If you have prayed, discerned and feel called to the religious life, the next step is discerning which religious order is right for you.
With so many choices out there, it can be a rather daunting decision to make.
In addition to prayer and consulting with a Spiritual Director or Vocations Director, one of the primary things to bear in mind when deciding to join a religious order is to know whether or not your charism and personality matches that of the religious order.
There are 4 main things to do when discerning which religious order is right for you.
ONE – ARE YOU AN INNIE OR AN OUTIE
Basically, are you an introvert or an extrovert? Your basic personality and psychological profile is one of the determining factors in choosing your religious order. God give us the personality we have for a reason. He also bestows upon the graces and gifts necessary to love and serve Him, via our basic personality. If you are an introvert, you do not need to alter your personality, or try to become more extroverted in order to love God or serve Him better….or vice-versa.
Certain religious orders will be more in alignment with your personality than others. Many introverts discerning religious orders tend to prefer contemplative orders. However, there are some introverts that prefer active orders…..and extroverts that prefer contemplative orders.
TWO – ACTIVE OR CONTEMPLATIVE
Contemplative orders are religious orders that are focused on inward spiritual growth. These orders include Benedictines, Trappists, Cistercians, Carmelites and so on. They tend to have very little to do with the outside world, choosing to spend most of their time within cloisters and devoting themselves to penance and prayer for the sanctification of the world.
A lot of introverts tend to favour contemplative orders. An extrovert with a very dynamic personality that prefers to be around lots of people may find it difficult to spend long hours in seclusion within a cloister.
Active orders are religious orders that have much more direct participation and interaction with the outside world. These religious orders include the Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits and so on.
In addition to devoting time to prayer, members of active religious orders also spend time in teaching, preaching, missionary, charity work and various other apostolates.
However, do not feel that as an introvert, you MUST join a contemplative order …..or as an extrovert, an active order is your only choice. God calls you where He calls you…..and He gives you the graces and gifts necessary to fulfil your vocation, according to your personality and temperament.
Pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance and direction.
THREE – GET CLOSER
Now, that you have ascertained your personality type and whether you want to join an Active Religious Order or a Contemplative Religious Order, it is much easier now for you to narrow down your choices to 3 -5 different religious orders.
Investigate the religious orders on your shortlist. Learn their charism, study the life and teachings of the order’s founder(s), and visit the orders. Many religious orders will offer a weekend visit which can help you become more familiar with the order and its community members. You will also have a general idea of their daily routine and you will be able to determine whether your personality and temperament will be compatible with that of the order.
Think of it like a marriage. You will be spending the rest of your physical life with the members of the order.
FOUR – REMAIN QUIET
With the exception of your Priest, your Spiritual or Vocations Director, it is generally best that you don’t tell people that you are discerning religious life…..until your final decision has been made.
This is to ensure that your decision is not tainted by the opinions or suggestions of the other people, but by the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
May God guide you and direct you in deciding where you are best called to serve.
I conclude this blog post with the prayer below, which you can use.
PRAYER TO KNOW ONE’S VOCATION
Lord, my God and my loving Father, you have made me to know you, to love you, to serve you, and thereby to find and to fulfill my deepest longings. I know that you are in all things, and that every path can lead me to you.
But of them all, there is one especially by which you want me to come to you. Since I will do what you want of me, I pray you, send your Holy Spirit to me: into my mind, to show me what you want of me; into my heart, to give me the determination to do it, and to do it with all my love, with all my mind, and with all of my strength right to the end. Jesus, I trust in you. Amen
ad Jesum per Mariam