Thursday, October 15, 2009
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Discernment, especially that of a call to the priesthood and/or religious life, is extremely difficult, particularly for those of us outside of a formal formation setting. To help my fellow discerners, I thought I would share a few suggestions that have been particularly helpful for me.
First, and foremost, we must remember that a call to any vocation is a call that comes from God. We live in an age of careerism, and an age that encourages individuals to ask the question "What do I want to do with my life?", rather than encouraging these people to ask "What does God want me to do with my life?". Because the call to a vocation comes from God, it is important to have a strong relationship with Him, in order to properly discern what He is asking you to do with your life. In order to come to know and love Our Lord more deeply, I make the following recommendations. The first is to set aside regular time each day to pray, at least fifteen minutes. The Liturgy of the Hours and the Rosary are prayers I highly recommend to anyone discerning a religious or priestly vocation. Lectio Divina and spiritual reading, if only for fifteen minutes a day, or a half hour a few days a week, are also very helpful.
The second recommendation I have is to attend daily Mass as many days as you can, go to confession at least once a month, and, if possible, spend at least half an hour a week in Eucharistic Adoration.
My third recommendation is to find a priest you trust, one you would feel comfortable talking to and confiding in, and ask him to be your spiritual director. If you are unfamiliar with the priests in your local area, ask a trusted Catholic friend which priest they would recommend. And, if the schedule of the priest you ask doesn't allow him to help you, ask him for a recommend a few priests who might be able to serve as your spiritual director. Spiritual direction is indispensible when discerning a vocation, and your spiritual director will help you strengthen your prayer life and discern Our Lord's will for you.
Fourth, it is crucial to remember that discernment of a call to the priesthood or religious life is a two-way street. You are discerning whether you are called to that vocation, and so is the diocese or religious order you are looking at. If you get turned down by a diocese or religious order, it's o.k. You haven't failed Our Lord, He just needs you to serve him someplace else, and He'll lead you there when the time is right.
Fifth, For those discerning whether or not you are called to a religious order, whether in the capacity of a priest, monk, religious brother, religious sister, or nun, I strongly recommend reading about the founder of that order. It helps to know something about the founder of the order when discerning whether or not you are called to serve Our Lord through that order. Be prudent in your choice of biography, however, as sometimes dissident theologians will twist the lives of the saints, particularly St. Francis. There's a biography of St. Francis written by Omer Engelbert, however, that I've read and is pretty good. G.K. Chesterton's biography of St. Francis is also good, from what I've heard, though I haven't read it yet. St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote his own autobiography, so I'd recommend that for anyone looking at the Jesuits (I once did, but determined that they're not where God is calling me).
If anyone has any questions, feel free to e-mail me.
May God bless you all abundantly.
For The Sake of Him (formerly LandOLakesJesuit)