A vocation is something that we all have. God has entrusted to each person a particular job or task that has not been entrusted to anyone else. God calls us within our own hearts, but also in and through the believing community we call the Church.
For most people, this vocation is expressed through marriage and family life, while for others it may be as a single person and still, for others, it may be as a priest, brother or sister. Often someone may be considering a religious vocation but wonders if it is right for them.
This is a question many ask. It's a familiar question to me because for many years I asked myself the same question. Figuring it all out can be difficult and challenging. It is not something easily solved like a math problem. This process of figuring it all out is called discernment. There are five rules I list for discernment. They may help clarify what is at times a perplexing process.
The first thing to do is pray. It is important to bring this into your prayer life and to open it up to God. It can be as simple as saying, "Lord, what do You want me to do?" or "Lord, this idea has come into my mind, what do I do with it?" Pray for the wisdom to discern God's will and for the courage to do what He is calling you to do. Pray with an open heart. Remember however, that prayer is not only talking to God, but listening to Him too. Be sure to listen.
The second step is to observe some little things in your life. What brings you joy? What brings you closer to God? Take a look at what is going on and ask yourself if you would like to devote yourself more fully to this type of work. It may be sharing in liturgy, visiting the sick, teaching. Take a look at your own life.
The third thing is to ask other people. This does not mean taking a survey of everyone you know, but rather asking a few people who know you well and will tell you the truth. Just ask them if they think you would be a good priest, brother or sister. It is very important to talk to other people. Do not be afraid to talk to someone you can trust. While you are at it, talk to a priest, brother or sister. Ask them to tell you about their vocation and their discernment. Do not be afraid to ask them what they like most and least about their vocation. They will be glad you asked them and can give you some good insights. Talk to others.
The fourth step is to pay attention to what is going on deep inside you. The idea of a vocation may seem challenging but it will also lead you on. Listen to what is going on deep within your self. What is your "gut" reaction?
The fifth step is to realize that you take little steps, one at a time. Two people who go out on a date are not obliged to get married. In the same way, checking out a vocation as a priest, brother or sister, or even entering a seminary or religious house, does not mean you have to become a priest, brother or sister.
It does mean that you are pursuing this matter further, one step at a time. My own experience led me to the point where I did not know if I was supposed to be a priest or not, but I did know that I had to go to the seminary and seriously explore the possibility of the priesthood. Take little steps, one at a time.
Pray, observe little things, ask others, pay attention to your gut reaction and take little steps one at a time. Discerning a vocation is not done alone, but rather with others and within the Church. Through all this we come to a greater understanding of how God is calling us to live out our baptism in loving service to God and to each other.
Do you think that God might be calling you to serve as a priest, brother or sister? If you would like more information or would just like to discuss how God may be calling you please contact me, Father Walter Szczesny, in the Diocesan Vocation Office via email or 716-847-5535.