Butterflies and what they can Teach us about the Stages of Discernment

Blog by Sr. Beata Tiboldi

Recently, I visited the Butterfly Garden in the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Columbus, Ohio. Between March and September, each day a specialist releases a variety of butterflies. This summer, I have enjoyed three different presentations there. However, there was something else I observed. Visitors in the butterfly garden kept chasing butterflies with their phones/cameras to capture images. I was smiling, because I could resonate with that feeling. I did that, too, during my first trip to the conservatory. Nowadays, I just wait, knowing that in each few seconds a butterfly would fly nearby, and I could just take a snapshot then or simply savor the moment.

The butterflies, these gentle creatures, can teach us a lot about ourselves, and about how to live out our mission that is lifegiving to others.

There are times when we chase butterflies: trying to chase an ideal that we cannot catch. At the beginning of my discernment, I wanted to deepen my relationship with God. I started to participate in more prayer opportunities, such as a prayer group at our school, Theology on Tap, Lectio Divina, centering prayer, and a small faith group. However, I felt like a headless chicken trying to go from one group to another. Needless to say, it never felt enough. If I had just savored and deeply entered into only a few of those prayer experiences instead of just trying to go to all of them, I believe I would have had a deeper outcome.

Then, there is a time when we get butterflies in our stomach, which simply indicates that we anticipate something with some anxiety. Whether it’s making a big step in discernment, whether it’s contacting a vocation director, whether it’s asking for an application, etc. And that’s totally ok, because in vowed religious life, there are many moments when we are called to dare to be bold and dare to do something bold as we meet the needs of our times.

Caterpillars transform into butterflies. One way to think of that is that the caterpillar was maturing into its mission. Just like caterpillars go through a major transformation to become pollinators, we, Dominicans, study with a purpose: for the sake of the mission. Butterflies have an important role in helping the ecosystems by pollinating flowers. If you feel like you are like a caterpillar, what can help you mature into your mission?

Butterflies face many challenges due to climate change, pollution, and the destruction of fields, yet, they continue their life-giving mission of pollinating flowers. There are so many needs in the world. As Dominicans, we are called to tap into the uneasiness of our world, and bring the Good News joyfully, especially to places that are more in need.

When analyzing dreams, dreaming about a butterfly that goes from one flower to another means, that one will hear good news. What if you are the one who is called to bring good news to others?

If you think you are chasing butterflies,

– slow down and God will lead you where you are meant to be.


If you think you have butterflies in your stomach,

– dare to be bold.


If you feel like a caterpillar,

– persevere in faith, and pray where/for what God is calling you.


If you feel like you are stuck ‘in a cocoon’,

– get out of your ‘cocoon’ and explore God’s call.


If you think you are a joyful butterfly, when your actions are lifegiving to others,

– continue to bring joy to others and inspire others.


If you would like to talk to a sister,

– contact us at vocations@oppeace.org

Posted in God Calling?, News

10 responses to “Butterflies and what they can Teach us about the Stages of Discernment

  1. Sr. Bea,
    This was a beautiful reflection. Interestingly, caterpillars must die to self for transformation to occur. A sort of emptying oneself I am experiencing in discernment. As we savor the present moment, in patience and stillness, we gaze upon the beauty of the butterfly. As God gazes upon us.

  2. Our culture teaches us to constantly chase things and do more, more, more… I got caught in this even in the spiritual life. I was also going to many things trying to chase God. I got burned out and it started to become tiring. God then came and said, “I come to you…” God comes to us to transform us but we got to be still and let Him do it. It’s not always easy to slow down but God will work with you but you have to let Him.

  3. We are transformed by God. We are similar to the butterfly, who starts, as a small inch worm like insect; we start will the seed of the Word made flesh.

    Alas, we must consider worms good , for they till the soil. Insects are helpful to the food chain, as they allow for pollination, leading to food for us.

    Once again, God’s word, the Bible is food.

    The ‘inch worm’ spins a web to conceal itself, as it grows and changes. This is much like we are, when we pray and soak in God’s word of love. We meditate on them day and night.

    It is solitary in nature, as is our desire and search for God and his truth.

    When a butterfly emerges it is beautiful, strong, graceful and determined. It must work it’s way free.

    We too are like this, we become free, to love unconditionally, when we understand God and his mission in Jesus. His mission and direction are solitary and specific for each of us.

    I love butterflies to too sister, thank you for helping me to remember my struggles are for a moment, and to make each of them worthy of Christ

  4. Bea, thank you so much for your blog on butterflies. They are truly amazing creatures that our gracious God has given us. Many years ago, it seams like it, I went to do a retreat in Living Waters in North Carolina with Srs. Mary Ann Wiesemann Mills and Sr. Lucy Rachen, now deceased. As I went walking in the woods with Mary Ann, a butterfly can and just sat in my hand and it remain with me until we finished our walk. I meditated on what it meant to me. It was truly a gift for me and I will always remember that.

  5. Bea,
    We all have time to stop and gaze around us and thank you for your inspiring reflection.

  6. Thank you for reminding me to tale a deeper look at what, even a butterfly, can say to me. You are special!

  7. Bea, What a delightful and insightful blog~ I am energized by reading and absorbing your wisdom and will look at butterflies a lot more reflectively Thank you.

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