What is discernment?
We know what it means to “decide” something. How do you go about making a decision? Now, with discernment, you use all those skills to make a decision, but you are not looking at the decision from “what I want to do.” Instead, you are asking the Lord in prayer, as you study over your options which one He wants you to do. You are making a decision in prayer to follow God’s plan. You have to research the possible answers and know as much as possible about each one, then you pray asking him which one it is to be. You talk to another person about what you are researching and praying about; then you do one. Remember, in discernment, all the choices before you are good and holy. If a possibility is sinful or evil, then you don’t discern whether you should do that; conversion is when you do not choose the evil or sinful way.
How do you figure out what your vocation is? What are the most common ways God calls us to a vocation?
You must pray. As you pray about your day and give worship to God in prayer, end your prayer dedicating your day to him and asking him what it is He desires for you and help you to follow his desires. We pray that every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, “your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” Remember, to “figure out” your vocation is not a puzzle or a riddle to be solved, it is an invitation to grow deeper into your relationship with God. So, if you focus on deepening your relationship with God, you will discover your vocation.
The most common way God calls us is through the community. This is why we say that the whole Church is here to help us discover our vocation. What does this look like? People ask you to consider priesthood/religious life; someone from the community asks you on a date/ you ask someone from the community on a date, you remain chaste in the dating relationship and then ask trusted, mature, good friends and relatives about their thoughts, feelings, reactions to you as a couple. To not remain chaste in a relationship will put blinders on both in the relationship and they will certainly not see each other, nor the relationship clearly.
Can a vocation be revealed through that person’s personal opinions or preferences, hobbies, favorite things to do?
Let me answer this carefully so that it is not misunderstood. Adam and Eve liked all of the trees, flowers and animals that God had created for them. They liked to eat fruits, berries, vegetables and meat that God had created for them. And God was pleased because they were enjoying the creation he had given them. Then one day, Satan tricked them into liking something they really DID NOT like — the fruit of the tree that was forbidden to them. However, instead of telling the Serpent they did not want the forbidden fruit, they told God, they could take the fruit and everything would be alright. The moment they began to tell God something that was not true about themselves and about God, they were in trouble. The same is true for us. If I say “dealing, selling, and using drugs is a good thing”, and then live that way, things are not going to be alright even if I tell God, myself and others things will be alright. So, personal opinions cannot go against God’s teaching. God teaches us through his Church guided by the Holy Spirit and lead by our Holy Father and the Bishops. If our personal opinions or preferences go against the Spirit, which we will know by asking if they are going against the teachings of the Church, then our personal opinions and preferences have to change, not God nor his Church.
Now, what happens if you have a preference about something that is good and God is calling you to choose a different good? For example, let’s say, you want to get married, but God is calling you to priesthood. Your deepest desire is to be in the closest relationship with God that you can have. That is why you were created; that is the purpose of your existence. The answer to your question then, is to lay down your personal preferences and opinion long enough to go search out God’s plan for you in the seminary. There are many men who wanted to get married who went to seminary to discover that God was indeed calling them to marriage. But, the man put down his own personal preferences and let the Lord’s preferences guide his decisions so he could be assured of the best life possible.
As far as hobbies and interests; priests, sisters, brothers, married people, and single people all have the same interests and hobbies. Give me an interest or a hobby and I can find you a single person, a married person, a priest and a religious sister who each have that interest or participate in that hobby. So, be happy; you can have all of your current interests and hobbies and still do them as a priest or a religious sister.
If God calls you what happens in Heaven if you ignore it?
Ignoring God’s plan for you is not necessarily going to keep you from heaven if you are still living a holy life. I say “necessarily” because if you completely ignore him, then life will not be Holy and you are saying, “I didn’t want to be with you while in this life.” And so God is going to say, “Then there is no way you want to spend eternity with me, so I will give you as you want”, and will banish you from his presence forever. But, sometimes we hear his calling and decide for something holy that is not his calling. Since it is a calling, an invitation and not a command, we do not sin by ignoring his call. When we choose another path than the one He calls us to, there is not as much peace, happiness, and joy for that person as God was hoping for. God can still use the person as his instrument but not as well and not as much can be done through him as if he would have chosen the life he chose for him. So, it inhibits this life. When we are in heaven, we are fully happy: fully as a thimble rather than a five gallon bucket, but still fully happy.
How do we know what God’s call is?
You must pray. There is no substitute or getting around this. There really is no other way. Since you agree to pray, then what? Attend Mass regularly, more than on Sunday (and never miss a Sunday or Holy Day of Obligation.) Go to Reconciliation at least monthly. Know by faith that God is calling you to be in relationship with him. So, talk to him like you would someone you want to be in relationship with. Then, like every other relationship, it requires listening. How do you listen to God? Spend time in silence. Pray over a paragraph of scripture. Go to the Blessed Sacrament and spend time with him in silence. Or, find the readings for the day. It is easy to find the daily readings of mass on line. As you pray over the daily readings you will be able to understand them. Ask Mary to go to Jesus with you and ask what your vocation is; pray the rosary and ask for her help. If you are interested, God knows how to answer you so that you know it is from him. Move in the direction you believe He is calling you to move. You asked, “How will we know?” That is answered on the day you receive the sacrament of Holy Orders, the sacrament of marriage or the day your religious community officially invited you to be a life-long member and you accept that invitation; this ritual usually happens during a Mass.
What are some signs you look for in trying to choose your vocation?
God may not give you many, nor even one, personal sign as His way of calling you to your vocation. So, let’s ask the question, “How should I go about seeking the answer to the vocation God has chosen for me?” Your vocation is not a mystery or riddle to be solved but a relationship with God to be lived. The more you grow in your relationship with God, the clearer it will become to know what vocation He is calling you to live. That being said, here is how He calls: It requires praying and asking the Lord to what He is asking you to do. Then listening during and after prayer. He will speak to you through the community (one person or a group of people) your thoughts, through normal things that happen in life, but for some reason at a particular moment or time, it just feels like God spoke in that normal event (personal signs) and your prayer life. It is easiest to know if this “calling” is from God if you speak to another person who is familiar with prayer about these things. This person is often referred to as a spiritual director. Also, God will only speak to you about doing good things; evil, bad, or sinful things are never from God.
What should we ask God when we pray for the vocation that we want to have in the future?
I believe in being practical and straight forward with the Lord in prayer, so I would ask him a straight forward question, “Lord, what is my vocation?” or, “Lord, who do you want me to be when I grow up?” or “What is your plan for me?” Then, tell him you are listening and ask him for his help so you can listen to hear him. And, finally tell him you will do as He is asking. (Of course you want to do what He is asking because that is how you will find your best life possible.) When you are done praying and it is time to go, be the best you can be by loving God with your whole mind, heart, soul and strength and loving others as yourself– treating others as best as you possibly can. And, relax about the questions you asked in prayer; God will answer you and will give you the answer so you know it is from him. Trust him and your prayer. Remember it is a relationship, not a mystery or puzzle to be solved. Trying to solve mysteries and puzzles can lead to stress and impatience. With a relationship with God, you are moving forward with peace.
What if you are waiting for God’s call and you haven’t seen or heard any signs, and then a once of a lifetime opportunity comes along, what should you do?
Consider this a lifetime opportunity that God is presenting to you and go for it! Do this once you realize that this “once in a lifetime opportunity” is truly going to lead you to holiness. A spring break trip may not be leading to holiness, so it may have to be one of those opportunities to pass up since it may lead you into sin and away from God.
What if you can’t hear God’s call? How do you know what your vocation is?
You can ask this question in a relaxed way or you can ask this question with lots of anxiety and tension. So, the first thing I want to say as I answer this is to relax. If you are truly asking him to show you your vocation and you ask him to help you seek his will, He will! Remember, what He wants most is a relationship with you. If you are in high school, and you are living a relationship with him, that is what He wants. He will tell you when He is ready how to develop that relationship into the vocation He has chosen for you. A vocation is not a riddle or puzzle to be solved. It is a relationship with God to be lived. Patiently and without worry ask him each night, “Help me know my vocation and live it to the best of my ability.” Then pray and follow the Commandments and continue to love God above all else and love your neighbor as yourself and He will lead you into the vocation He wants you to have. Go with that vocation. It is very possible He is not calling you to be a priest, sister, or be married yet. He is simply enjoying the relationship with you and strengthening it, so when it is time He can tell you and you will say “yes.”
How do people know they want to be a Priest?
God puts the desire in his heart at the moment of his Baptism. Then, the community (our parents, grandparents, godparents, friends, relatives, people in our schools, priests, and all Catholics) are supposed to help him know his most inner desire; his vocation. However, often times as boys are growing up and everyone is learning about the gifts, talents and abilities God has given to a particular boy, the community forgets they are supposed to help him discover his inner desire; his vocation. So, they start thinking of all the possibilities he can do with these particular gifts, talents and abilities. They start making plans for him telling him what he is supposed to do or could do. At the same time, the boy has his ideas and thoughts as to what he can do with his talents, gifts, and abilities. All of these desires that the boy has for himself and that the community puts upon him have the potential to be surface level desires which keep him from seeing/getting to his deepest desire, the desire the Lord put on his heart at his baptism. If the community prays and asks the Lord, the Lord will also say “this is why I gave the boy the gifts, talents, and abilities — to use them to serve my people as a priest.” But, often times, people do not ask God. They are told by many well meaning people that “whatever you want to do is what God wants you to do.” This is not true. God gave you the inner desire; then he gave you the gifts, talent and abilities to make that inner desire happen. So, here is the question: How do we stop asking ourselves what we want and how we can get the most out of this world and instead start asking, “Lord who did you create me to be? What can I do for you to make this world more like you want it to be?” All people who become priests have to at some point change their thinking to ask these questions. The earlier anyone starts to ask these right questions, the sooner they will find their inner desire and follow God’s plan for them that He gave them at their baptism. As a junior high/high school student, his plan for you is to grow in relationship with him and be the best person you can be for him, right now.
When is the right time to look for a vocation?
It is always a good idea to be asking and looking. But, be relaxed about it; not stressed. Trust me, the Lord knows how to speak to you so you can hear him. If you do hear him you have to decide if you are ok or not ok with what he is calling you to do. Trust him enough to be ok with it. An important step in your life is to ask what He wants you to do after high school. If there is a possibility of priesthood, then at least go visit a seminary. Talk to your priest and he will give you the information to get in contact with the vocation director who will get you to seminary for a visit. If there is a possibility of religious life, visit a convent/house of formation. Talk to your pastor and he will get you in contact with the vocation director, Any time after high school, you can apply to seminary or house of formation; it depends on if God is calling you this way and if you are willing to say “yes.” Right now, pray for your spouse. If you pray for your future husband and you are called to religious life, God knows what to do with those prayers (you would be praying for Jesus — He knows how to use the prayer for others) If you are praying for your wife and God is calling you to be a priest, it’s ok because the Church needs all the prayers she can get. And, the Church (the Mystical body of Christ) is your spouse. It will all work.
How do you know once you are being called?
It is good to start with our bible stories. Do you remember when Moses saw the burning bush that was enflamed, but the bush was not being harmed, so he went to check it out. Little did he know that when he arrived at the bush, he would hear God’s voice calling. Remember Samuel who was sleeping and he kept waking up and going to his father Eli and said, “Here I am you called me.” Finally, since Eli never called Samuel in the night, Eli realizes it is God who is calling Samuel. So he tells Samuel to go to sleep and if he hears the voice again, he is to say, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” Also, in the New Testament, Jesus walks up to his disciples and says, “Follow me.” And, Saul was blinded by lights and Jesus asked him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” I give these examples, because God decides when He is ready to call us. Today, He will do it through someone or many inviting us to consider, through our thoughts, through our prayer, or in some sort of sign. What we must do, to know, is to pray and ask the Lord what it is he is calling us to be and be ready for him to respond to that question. He will. Then, be not afraid; trust him and follow him.