Augustinian Way to Vocational Discernment (Part 3)

Walking with others…
6 October, 2021
Augustinian Path to Vocational Discernment (Part 4)
21 February, 2022

👉 Part 1: St Augustine also discerned his vocation

👉 Part 2: Listen to your ♥️

Know Yourself

For St Augustine to know himself is also the way to know God: “Lord, you created man in your image and likeness, you are recognized by those who know oneself” (Soliloquies I,1,4). And what is knowing yourself? There is no easy and direct answer, but rather a search path. St Augustine says: “Let us go to work and trust that God will assist us. Let us trust that this will be possible if he helps us with his strength. And let this be your prayer: O God, that you are always the same, that he may know me, that he may know thee” (Soliloquies II,1,1).

“Lord, you created man in your image and likeness, you are recognized by those who know oneself”

Soliloquies I,1,4

 📖 A story as many others….

We usually read in the headlines at the beginning in the dramatic films, “based on a real story”. This story could be real and could refer to the film of many young people from any of our families, schools, neighbors, etc. Luis o Luigi, as his high school friends also call him, is very ill. After many sleepless nights and long periods of sadness and loneliness, he finally decides to find out who to talk to, because he feels that no one around understands him; not even his parents.

He says his grades dropped a lot at school. He was thinking that, at the end of his basics, he would struggle to stay in medical school. With the mediocre outlook in front of him, he’s already given up on his dream. He says he feels very pressured and stressed, and that to relax he uses marijuana.  Besides, the same group of friends procure the drug. They usually talk to each other about their things, although Luis has the feeling that when he listens to them, his life becomes more complicated.

On weekends he consumes a lot of alcohol and has even come to solicit sexual services for money. He lies a lot at home to get away with his late arrivals and his tobacco smell. When he’s in his room he’s so lonely and looks to evade that feeling by taking refuge in social media. He also says he’s hooked on pornography. His mood is getting worse and worse; even his friends fear him because he reacts very aggressively. He has the impression that a wall has been erected between him and his parents, which prevents dialogue. He tries many times to relax with quiet music, but thoughts come to him that anguish him for such an uncertain future and a guilt that haunts him.

Luigi is looking for answers, but he always runs into a wall. He feels he can’t escape that vicious cycle that pulls him into tremendous despair. He doesn’t know what to do or where to go anymore. He says he does not like psychologists at all. And shares that as a child he went to Mass and liked to participate in the things of the Church. But he hasn’t gone to church in a while. He thinks that returning to things of God may be the best way to find peace again.

🤔 Question: how could we help Luigi? As a companion, the least we can do for Luigi is to listen to him, to create an environment where he feels that he is understood and not judged by his mistakes.

I consider that a good alternative, as St Augustine rightly points out, is the arduous path of self-knowledge. For Luigi there are no direct and easy answers to get him out of his deep crisis. It would be about encouraging him to get to work in self-knowledge and to trust that God will help him, and that he will never be alone on that journey to the depths of the truth of his life. In fact, trying to narrate their difficulties and the feelings that accompany them is already the best way to help oneself, because he begins to be more reflective.

Perhaps Luis will also need a way to interpret some elements that are in his subconscious, which he does not manage to see in himself because they are coloring his way of life.  For example, identifying what you are afraid of, recognize your strong need to be loved, understood and accepted by others; you may have to reconcile with your vulnerability, so you don’t live defensively all the time. And above all, Luis may need to review the image he strives to project of himself before others, rebuild his personal identity and work to be more authentic, to be more himself, to be freer…

Finally, through the path of self-knowledge, it will surely help Luigi regain the strength of his dreams, which motivates him to give his best. And, most importantly, offer him a reunion with God, with His mercy, with that light that projects on his mistakes with a kind, understanding and loving look. It can help him to generate a necessary connection between knowing himself and knowing himself in God, for only He knows him in the depths, much more than he knows himself; ” Search me, O God, and know my heart” (Psalm139:23).

Fabián Martín Gómez, Augustinian Recollect