Samuel Group challenged me to probe the deepest questions that arose in my heart. Questions of great significance that shaped my life even as much as they plagued me with doubt: my identity, my value, my baggage, and my future. I think without this structured program, probing these tender areas would’ve been a frightening, even dangerous, enterprise. But with the guidance of the sisters, Jesus’ presence in daily prayer and Adoration, and the wisdom of the saints, I’ve seen myself grow substantially. I now know what it is to have a confident faith, and that is true freedom.
Upon entering the Samuel Group, I was confident that I wanted God to be calling me to the priesthood. However, I was not entirely clear if God was pulling the strings or if my will was in control. The Samuel Group provided the techniques and motivation I needed in order to surrender to God. I had not realized how much my attachments were keeping me from truly opening myself up to God’s grace in a fuller way. Also, placing the focus on the condition of my interior life was crucial. By taking seriously my spiritual needs from the inside out, I’m more docile in the Spirit and aware of my life in the Body of Christ.
Samuel Group was a year of immense growth for me spiritually. During one Samuel Group I was very struck by the fact that God was not only calling me to become Catholic, he was calling me to a way of life in the church. This was a completely new thought. Samuel Group was essential to showing I was attached to many ideas I had about what my future was supposed to entail and what I would do in my life. There were many times of frustration because I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. I realize now that I was struggling because I wasn’t trusting God, I was trusting the world.
During each month of Samuel Group I found myself listening to the sisters’ talks thinking, “This makes so much sense! How have I never thought about this before?” I was so interested in the truth we were learning that I very diligently scheduled my studying and other plans to make sure I never missed a Samuel Group. Throughout the year I used the tools we learned in Samuel Group, along with the guidance of my spiritual director, to discern things that were weighing on my heart like when I was going to graduate and where/if I was going to apply to graduate school. But that one Sunday in particular, I felt God inviting me to be open to discerning what my vocation may be. In the months following Samuel Group, I have become more aware of the grace God has given me to truly be open to His will for me (instead of saying, “I’m open God…but I’m leaning in this direction”). Samuel Group gave me a great sense of peace in knowing that discernment regarding any decision, big or small, is simply about intentionally choosing to get to know our Father’s voice.
When I began Samuel group. I was not sure in how it would help; I was thinking about what “I will get out of it.” not focusing on what I was putting into it. I remember the first session of Samuel group I got out thinking: I know this already. Session by session, including: prayer, spiritual direction, reconciliation, and a constant strife for the search of truth, Samuel group kept providing me the tools to better myself, not only providing the tools but showing me how to use them. In doing this being able to give more of myself to God and in receiving from God, to give to my neighbor. It helped me to realize what my attachments were, that, that was holding me back. It set me on a path, still a long way to go, but walking with what will help me get over the next hill, the next mountain, across the sea, and whatever else I go through, another desolation or falling into a thing in the past. In the midst of it all, it helped me to always remember to stop, to pray and listen. For God speaks in our silence, we just need to be there waiting for His call. “Speak, for your servant is listening” 1 Samuel 3:10.
I just thought discernment was for people that thought about becoming nuns and priests. After recognizing what was in me the whole time, my spiritual director suggested that I participate in Samuel Group to support and cement the steps I had taken and to help relieve myself of any doubt. Abandonment to God’s will, which was possibly my hardest obstacle to learn to overcome, seemed easier to me now than ever before. In a short time, my call to the marriage vocation became clearer and clearer, like finding the hidden island in the fog; you knew it was there the whole time, but didn’t quite know how to get to it or what it looked like. Marriage has somehow become more beautiful to me.