Thursday, August 20, 2015

Discernment, Detachment, and Donna Noble

Happy feast of St. Bernard! Today I’m linking up with #BISsisterhood to discuss discernment. Ah, discernment. Such a word causes many emotions—fear, trepidation, joy, despair, peace, anxiety, excitement…you get the idea. Discernment about career choices, life changes, and vocations (to name a few) is part of our lives, and causes all sorts of craziness. Anyone who has embarked on the Journey of Discernment knows (or will soon find out) that he or she is in for a wild ride. Just look at Donna Noble.

Some of you may be completely lost right now. 
What's Doctor Who?
What does this BBC show have to do with discernment? (I'll get to that in a minute)

But first, a brief explanation for my non-Whovian friends out there:

L-R: Doctors 10, 9, and 11, as crocheted by me and gifted to
my brother. Just in case you need a visual. 
Doctor Who is a sci-fi series which follows The Doctor, who is a Time Lord. Basically: 
He can travel throughout time and space in his blue wooden box, which is called a TARDIS. 

The Doctor fights for justice and peace, quite often travelling to Earth to save mankind, because he really likes the human race. 

Instead of dying and ceasing to exist, The Doctor regenerates, where he changes into a different body, taking on a new cycle of life (Hence, The 10th Doctor is played by David Tennant, the 11th Doctor is played by Matt Smith, and so on). 

The Doctor usually travels with someone else in his space ship, called a Companion (not to be confused with Firefly’s definition of “companion,” which basically amounts to a prostitute who chooses her clients. I saw Firefly before I saw Doctor Who, so I was a bit disturbed that this Time Lord flies around with multiple different female “companions” throughout the existence of the show. But no, The Doctor does not fly around with prostitutes). 

Doctor Who in a nutshell. You know enough to continue reading this post and not be completely lost (hopefully). Also, this is spoiler-free (the only “spoiler” is what happens in the first 2ish minutes of the show).

Getting on with things...I was watching Doctor Who the other day (thank you, free 2-week trial from Hulu!). Specifically, I was viewing “The Runaway Bride,” which is the Christmas Special that comes right before Series 3. At the beginning of this episode, a redhead named Donna is walking down the aisle on her wedding day. All of a sudden, in flashes of light, she vanishes…

If this had happened to me on my wedding day,
I would have been really upset, too. 

…and winds up on the TARDIS with The Doctor. As you can imagine, Donna is bewildered and furious. The Doctor is confused and tries to figure out how she arrived on the TARDIS, but Donna could care less. She was walking up the aisle to get married, so all she wanted to do was get back to the church! From there, the day gets crazier and crazier. Aliens, robots, drama…what Donna had thought would be a special wedding day has turned into a chaotic, death-defying adventure. She’s not particularly happy about that, either. In the words of Donna:
“I’m supposed to be getting married!”

 “Me and my husband—as soon as he is my husband—are going to sue the living backside off you!”


“I’m not jumping on a motorway; I’m in my wedding dress!”

We wind up discovering more about Donna and her fiancĂ©’s relationship. Even though Donna tells The Doctor that Lance (her intended) nagged her, it was Donna who did the nagging and pestering to get married. Donna planned a huge reception, threw herself into this relationship and wedding, and was focused on this one big event. Donna had plans. Lots of plans. And then they are disrupted, and she sees her plans crumble before her eyes. Furthermore, The Doctor is offering her a new plan. A plan to not live an ordinary life. And in order to accept The Doctor’s guidance and survive in this adventurous episode, Donna must let go of her plans. She has to trust The Doctor and wholeheartedly live in the present moment. She has to detach herself from her dreams, hopes, and game plan. 

I had plans, too. Lots and lots of plans. Meetings and communication with vocation directors. Visits to convents. Hours spent on websites for different orders, or poring through the booklet created by the CMSWR. About a month before I started my freshman year of college, I even had a moment of “Should I even go to college?” 

Thankfully, I did, because God had a lot more work to do in my life. I went to Ohio with about 6 years of hardcore discernment under my non-existent belt, feeling very sure that religious life was what God wanted for me, and then things went crazy. I didn’t have robots and aliens running around, causing massive chaos, but I did experience multitudes of confusion in my discernment and life in general. 

This was me, shortly before graduating high school.
(I was voted "Most Likely to Enter Religious Life"
by the school newspaper,and this is 
what I wore for the picture they took)
Why was God allowing me to think of a man while I was staying at a convent? 

Why, even though I asked God to help me detach from said man, was I continually growing closer to him? 

After all, my plans and discernment had been leading me in one direction, so they had to keep going that way, right? 

Well, God knows better than I do (thankfully), and a wonderful priest talked some sense into me (very thankful for him!):

Even if God had been moving me towards religious life for years, He may have decided it was time to move me towards Marriage. And if God wanted to move me that way, I shouldn’t try to force God’s hand back towards religious life!

I had to learn what Donna Noble expresses in “The Runaway Bride.” Sometimes, our plans and our discernment may have been leading us a certain direction. But when God—or, in the case of Donna, a man in a blue box—intervene, we need to be detached and open to letting go, in order to accept a new plan. Yes, the new plan may be scary. It may completely take us by surprise. But by following God’s plan for our lives, we will experience greater fulfillment and joy than if we had refused to let go of our original plans (as awesome as religious life is, I am so glad that God brought me the challenges and joys of a marriage with my husband). 
At our present-opening/hangout-with-the-relatives party, the day
after our wedding!
We can’t discern forever; our discernment has to lead to something. You know a cool connection that my Latin teacher explained back in my college days? The Latin verb, decerno, means “to settle, decide, judge.” And this word is at the root of the word “discern.” Discernment isn’t about sitting around for years and years and years on end, trying to figure out what to do (been there, done that). Discernment is about praying for God’s guidance and asking for the faith and courage to choose to go where God’s peaceful, loving plan leads us. And if God throws a new plan in our lives, we need to have the courage to choose to let go of the past and live that plan.

Donna Noble had her heart set on her plans. And seeing them become demolished was not easy. But she realized the need to detach, because a new path was before her. Today, let us have the courage to give everything to God. Detach yourself from your comforts and plans, and be open to how God moves you. Don’t be afraid to live in the present moment; the Holy Spirit will guide us! And, in the words of The Doctor, be magnificent.

 Thanks for joining me today! Head on over to Blessed is She for more fun blog posts about discernment! 


  1. Scott (friend of Andy)August 20, 2015 at 3:30 PM

    This blog post might have the best timing ever. St. Bernard is also known as "the Honey-Sweet Doctor [of the Church]" because of his eloquence, and is sometimes depicted with bees to get this across in visual art, and Donna in season 4 pointed out that the bees were disappearing!

    1. That is seriously awesome! That is such a cool detail to draw out. I love how the Holy Spirit works!

  2. Thanks for sharing your story! I haven't seen that episode—I'll have to watch it sometime! It takes a lot of maturity (or perhaps spiritual childhood? kind of the same thing) to trust God's direction in our lives instead of clinging to our own plans. We can't picture how things will change down the road, so we shouldn't hold tightly to our plans of what we imagine will come in the future; all we can do is look at how God is moving in our lives right now, and use that knowledge to make good decisions. Your story is a great example of this!

    1. You are very welcome! Thank you for reading my story! :) You should definitely watch that episode sometime, it's quite fun. Donna isn't my favorite Companion (I do like her though, don't get me wrong), but she really shines in this episode. You are absolutely right-I LOVE how you phrase it-"we can't picture how things will change down the road"-so true! Quite a few times in my life, I thought that I had the perfect image of what God was going to do in my life, so I clung to those plans-but little did I know, He had different ones! :)

  3. Thank you for sharing, it's nice to know I'm not alone in trying to push myself into boxes where maybe I don't belong.

    1. You are most welcome indeed! You are definitely not alone; I'd wager that many people all share similar struggles and trials without even realizing it!

  4. Great story of discernment! Those curveballs. The Lord sure does throw those a lot, but always with good reason (even when we can't see it just yet). I felt very called to the religious life for a long time post-high school too, but, yes, God had different plans for me too. Perhaps it was to grow in deeper relationship with Him, really deepen my spirituality, because it sure is hard to do that now with little ones under foot. ;)

    Thanks for linking up with Blessed is She this week! :)

    1. Laurel, thanks for sharing that part of your story! I am so with you-I don't regret any of the time I spent discerning religious life, because it all brought me into a more intimate relationship with Christ. I was energized to spend a lot more time (and I had lots more time then!) in nice contemplative prayer, which-as you pointed out-is pretty hard to come by (even without kids). And what's better than that?