Sunday, October 4, 2015

Get in the Trenches

Image result for pope francis quote on poor
Pope Francis is back in Rome after a much-anticipated journey to America.  While he was here, he spoke to many people who the world will recognize (President Barack Obama, members of Congress, the United Nations).  Yet the most significant part of this journey to the states was the love that Pope Francis showed the least of these.

"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40) 

What the world needs the most?  Human connection.  We have a culture that talks itself blue in the face about love and acceptance, but inside is yearning and longing for authentic love and the ability to recognize self worth.

Human connection. It means getting out of your comfort zone and off the path defined by your own will.  It means connecting with humans - now such a crazy concept thanks to the blessing/curse of social media.  It is being Christ's hands and feet to a world so desperate for touch and care.

We have a God who sees hearts like we see faces, a God who hears ache like we hear voices, and we have a God who touches and holds and heals our wounds like we long to be held.
(Ann Voskamp) 

How are you living your faith? Your vocation?  Our faith is not supposed to be a clean and tidy hour on Sunday morning.  It is not an accessory to put on at convenient times, and hide away when it doesn't match the rest of your outfit.  Instead, it's a faith that ignites our passion for others, to serve, to do things the world will look at and scoff at.

I don't know your thoughts on Pope Francis.  I know that opinions are varied across the board and there is a constant push to politicize his comments out of context.  But I do know this.  Pope Francis knows how to practice what he preaches.  There is not a disconnect between what he says and what he does.  He tells us to love the poor...and then goes and spends time with the poor themselves.

Get in the trenches.  

Do you know why no one wants to get in the trenches with their faith?  It's not pleasant.  It means getting yourself dirty, working with those who no one wants to even acknowledge, and pour your life blood into a mission that you may never see results from.  It's about planting seeds that may not bloom for years and years, when no one even remembers your name.

It's not about you.  The trenches are not an environment for self glorification.  If anything, it's quite the opposite.  You have to make yourself small to climb down and connect with people on a personal level.

It is not enough for your faith life to post a Bible verse on Facebook once in a while.  Your faith life is a head and heart combination that should invade into every aspect of your life.  Your interactions with family, friends, classmates, co-workers...even your enemies.  We're called to live radical lives.  So if this is your battle cry to follow the example Pope Francis is showing the world, let's start living it.

Christ has no body but yours.  No hands, not feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world.  Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.  Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.  Yours are the hands, yours are the feet.  Yours are the eyes.  You are his body...Christ has no body now on earth but yours.  (Saint Teresa of Avila).

I'm done with a boring life that drains the joy out of me.  

Our time on earth - yes, a blink of the eye or a speck of dust in comparison to the expansiveness of eternity - is a chance for us to connect with people here in order to spend eternity with them in Heaven.  A life that radiates so much joy that people wonder what we have that is different.  What gives us hope in a world full of so much hatred and despair.

Live your life in the trenches.  

Saturday, October 3, 2015

If there are two things that I am passionate about, two things that have a constant presence in my life...I'd have to say they would be coffee and Catholicism.  My mornings start not only with a good shot of caffeine, but also a morning offering or rosary on the way to work.  So this weekly blog series is going to combine my two favorite things in the world.

What I'm Drinking:
Ok, I'll play favorites.  There is a little coffee shop on the corner of campus that I adore.  It has a more industrial theme, with exposed metal lighting, rough wooden benches, and modern, local art hanging from the walls.  The baristas are spectacular, and the drip brew coffee is phenomenal.  It's a popular place for off campus studying, and even on the weekend, seats could be hard to come by.  The hustle and bustle of student life is alive and well there, and the night crowd is fantastic.  Poetry readings, book clubs and local musicians draw different crowds.  In other words, the perfect place for people of my favorite hobbies.

The drink of today is my usual - I honestly have never tried anything else there.  Vanilla latte - medium, for here.  The cup has a quote inscribed in the inside rim - "Without love, it's just coffee."  Expertly crafted hearts line up, ready to be sipped and enjoyed.  I can be seen at the window, cup on the bar, laptop plugged in. This is my place.  This is my drink.

What I'm Thinking: Do you know what is really neat? (besides neature) Swing dancing.  I am by no means a pro at swing dancing, but there is something that is really awesome about it - and something I can't exactly pin point.  I love how classy it is - and how much Theology of the Body is tied into the dancing itself.  But more on that later - there's a whole post on that coming soon.

Anyway, this week at the campus center, we had a guest speaker come by and teaching us not only how to swing dance, but how swing dancing can correlate to our faith.  I was beyond excited.  So excited in fact that this deserves a Taylor Swift reaction.  Talk about an epic combination.  Ok, now onto what he really talked about.

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Have you ever danced with someone who you don't know? Maybe at a bar, or at a formal, but even if you have never danced with a stranger before, you can imagine how nerve racking it can be.  You don't know them, they don't know you.  Do you just worry about not stepping on their feet or do you try to strike up a conversation with them?  It's interesting.  It can be awkward.  But then you push past it, and realize that you may have some things in common (even if it's just the fact that you're both dancing) and you can have a great interaction with another human being.

What if we viewed evangelizing or talking about our faith in the same light?  Yep, sometimes in the initial conversations, it can be weird.  Do you say your plans include Mass when someone asks you what you are doing this weekend?  Or talk about the retreat you just went on with someone in class on Monday?  What about when a crude joke gets brought up in class, or a work place situation calls for you to stand your ground in terms of morality?  It's interesting.  It can be squishy.

When I swing dance now, I don't know what I'm doing.  Honestly.  I am exceedingly grateful to be the gal in this situation - I just have to follow a guy's lead.  Yet it takes a lot of trust to know that he isn't going to drop me or run me into another couple.  It also takes practice.  You can't just walk onto the dance floor in a bar and impress everyone with your mad skills (ok, maybe you can.  I can't.)  But after practice and familiarity with your partner, things start to get smooth - and you can really make an impact.

Your relationship with Christ is something that should invade your life - but it's also something that takes practice.  And time.  Do you know how long it takes someone to be considered an 'expert'?  10,000 hours of practice.  So whether that practice is dedicated to swing dancing (not a bad use of your time, honestly) or your faith (even better use of your time) - or both! - know that practice does indeed help.  And your faith is never going to be 'perfect' - take it from the saints, you won't always have it together.  And that's ok.  Sometimes you'll back into someone on the dance floor.  You may drop someone, or get dropped - but you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get right back at it. 

So that's my ramblings for this weekend.  If you need me, you can find me at this counter, pouring over Youtube swing dancers.  Feel free to join.

Have an amazing weekend,

Chloe M. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

How do they do it, the ones who make love without love?

How do they do it, the ones who make love without love? 

Sharon Olds penned this poem in 1984...and the haunting verses carry great weight with each stanza.  In the writing, she tackles this question.  How do they do it?  The ones who make love without love?  Is that juxtaposition and irony possible? To move from the phrase 'I love you' to 'I love this'?

People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos is because things are being loved and people are being used. (unknown) 

 Beautiful as dancers, gliding over each other like ice-skaters over the ice.

Performances.  Sex to the elusive 'they,' those who 'make love without love' is a performance - like a dance recital or an ice-skating competition.  

Fingers hooked inside each other's bodies, faces red as steak, wine, 

Here the imagery Olds uses takes a more graphic or violent turn.  'Hooked,' and even her similes are comparisons to raw meat...rawness.  A sense of vulnerability that is still present despite the desire to separate oneself from the bonding that inevitably happens on a spiritual, emotional, physical level in the very act of sex.

Wet as the 
children at birth whose mothers are going to give them away. 
The beauty integrated into the very act of sex - and one of it's purposes? Procreation.  Fruitfulness. 

"The Church, which is on the side of life, teaches that it is necessary that each and every marriage act remain ordered per se to the procreation of human life.  This particular doctrine, expounded on numerous occasions by the Magisterium, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act." (CCC 2366)

Yet these lovers have separated the openness to life away from their love making...if it can be referred to as such anymore.  They're giving that opportunity and openness to life away.

How do they come to the 
come to the come to the God come to the still waters, and not love the one who came there with them - light rising slowly as steam off their joined skin?  These are the true religious, the purists, the pros, the ones who will not accept a false Messiah,

Are they really?  Are they better off?  Who is this false Messiah that they are rejecting? The notion that sex means something? Anything?

love the priest instead of the God.  They do not mistake the lover for their own pleasure,

To bypass the creator in an attempt to connect on a deeper level with the creation? Yet in the very act of the reduction of another human being, created in the image and likeness of God, down to simply what one can do for another...instead of willing the other's good

"The fact that theology also considers the body should not astonish or surprise anyone who is aware of the mystery and reality of the Incarnation. Theology is that science whose subject is divinity. Through the fact that the Word of God became flesh, the body entered theology through the main door. The Incarnation and the redemption that springs from it became also the definitive source of the sacramentality of marriage…” (TOB April 2, 1980)

they are like great runners: they know they are alone with the road surface, the cold, the wind,

the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio- vascular health--just factors, like the partner in the bed, and not the truth, which is the single body alone in the universe against its own best time.

Here is the ultimate price tag - that comes with the use of another person, separate from the self-giving love that sex in and of itself demands.  Alone-ness.

“Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience love and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.” (From the encyclical, Redemptor Hominis — “Redeemer of Man”)

How do they do it?  Or, perhaps the better questions is, can they do it? Can human beings essentially separate the emotion and decision of love away from the very act of 'making love?'  

Monday, September 14, 2015

An Introvert's Guide to Evangelization

No man is an island, we can be found.  No man is an island, let your guard down
You don't have to fight me, I am for you.  We're not meant to live this life alone

     Honestly, this song from Tenth Avenue North could be an anthem for my college years.  Call me crazy, or maybe you can identify with me, but I've always been kind of a loner in my world (typical homeschooler.  Just kidding, just kidding).  I have always preferred small groups of friends to large crowds, and good old heart-to-heart conversations in comparison to small talk.  So getting out of my comfort zone, off of my 'island,' has always been a realistic struggle of mine, especially in my college career.

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Freshman year, at the sight of someone new

  Being introverted doesn't mean that I hate people, nor I don't come outside my room or that I spend inhumane amounts of time in the library buried in books by myself (ok, except the last one...that one's true.)  But regardless!  My introverted qualities are something that I really like about myself - and have no problem identifying as a reality.

     Sometimes it seems as if the world views introversion as a problem to be solved.  Articles float around my Facebook feed, informing me of the '7 Steps to Overcoming Your Introverted Habits' or 'How You Can Be More Outgoing...Today!'  Call me crazy, but I don't think being introverted is something to solve, or an issue to fix.

      I actually think that being an introvert has some awesome benefits (I'm biased) and allows for some incredible evangelizing opportunities.  So here are my quick thoughts for those all who be Christ's hands and feet to the world, but especially as an introverted individual.

Recognize that introverts make pretty darn good listeners.

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There is something to be said about being the listening friend.  These are the kinds of friends to have in your life because they set aside what they are doing, or even what they would like to discuss, and engage in some good old fashioned listening.  Willing the good of the other (and putting your needs on the back burner) to be there for support and a listening ear is something that some introverts are great at.

There have been many times in my life when a good friend has simply been there and listened - and even if they never say a thing, their presence has changed my perspective.  Not a listening just so you know what to say next, but a genuine interest in another's good.  A friend who can help you channel your inner Ed Sheeran and allow you to think out loud (see what I did there) is sometimes the role of an introverted friend.

One-on-one conversations are the heart of being Christ to others - enjoy the jump into the deep end and have great heart-to-hearts.  

If there is anything that is a sign of an introvert, it is the general dislike of small talk.  Sure, the weather is great.  Yep, I hear that the tomatoes are really coming up good this time of year.  But the way that introverts connect is through deeper conversation.

Fail Jump animated GIF
We live in a shallow world where personal measures of worth are found in Facebook status likes and Instagram likes.  In a world that lives on the surface, introverts have the ability to go deep with their conversations and connect with people on a soul basis.  Don't be ashamed of wanting to know someone on a deeper level.  Or ask questions that could spark some great conversation.

Don't be afraid of some solitary recharging time.

                         amy adams animated GIF

Yep, it's Friday night. But that doesn't mean that you have to follow the crowd and hit the town.  If you are introverted, you recharge when you are alone, or with small groups.  And that is perfectly fine.  So go ahead.  Pour yourself a glass of wine and sit down and read the book you've been dying to start.  Pack up your journal and go spend some one-on-one time with Christ in adoration.  Don't feel guilty for needing to be alone sometimes.

Whether you are an introvert with a capital 'I' or are somewhere in the middle, know that your personality is you - and it should never hinder you from becoming the best version of yourself.

"If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body."  1 Corinthians 12:17-20

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Friday, September 11, 2015

Ascension Presents...Good News and Good Media

6:30am: I wake up, well if you can call me 'awake.'  Light is streaming into my bedroom but I'd rather just hit the snooze button and slip back into sleep.  But the phone persists, so I get up and shut it off.  And turn on my notifications to see if anyone has texted me.

8:30am: Morning Mass is done, so I say quick good morning's and hello's to the fellow sleepy eyed pilgrims on the journey to holiness and slip out to my car.  I have just a quick break for coffee and a car radio before class starts.  But before I pull out of the parking lot, I check to see if anything interesting has happened on Facebook while I was at Mass.

11:00am: Classes are done, and I'm off to work for the day.  My tests and assignments sitting snugly in the backseat.  I hurry along the busy streets, but at the stoplights, I'll pull out my phone and check if there was anything that I had missed.

1:00pm: E-mails flood my inbox as the rest of the social media world begins to find it's way into my life.  Work e-mails, school e-mails, student organization e-mails, and quick notes from friends swirl around, a constant sound of noise and interaction. 

6:00pm: Off of work, and onto night activities with friends, bible studies, dinners, or just homework.  Yet either way I flip on my screen to start up my drive home tunes, and return any calls that came through that day.

12:35am: Bed, finally.  My sleep eyes close, but I snap awake one last time to run down the dark stairway and plug in my phone so that the day can start on time in a few short hours.

Seem like something you can relate to? If you are like me, you may identify with the fact that millennials, according to The Wall Street Journal, can be present on some form of media 18 hours a day.  18 hours a day. 

What are we consuming?  Is it making us healthier? Happier? More content with the world we live in?  What about our faith life?  Are we growing closer to God through the media we choose to fill and crowd our lives with?  Does God even have a place in our media?  

I say yes.  And so does Ascension Press.   Oh, and so does Saint John Paul II, who once said, "The question confronting the Church today is not any longer whether the man in the street can grasp a religious message, but how to employ the communications media so as to let him have the full impact of the Gospel message."  So if JPII agrees....what else do we need?
Ascension Press has recently released a new evangelistic platform called Ascension Presents.  It's goal is to bring 'entertaining, faith-filled, and dynamic presenters straight into your news feed.  By providing engaging content for our audience that reflects the good, the true, and the beautiful, we hope to bring their hearts closer to Christ."

Good media....for God purposes.  

And they've done a fantastic job.  The website is chock full of amazing content, phenomenal presenters and great subjects.  There are four channels - different aspects of the faith life and media world to explore.

Father Mike Schmitz runs a channel himself, with videos concerning current events, movies, vocational discernment and the Bible.  Videos run about seven to eight minutes long and are formatted so that it feels like Father Mike is just sitting in your study room, having an old fashioned conversation with you.  The human connection.  Centered in Christ.  

In the promotional video for Ascension presents, Father Mike can be seen hanging with young adults around a outdoor patio.  Can we just make pocket sized Father Mike Schmitzs?  That way everyone can have a fantastic priest who really wants to connect with you on a personal level available anytime.

But because that isn't a real possibiliity (yet, I'm still working on the science side of the cloning option), #askfrmike is a hashtag that was recently was released through the video series, which will allow viewers to interact with Father Mike as he answers questions that they may have about faith or life in general.

Father Mike is not the only big name of the Catholic world that can be found on Ascension presents.  Another channel is called "Caffeinated Conversations."  In these video segments, Ascension Presents producer, Maria Mitchell, sits down with some amazing people in the Catholic media today.

Can we take a quick pause and appreciate the sheer awesomeness of this combination?  Maria is sitting there with people like Emily Wilson and 
Jason and Crystalina Evert(and their adorable newest little baby) while making coffee for them and life chatting.

Life chats.  Amazing Catholics.  Coffee.  Be right back, fangirling. 

There you can find interviews with Emily Wilson as she chats about fashion and relationships in the modern world, Bob Lesnefsky and Dirty Vagabond Ministries in Steubenville, and even the beautiful and talented Jackie Francois, as she chats about her newest little and authentic friendships and relationships.

Guys, it keeps getting better.  Hold onto your seats.

If I were to say what my all time favorite aspect of being a Catholic is, it would be that I believe in a faith where I will never know everything...there is always something to learn that will blow my mind about the beauty of God's amazing grace and constant love.  The third channel on Ascension Presents does just that.  A series of videos that not only teaches the beauty of the faith, but combines it with amazing visuals of the Holy Land and the wisdom of people like Jeff Cavins, who has visited and studied the Bible and pilgrim sites for years.  But also in the studies channel is how-to guides on subjects such as prayer (ever wondered how to pray Lectio Divina?) and understanding the beauty of the Virgin Mary (What does perpetual virginity really mean?) 

Finally, the fourth channel of Ascension Presents is a beautiful mixture of cultural awareness.  Videos with topics such as the recently released Planned Parenthood scandal are followed by gorgeous music by the Ike Ndolo Band and Emily Wilson and their new song "Land of the Rising Sun."  

Ascension Presents knocks it out of the park with their newest platform that appeals to young adults. Like their page on Facebook and be pleasantly surprised with the gorgeous artwork and articles that flood your feed.  Enter your e-mail onto their website and you can have their news delivered to your inbox on a weekly or monthly basis. 

The Faith does not mean an alienation from any culture for any people because all cultures await Christ and are not destroyed by the Lord.  In fact, they reach their maturity.
  - Pope Benedict XVI 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Why the Hook Up Culture is Ruining Marriage

At Stanford University, a sociologist named Paula England has been researching the hook up culture for the past ten years.  She has interviewed almost 20,000 students from over 20 colleges.  Her research indicates that by the time one reaches their fourth year of college, 72 percent of students have had at least one hook up.  A majority of people, college students in this particular study, have felt the need to test drive their relationship, or have given themselves to someone they met in class, at a party, or over tinder.

Why is hooking up such a problem in today's culture?  For multiple reasons, but essentially the process of hooking up and breaking up is destroying the beauty of sex in the way that God intended.

Hooking up takes away from the beauty of intimacy and sex in the right context. 

It is the wish I have for you, as long as God leaves breath in your body. And the act that this is a C.S. Lewis quote makes it even greater.:

Despite the fact that hooking up promotes the very physical act of giving yourself to someone, it destroys the beauty of what sex is meant to be - and the whole intimacy surrounding the gift of yourself to another human being.   In Love and Responsibility, Pope John Paul II wrote, "Love between a man and a woman cannot be built without sacrifices and self-denial."

Sacrifice and Self Denial. 

Yet hooking up promotes immediate gratification and selfish desires.  We are living in a world enamored with the idea of finding 'the one' but the solution is to go out with as many people as possible and give yourself away to whoever asks in the idea of test-driving what you like and don't like.

Hooking up is counter-intuitive to people who are looking for long-lasting relationships.

Sleeping with someone before marriage doesn't prevent relationship woes, or solve marriage. In fact, if anything, it can make it harder.  With hooking up, your body is connecting with someone on a physical and emotional level long before you even know the character traits of the other person.  It's a relationship or even a brief encounter when you jump automatically into a deep, yet unsustainable connection.

Be You, because that's BEYOUtiful; and do not think otherwise. =): In the end, marriage isn't about how you are compatible with someone.  As Jason Evert once said, "I'm a guy and she's a girl.  We're incompatible.  She thinks we need seven throw pillows on the bed.  This marriage thing is going to be tough."  What really matters in a relationship and in a marriage is how you as a couple deal with those incompatibilities.

You do not have to test drive someone physically to find out if they are the one. 

And contrary to common concepts or slang, a person is not a car, or a cereal kind that you have to try out before you know if you are going to be compatible with or be able to have a relationship with them.

Here are things to do to find out if your significant other is the one that doesn't involve reducing them down to their physical body alone.

Pray about it.

Prayer is not about changing God's mind so that His plan for our lives finally lines up with what we think is best for us.  Instead, it is about aligning our will to God's will.  So if you're wanting to take your relationship to the next level and really show love for him or her, then talk with God about the relationship.  Not talk at  God about what you want the relationship to be.

Will Their Good

Love Never Fails Free Printable | Beloved bible quote from 1 Corinthians | Authentic love is willing the good of the other as other.  Not your good above their good.  Or your friend's opinions above their good.  Or your pleasure above their good.

Share Experiences With Them

Your married life with someone is not going to only consist of being with them physically.  What does your weekend looks like with your significant other? Do you share passions? Have you conquered something together?  Are you experiencing the adventures of every day life with them? Have you seen them in situations with their friends, or people who really know them?  What are they like?  How someone interacts with those around them is significantly more telling of how a life will them will look like, in comparison to how well you are sexually compatible.

Ultimately, keep striving dear friends.  It's a hard life.  We're living a counter-cultural phenomena - and are swimming against the current.  It's hard....but it's so worth it it.  Keep up the good fight.

In Christ,

Chloe M.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Adult life is hard, not going to lie.  Long gone are the days of decisions being made for you.  Now are the times where you must make choices for yourself.  Where you are going to school, your degree field, your friendships, your relationships, your faith are all just a small portion of the things that are now resting on your shoulders as you bravely step out into this crazy world called 'Adulthood.'

Maybe you, like me, are wondering how in the world this is going to work out.  How am I supposed to be responsible for the course of my life here on this earth when I still draw in coloring books and have to sing the whole alphabet to find out what letter comes next?

With a lot of help, needless to say.  So the latest partner in this walk down the path of adulthood has been Saint Ignatius, or specifically, Father Timothy Gallagher and his book The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living.  This book is amazing - and it goes through how to make a decision and properly discern in matters both big and small.

Let's tackle the big matters, shall we?  In three semesters, my undergraduate degree is finished.  Signed, sealed and diploma delivered.  And while I am counting down the days until I walk across that stage, shake the hand of the president of the University and trip my way down the stairs, I am also dreading that day.

Because it means more decisions.  And the decisions just keep getting bigger the older I get.  Adulthood is funny that way.

So how does one go about making those decisions?  Prayer? Yes - but it has to be more than that.  I can't sit in the chapel fourteen hours and leave angry because God didn't tell me what to do.  Instead, it must be followed up with understanding and action.

Be Aware:  You can't make a decision if you don't know that the decisions needs to be made.  Say that five times fast.  Basically, know where you stand and what is going on in your life.  Are you coming up on a decision that has quite a bit of gravity to it?  Where do you stand? What are your options?

Saint Ignatius describes this awareness as having his eyes 'opened a little' towards what was moving within his soul.  It's a realization that God has a plan for your life, and that the role you are called to play in that plan is an active one.

Yet we live in a world where the noise of the business and distraction blind us to the plan God has.  Saint Augustine says, "You were within, and I was without.  You called, you shouted and broke through my deafness.  You flashed, you shone and dispelled my darkness."  What is crowding your life right now that is blocking the sound of God's shouts and calling to your heart?

Understand: In my high school graduation card, a friend wrote one of my favorite Dr. Seuss quotes: "You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself in any direction you choose."  Key words that have always stuck out to me in that phrase: Steer and Choose.  This means that the knowledge and ability that you have after you've gained an awareness of your decision is active.  It requires understanding and reflection and choices.

Father Gallagher writes, "This is the interpretative step in discernment, and it too, like a spiritual awareness, is an invaluable spiritual aid.  A clear perception of the origin and direction of the spiritual stirrings of our hearts provides us with the necessary light to follow accurately the guidance of the Spirit."  You know that there is a decision to be made, and now have an understanding of the ramifications and consequences of the decision.  So now what?

Take Action: This is the most important step.  Ignatius boils this step down to two words: Accept and Reject.  Once you have looked at a decision and understood it in light of your spiritual life, it's time to do something.  Father Gallagher says, "Everything in the discernment of the spirits is directed towards action: towards firmly accepting what is of God and equally firmly rejecting what is not.  Through spiritual awareness and interpretation, accurate and decisive spiritual action is possible."

Accurate and Decisive Action. Is prayer important? Yes. Is asking people's opinions and thinking about the different facets of a decision valid? Sure! But if there is no action to back it up, then why even discern?

When the morning's freshness has been replaced by the weariness of midday, when the leg muscles quiver under the strain, the climb seems endless, and suddenly, nothing will be quite as you wish.  It is then that you must not hesitate.  (Dag Hammarsjold).