By Sister Michelle Marie Salois
I was in my early twenties, working as a registered nurse and thinking I might be called to religious life, but it wasn’t something people were doing in the 1970s. I prayed and listened for “the voice of God” to guide my choices; sought out sisters to ask them about their lives and their vocation decisions; analyzed the pros and cons. I was envious of those who “just knew” to what God was calling them. Still, I couldn’t hear anything.
“Why won’t God speak loud enough so I can hear?” Like the apostles with Jesus leaving, I felt abandoned.
My process of reflection and searching was helpful to my self-knowledge but not my clarity—my ambivalence and uncertainty remained. I went on to school for a degree in theology, thinking that might help me “explore the territory,” and also found a good spiritual director.
After a time of working together, he challenged me: “What makes you think that God’s voice will sound different from or be contrary to your own?” With his guidance came this understanding: I am a baptized and confirmed believer who sincerely wants to obey God. That means the Holy Spirit dwells within me and is closer to me than I am to myself. My asking for guidance is itself prompted by God indwelling and will not be ignored. My youthful assumption that authority and truth come from OUTSIDE of me was getting in the way.
I learned to listen to my desires and emotions and especially to the subtle, felt sense within my body (the temple of the Holy Spirit) that I eventually recognized as a reliable signal of the right direction. I began noticing these responses in each moment while living or imagining various life choices.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”(Galatians 5:22–23)
“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth…You know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you…The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”(John 14:16–18, 26)
Now moved by this inner Spirit, I recognize our world in the passages for this feast—people unable to understand what the other is saying. People divided and exiled, dying and alone. Migrants longing to be settled upon their land. I long for the experience of dry bones becoming enfleshed and alive.
“I will pour out my spirit upon ALL flesh … even upon the servants and handmaids…Then EVERYONE shall be rescued who calls on the name of the Lord.”(Joel 3:1–2, 5)
I must respond to the Spirit calling us to live out this vision of community and rescue for ALL. This must include the immigrant, the exile, the poor of every race and tongue if we hope to truly be God’s “special possession.”