Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Vocation Discernment 2/2

It is not particularly easy to discern God’s call for us nor do we often receive a clear indication that one is being called to the priesthood or religious life. No flash of light, nor mysterious voice in the night. Sometimes it may only be a mere yearning that persists. Here are some pointers which you may need to explore. Always remember that they are not ‘full-proof’ and do not exhaust the many various types of vocation experiences that one may encounter.

1. One’s gifts and abilities. Many of these are necessary for any occupation, but as all, or almost all, begin to converge in an individual, there is serious reason to consider whether God is calling that person to the priesthood. Nevertheless, possessing certain gifts which may be suited to the ministry of the priesthood is never to be considered as conclusive. Perhaps we can indicate some of these gifts by a series of questions.
a) Is the Lord giving me gifts or has he given me gifts that will serve many, in contrast to the gifts given to a husband and father who will serve a few?
b) Is the Lord giving me the ability to approach many people of varying personalities and to share him with them?
c) Is he giving me the ability to talk effectively to groups of people and to bring to them the message of Jesus?
d) Is there a growing concern for all people, the desire to touch and to heal the wounds of their hearts?

2. Growing conviction of a call. There is a growing conviction that the Lord is saying, “Come, follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men.” This may take the form of a growing desire for a life of total service to the Christian community, in contrast to the part-time service of a member of the community. There is a sense that God is calling me to be permanent instrument of his ministry.

3. A variety of experiences. Sometimes this conviction meets with eagerness. First, one sort of entertains the idea. Then, “Lord if that is what you want, I am ready.” Finally, leaving all things I follow him. At other times one hears and tries to shut out the sound of the Lord’s voice. Deep down, we know that it is the Lord. He is saying, “Go, sell everything ... and come follow me.” At times there is a very active rebellion – “Why me, Lord? Look, I want to continue my studies, I’ve got a job, I’ve got a girlfriend (or a boyfriend), everything I want out of life. Why me?”

4. The opposite may actually point the way. If the thought of the priesthood makes one angry, rebellious, or abnormally fearful, one can suspect the Lord is calling. We don’t ordinarily react strongly to something that has no particular meaning for us.

5. What is the cost? If the cost of ‘leaving everything’ to follow Jesus is high, when one’s open declaration of wanting to become a priest is confronted with strong opposition and painful obstacles, it may be an indication that God is calling us to this life.

If one has the interior disposition to follow the Lord no matter where he calls and no matter what has to be given up, then if one is leading a life of prayer - daily, on a regular basis, giving the Lord time to get at him - what God wants will become clear. The conviction grows stronger and stronger; the rebellion, the fear, the anger quiet down, most especially during moments of prayer. An inner peace and the assuring voice of the Lord comes to us, “My grace is sufficient for you.” So many people think that if God calls someone to the priesthood or religious life it is a call to misery. God never calls to misery. He may call to sacrifice and this call may entail opposition from those who do not understand; he never calls to unhappiness. It is safe to put our lives in his hands, no matter what he asks, for he loves us better than we love ourselves.

Discernment is a process where our lives must be given over to prayer, for it is only in prayer can we ultimately discern the voice of God calling us to our specific vocation in life. This is one thing that you and only you can discern. But this also means that one must avail of the rich heritage of the Catholic tradition - spiritual writings, recollections and retreats. Speak to the Vocation Director of your diocese. The guidance and support of a spiritual director or companion, one who has also made this journey of discovery and discernment, is essential to sieve through the many differing attractions and motivations.

As you think about your vocation the important thing to keep in mind is: What is the Lord calling you to? He himself says, “Each as his proper gift, and it is in faithfulness to the gift that we find our fulfilment.”

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