"Speak, for your servant is listening." - 1 Samuel 3:10
What is a vocation?
The word vocation comes from the Latin word vocare, which means “to call.” Though we tend to think of vocations as jobs we choose like being a teacher, investment banker, or an electrician, a vocation in the Church is not something we choose but rather something God calls us to live. When we decide on careers, we usually make the choice based on our gifts and abilities, likes and dislikes. If God calls us to the vocation of a religious sister, parish priest, or even a parent, it is in spite of our gifts and abilities because he uses everything that we are, even our weaknesses.
How do I know if God might be calling me?
The place to begin is simply to ask him. Prayer is the most important place to begin when discerning any vocation. With prayer, we can also look to signs in our lives that the Lord uses to open our eyes to his will for us. Here are some signs that He might be using in your life:
- A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is important to me.
- People have told me I would make a good priest/nun/friar.
- Going to Mass and Adoration is a very important part of my faith life.
- The thought of becoming a religious brother/sister or parish priest keeps coming back over and over again.
- I’m afraid to tell my friends and family that I’ve been thinking about a vocation.
- I feel called to give more of myself to others.
- I have a burning desire to help people grow closer to Christ and to know the Truth.
- I have a strong sense that what I have planned for the future is not what God has planned for me.
If you find yourself answering “yes” to some of these questions, then it is quite possible the Lord is calling you to a life that is more rewarding than you could ever imagine.
What do I do if I think God is calling me? What is discernment?
“Did you hear that?” We hear or say this phrase all the time because we are looking for confirmation in our lives. The same goes for what we might be hearing from Jesus. When we think God is calling us to the priesthood or religious life, we begin a process called discernment. Using our heart and our head (and the hearts and heads of others), we reach out to God more often in prayer asking for his help to confirm our thoughts. We also reach out to others, especially religious and priests to gain their opinion and insight concerning our experiences.
What can I do next?
You can do several things if you feel you might have a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. Of course, these are things all of us can do to grow in holiness but they are especially important for those who are discerning a call to priesthood or religious life. Here is a list of five things to get you started:
- Go to Mass—There is a famous phrase that says, “An army marches on its stomach.” If we wish to be Jesus’ disciple, then we need food for that journey and source of that nourishment is the Eucharist. For a person discerning a vocation, going to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation and receiving His Body and Blood is the foundation of our lives. If we also have the opportunity, attending daily Mass is a great way to refuel each day and continue his nourishment.
- Sacrament of Reconciliation—“But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Rm 5:8) Since God calls us even with all of our weaknesses, we need his strength and that means allowing him to wipe our sins away. For a person discerning a vocation, going to Confession on a regular basis is an important part of discernment because we learn to reveal ourselves fully to God.
- Daily Prayer—There is no substitute for a daily conversation with God and asking for his guidance. Prayer can take many forms: reading a short passage from Scripture and meditating on it, praying the Rosary, Eucharistic Adoration, the Daily Examen, or praying for the needs of others. Any way we choose to pray, we must spend time with the Lord.
- Read the Gospels—If you have ever thought about reading the Bible, the Gospels are a great place to begin. (Hint: The Gospel of Mark is the shortest.) Through the Word, we hear God speaking to us, calling us to discipleship and this is most evident in the Gospels.
- Talk to a Priest or Religious—By speaking to your parish priest or a consecrated religious that you know, you gain not only their insight into your possible vocation, but you can also hear about their experience of listening to the voice of God. The Office of Vocations can also assist you by connecting you with discernment opportunities (e.g. groups, programs, retreats) that allow you to explore your vocation.