Discerning and finding your vocation will be one of the most important decisions you will make in your life, as a Catholic.
My last post gave an overview on the various types of Catholic vocations. However, although you may feel like you are called to the religious life or to marriage, it is very important to discern what is God’s will for you.
Vocational discernment in the Catholic church is not like making a decision on your career or life path. It is a process of praying and discerning to know what vocation God is calling us to, actively and prayerfully listening for His voice and then following His Will, with complete trust in Him.
The discernment process allows you to tune in closer to God, to know what path He knows you will be happiest in. This is applicable whether you are discerning a vocation to marriage, discerning a vocation to religious life etc
The discernment process cannot be rushed, so do not expect to find an answer with a week, or even a month. I’d say that you should give yourself a minimum of 6 months to 1 year for the discernment process.
HERE IS MY HOW-TO GUIDE TO DISCERNING YOUR VOCATION
SET YOURSELF AN END DATE
Discernment is not your vocation. You cannot spend several years, exploring yourself and ruminating over what you want to do with your life forever. There comes a time when you need to take a risk and make the first step. God can do so much more with mistakes than with inertia. A reasonable discernment timescale is between 1 to 2 years.
Create a discernment journal. Use it to write down your thoughts, feelings and other activities you engage in during the discernment period.
Go through an inventory of your unique gifts and personality traits, write them down, asking yourself how & in what capacity each gift or personality trait can be used to serve God and others.
God will not call you to be someone that you are not. Instead, He uses the gifts, talents and personality that He has given us and then calls us to be the best versions of ourselves.
The discernment period is NOT a time for you to be dating as this will cloud your judgement. Also, with the exception of your parents and priest or spiritual director, do not tell anyone that you are discernment.
As well intentioned as they might be, the advice and opinions from others can cloud your judgement and prove to be a distraction.
FREQUENT THE SACRAMENTS REGULARLY
If you are disconnected from God because you are not in a state of grace, then it will be rather difficult to discern and know His intended direction for your life. The sacraments open up your heart and puts you in union with God.
The discernment period is also a good time to not just attend Mass regularly on Sundays, but also daily Mass, at least once a week and Eucharist Adoration once a fortnight.
Write in your Discernment Journal any impressions and feelings you experience
GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM FRIENDS
It is vital to seek help, advice and guidance from the following:
SPIRITUAL DIRECTORS – Find a female spiritual lay person or religious, who is trained in spiritual direction. Don’t be afraid to have an informal interview with two or three potential spiritual directors. While spiritual directors will not make the ultimate decision for you, they can help you recognise the ways God is working in your life.
THE SAINTS – select three saints, one who was a religious, one who was married and one who a consecrated single. Alternatively, you can select saints who are patron saints of marriage, the religious and singles. Develop a devotion to them and also try to have a novena with each, asking them to guide and direct you.
OUR LADY – pray the rosary daily during this period. Ask Our Lady to guide you. Also, praying the rosary during Eucharistic Adoration can be very powerful, as you are entreating the help and guidance of our Mother and her Son.
RESEARCH, PRAY, RESEARCH, PRAY SOME MORE
As Pope Francis said: vocations are born in prayer and from prayer.
The discernment period is a great time to strengthen your prayer life. Regular conversations with God opens us up to His voice and the promptings of the Holy Spirit
Research, research, research. Surround yourselves with holy friends of all vocations, who are. Make friends with the religious, married couples, courting couples etc – diligent, holy Catholics who are actively living their vocations. Spend time with them and observe. Visit the websites of the religious communities you are interested in and read about their lifestyle and mission.
Gather information about the vocations you are interested. Write down a list of the most important pros and cons of each, while praying about them.
Put down all your findings in your Discernment Journal.
Pay attention to your emotions, your dreams, your feelings, the activities that give you the most contentment, peace and joy. Listen to the impressions and feelings you receive during Mass, at Eucharistic Adoration.
Write down any impressions and findings in your Discernment Journal.
TEST-RUN YOUR CHOSEN VOCATION
By the time you reach this stage, you should have a shortlist of two main vocations out of the three that you wish to pursue.
Attend vocation weekends or retreats if you feel called to the religious life.
Spend time with 2 or 3 carefully chosen married couples. Ask if you can have dinner with them, baby sit their kids, spend a family outing with them. Observe, listen to your feelings and ask yourself if you can see yourself as a religious…..or as a wife and mother.
GET THE BALL ROLLING
When your final decision has been made, inform your priest, your parents and/or your spiritual director of your decision.
Get the ball rolling by contacting the religious community you are interested in if you feel called to the religious life. Can’t decide which religious community is right for? READ THIS.
If you feel called to marriage, you can now start developing a friendship with someone that is interested in you. As traditional Catholics and as women, we do not initiate this. However, if there was a Catholic gentleman that you like and who has expressed interest in you, but you had to decline while you were discerning, this is a good time to reconnect with him and develop a friendship.
No one on the horizon? Then READ THIS to find your spouse.
PRAYER FOR DISCERNING YOUR VOCATION
Lord, I believe you created me out of love and that you have a plan for my life.
I offer you all that I am at this moment, all my joys, talents, concerns, and sufferings
Help me see your guiding hand amidst all chaos and confusion
Help me to see a little more every day just how you are calling me,
and give me the courage and strength to go wherever You would have me go.
ad Jesum per Mariam