Diserning a Vocation
Mark Twain once said “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
You are not on this earth by accident. God intended you to do something that only you can do.
“God has created me to do him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission… He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.” (Blessed John Henry Newman)
The first step in discerning your vocation is to understand that God has created you out of love and in His love invites you to share in His work of salvation.
Pope John Paul II said that, “every vocation to the priestly ministry is an extraordinary gift of God’s love.”
In discerning your vocation you must open yourself up to that love. Jesus told His Apostles and now He is saying to you: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.”
We are told in the Gospels that when Jesus called his Apostles they left everything and followed him. To say “Yes” to God without condition is to put our lives radically at his disposal.
To follow Jesus is to allow him to direct you life. This willingness to allow Jesus to direct your life is shown in the Gospels when the Apostles allow him to get into their boat and and follow his commands;
“One day Jesus got into a boat with his disciples. He said to them, `Let us cross over to the other side of the sea.’ So they started out.” Luke 8:22-24
When we say, “Not my will but your will be done,” we are handing over to Him our plans, our ideas, our goals, our very selves. This can be frightening, but it is only in His Will that we will find peace in this life and in the world to come.
His Presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament is a primary way in which we encounter and accept His love and then give ourselves in return. In every Mass, this giving and acceptance of His love happens. To find your vocation, going to Mass faithfully and often is indispensable.
Prayer is how we primarily listen to the Lord’s Voice. Oftentimes we know we should pray, but don’t know how or where to start. If you don’t know how to pray, don’t worry.
The Lord longs to be with you in prayer and will help you.
We also need to develop habits of personal prayer, especially meditation and contemplation.
Start regular Confession. Receiving this great Sacrament at least every two weeks and never less often than once a month will give those who wish to respond to their vocation the freedom to do so. From this Sacrament comes not only the forgiveness of sins but also a generous outpouring of sanctifying grace into the soul. This sanctifying grace is Jesus’ own divine life, which, if allowed to consume your whole being, will show you His will.
We live in a world of noise and are often already immersed in it as we begin the process. In addition to eliminating noise we must foster silence through habits of quiet prayer, reading, especially the works of our spiritual tradition, and just thinking and pondering. Do not fear being alone with your thoughts, for that is where the voice of God can be heard.
St. Ignatius of Loyola, the spiritual master of discernment wrote, “the voice of God, having once fully penetrated the heart, becomes strong as the tempest and loud as the thunder, but before reaching the heart it is as weak as a light breath which scarcely agitates the air. It shrinks from noise, and is silent amid agitation.” Therefore, if you want to know your vocation, begin to develop habits of silence.
Fear inhibits us from hearing our cal from Jesus. The fears can be varied and many:
- “I hear Him knocking at the door of my heart, and I’m scared to say ‘Yes’ to Him.”
- “I’m afraid to move away from home and my family.”
- “Will I be happy as a priest?”
- “I’ve done too many terrible things to be a priest.”
- “My parents want grandchildren and they won’t have any if I become a priest.”
- “What will be left of me if I give myself totally over to Him?”
- “My friends think I’m crazy for thinking about it.”
Jesus says over and over again, “Be not afraid!”
Dealing with sin, past hurts and fear will free us and purify our love for Him so that His voice can begin to resonate deep within our hearts. It will clear the way to finding your vocation. When you hear His voice and put yourself before His presence you will be in a position to say, “Yes, Lord Jesus. I say ‘Yes’. Be it done unto me according to Your will. Yes Lord, send me.”
The next step then is to respond to Christ’s love with all that we are. We seek to give ourselves entirely to Jesus through a deep, personal relationship. In order to understand the meaning of your life and what you are supposed to do with it this personal relationship is necessary. Another way of putting it is to ask yourself, “Do I know Jesus, or do I only know about Him?” It is in this relationship with Him as Lord and Redeemer and as His intimate friend where we can hear his call to us.
With regard to your vocation, be assured that He is calling you, as a man, to a vocation – that might be the priesthood, consecrated life, marriage or the single life. His voice is never deceptive and He will give you the graces to accomplish whatever that particular vocation is.
Jesus tells us, “Be not afraid. I am here.” His love can conquer everything, and if we open ourselves to the power of His grace, we will come to find our vocation. Jesus’ desire to tell us is infinitely greater than our desire to know. We need but say with simple hearts, “Jesus, I trust in Thee.”