I know what you’re thinking, what advice could someone who didn’t discern their vocation have to say about vocations anyway?
While the veracity of the statement it true, keep in mind that discernment is heavy on my heart. It is a regular topic of my prayer life. In prayer, and with the help of others, I wanted to share, with anyone else asking this question, what comes to mind, what I consider to be helpful, and what leads me closer to the answer of that question.
First: Quiet your heart –clear the anxiety
Bill Donaghy of the Theology of the Body Institute says it best, “When it comes to discerning your vocation… your heart, your passion, and your personality matter. Again, vocation isn’t always some divine directive that God has preordained without your input that drops down from the cloud into your lap when you’re good enough or ready enough to receive it. Vocation, your calling, is your gift. It is the personal gift of God to crown your heart, and your response to his gift by your self-donation to the world of what’s in you.”
John Paul II inspired us to start with this, “’What is my vocation? This means: in which direction should the development of my personhood proceed in light of what I have in myself, what I can give of myself, what others – people and God – expect from me?’ Noticed the tiered complexity of this call, which begins with ‘my personhood… what I have in myself.’”
What ways do I serve the Lord, bring others to the Lord—in the church, community—that bring me deeper into great charity.
How can I serve others today? How can I grow in holiness today?
What direction is my life going in and who is supporting me along the way?
In terms of relationship discernment, obviously after you ask God who to date, keep in mind who is faithful, honest, selfless, has a good heart/intentions, keeps promises, and loves God. A person who has the same goals and interests, and knows their priorities in life (and YOU and the relationship should be one of those priorities).
Receiving your vocation is a call to a more religious life. Going off those questions and thoughts, remember that your vocation is a call towards deeper holiness and love. So, receiving status, praise, reputation, a habit, or a tonsure is not going to bring you towards holiness and love. Holiness and love always come through a relationship with God. (Prayer, sacraments, and scripture). Reforming your life and dying to self-love makes a true religious.
“Anyone living in the state of [physical] marriage can surpass someone in perfection in the religious state, simply by possessing more charity.” –John Paul II
If you seek anything other than God and the good of your soul, you will find nothing but trouble and grief in your spiritual life. Peace will be absent and you will never receive the love that comes with the gift of vocation.
Both marriages (the divine or the physical-spousal) are calls to serve and not be served. To suffer, work, and not waste your time in idleness, pleasure, and selfishness. Both marriages have profoundly different ways in which suffering occurs, and work it endures that gets tough, so don’t think one is “easier” than the other. Both also contain community, familial bonds, and a ton of obedience.
Are you prepared and open to submitting, receiving, and working on that? Or does your idea of receiving the gift of vocation simply mean ‘taking.’
In this sense, relationships (and the idea of them) need some serious debunking. You cannot and should not consider marriage to be a means towards self-gain, or “the easy vocation.” Don’t fall into the trap of thinking marriage is a way to “get some” (sexual or emotional) but to “give some.” In fact, it’s a call to give everything. Marriage is such a means of self-donation, a true example of Calvary and mortification.
So- as a discerning Young Adult, here’s what I remind myself and pray on:
- In vocation, you will be tried, you will suffer, and you will endure temptations of all sorts and there’s only one motivating force that can sustain all those trials; love of God. If true love for God is absent, start with that.
- You will never last long in your vocation if you’re not striving—right now—for virtues, self-discipline, generosity, and dying to self. If you want your vocation to bear fruit, and lead you to heaven, you must curb your will in many ways.
- It is not easy to live in a monastery, a congregation, or a family. It is A LOT of sacrifice. Obedience, submission, teamwork, offering sincerity, and doing what’s best for the people you live with HAS to be the goal everyday.
*This has to be motivated by LOVE; a self-donating desire.* Not conquering or overpowering.
Whether you’re under your Mother Superior, the Archbishop, or married to one person forever, you are trusting your path of holiness to their care and doing all to will their good, and hoping they’re doing all to will your good.
Therefore; both have rewards (experiences of great love) and unexpected turns and twists.
YET, this should never be a fear. For we have God-given intellect in our discernment (who to date, who supports and uplifts me, who leads me to God).
For me, lately it’s been a question of this: I always ask God, “what if I fall in my vocation?”
And chances are, I will.
But the whole point of being human-beings who submit to God and knowing that through deep trust in Him, with His grace, and everyday opening our hearts to His promises, we can be assured He would NEVER call us to a lifestyle He wouldn’t provide the grace to endure it with. That said, the choice to receive His help is up to you.
If you wish to remain steadfast in grace and virtue, you must cultivate your desires into deep and physical expressions of love to gift back to God. God gave us the gift of life, and the choices we make to live are our gifts back to Him (although, we will never out due Him in generosity…)
Your marriage (again; religious or spousal) is going to make the invisible reality of God visible—by the way you love. You will never experience the ecstasy (the suffering and bliss combined) that comes from vocation if you are not ready to humble yourself in the hands of God.
Best Discernment Advice….
in the words of St. Therese of Liseux, “it is better to talk TO God, than to talk ABOUT Him.” So, please, go pray and ask Jesus about your vocation.