Discernment – Does God Call you?
I am happy to write this little piece for the Chariots of Fire, the newsletter of the Vocation Department of the Carmelite Friars, Province of St. Elias. Despite what people say, my experience tells me that there are plenty of young people, and not-so-young people,
thinking about and discerning possible vocations to the priesthood and the religious life these days. The Holy Spirit never stops calling men and women into God’s service. But, to hear God’s voice is not today nor, really, has it ever been an easy task. It just happens to be that in todays world there are so many voices, and so many new methods to have those voices heard - e-mail, Face- book, cellphone, Instagram, Twitter and heaven knows what all else! “Then” there were less. My “Then” is about fifty years ago, more or less, and I can tell you, time flies. I would suggest, though, that “Now” isn’t really so different as human beings are still the same.
When I considered a vocation,
I don’t remember anybody ever using the word discernment. In our generation, we were thinking about becoming a priest or a religious. We were trying to make a decision. The word discernment is a beautiful and rich word, but let us admit it can get overused. In the restaurant one night, I overheard one of the brethren say to the server, “Well, I’m
trying to discern whether to have the fish or the pork.” We chuckled, but I’m not far off in stating that the word can get stretched into meaninglessness. To discern something is an act of faith. It is a prayer. It is a soul searching, not really to find out what I want for myself, but what God wants for me. If I can discern that, it should sound deep within me, and express itself in peace and conviction. What I discern as being God’s will for me may not be easy, but if it is right, I will know it. And in matters of importance, I will do it.
When a person embraces a vocation - priesthood, religious life, marriage or the single state - this never guarantees smooth sailing or a problem free, Cross free life. Everything that is true and good and valuable involves trial, sweat and effort. But, if it is right it will be a path marked by grace. Sometimes people advise others, erroneously, “Just look into yourself and decide what you really want, what you really desire, and follow it. You have the truth inside you.” For me, this is not sound advice. I would hate to tell you where I would be if I followed my own advice! To discern is to sincerely ask God to show you what He wants. Ask Mary and St. Joseph and the Saints and other people to pray for you so that you will know God’s will for you. Go to
Mass. Receive the Sacraments. Seek the counsel of people who have walked the path. Don’t believe everything you read, see or hear. Listen deeply for the voice of the Lord who always reveals Himself in peace.
And, one more stray thought. Choosing a religious or priestly vocation is not just like choosing any other life style, or career, or path. The religious life and priesthood have unique demands that are not just like anything else. The vows of obedience, poverty and chastity ask a radical commitment that affects every part of one’s life. Committing oneself to a life of prayer and service means pledging oneself to an other-centered life. However, if the Lord moves your heart toward this kind of vocation, you can be sure and you can bet everything on the fact that He will be right there beside you all the way at every step, never leave you, and love you into the plan He has for you.
May Our Lady of Mount Carmel inspire and help you to know the voice and will of Her Son for you.