journey,” were my spiritual director’s parting words. How right she was. And for now, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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