Image provided by Kevin J. Banet
Are you concerned about that new friend your teenage son brought home the other day? Or do you have second thoughts about your daughter’s new boyfriend?
We all need to make clear judgments about the people whom we allow to enter into our lives. This is true whether it is friends, people we do business with, or people who become our bosses or employees. To say nothing about the person you marry.
The people we choose will affect us, whether for good or evil, and can become troublesome for one reason or another if we make a poor decision. Or they can help us grow in virtue and gain a seat in heaven. It’s important to have good discernment of friendships.
A saint who lived in France some four hundred years ago can shed some light on this: St. Jane de Chantal. St. Jane was a wife and mother of six children until her husband died. She then founded, along with St. Francis de Sales, the Visitation Sisters.
As the superior of her community, St. Jane offered her wisdom in choosing candidates, called postulants, for her community. The discernment of friendships was important to her. Religious communities have to caution since those applying to enter their midst will eventually be living there for the rest of their lives.
In a book called Answers, St. Jane shares some tidbits of knowledge in this area.
1. Have a Sound Mind
A question is asked as to how one should know if the person has a sound mind, and is well disposed toward others. St. Jane answers, “It will be by hearing them speak on different things and inquiring about them of those who know them.”
Thus, we learn that if a person can carry on a conversation about different topics, they are well-rounded and are likely to be well balanced. It’s also important to ask others if they would recommend that person.
2. Have a Serious Temperament
St. Jane also talks about a person’s temperament. She said that in youth, there can be some concern about being melancholy and that lively spirits are normal in youth. Furthermore she said,
Staid and solid minds are greatly to be desired; for sensible minds are always capable of observance, and weak ones of slackness. Believe me, Sisters, I entreat you, give heed to the natural dispositions of the persons you receive, for I know that nature dies not, and in the long run will be sure to come out.
3. Have Integrity of Desire
St. Jane also talks about a “desire and a determination” to enter religious life. From this we can gather that it’s important to discern a person’s driving interests in their lives. What do they live for? What do they dream of doing? Acts of vice, or virtuous?
Thus, if they are young, we can surmise that they should be giving attention and effort to their schoolwork, to acquiring skills, and developing interests and good friendships. If they are out of school, we should find out which interests, hobbies, books, videos, or volunteer work capture their attention. And how faithful are they in carrying out their work, whether for pay or not?
As a superior of her own religious community, St. Jane’s advice and wisdom goes a long way in making good people choices today’s confusing world.
If you enjoyed this article, you might like this free ebook of the Visitation Sisters, “Living Jesus” in the Visitandine Spirit - The Spirituality of St Francis de Sales and Other Salesian Thinkers.
Another free ebook by the Visitation Sisters, that mentions the book Answers, is Discerning with Saint Jane: Finding Your Place in God’s Will with the Foundress of the Visitandine Order. These ebooks are offered without requiring an email.