Vocation, vocation, Vocation, vocation. I will not stop talking about this. It’s just too important. As long as people continue to ask the wrong questions and refuse to let God initiate, I will keep talking about this. Considering the long standing habitual stubbornness of humans, I will probably be talking about this for my whole life.
You do not wake up one day and decide to discern the call to religious life (or marriage, single life, etc). The invitation must absolutely always come from God. This often happens through other people – a spiritual director, being invited on a retreat, etc. It is of course, the duty of every Catholic to be open to a Vocation to priesthood, religious life, lay consecration – but for heaven-sake don’t start gallivanting around to all sorts of discernment retreats without a strong prompting from the spirit.
Perhaps there is a misunderstanding of what discernment means. As used by St. Ignatius of Loyola – it is the discernment of spirits – the discernment of whether a calling is from God. So someone feels an attraction to religious life – Ignatius outlines certain steps and indications to tell whether that attraction is a true calling from God. It is true that sometimes people don’t feel an inkling either way – take that to prayer, ask God to reveal who you truly are and how he wants you to live out your vocation. God must always initiate!
Side-note caveat: I understand that my situation is somewhat unique. I have been blessed with what St Ignatius called “certainty beyond doubt” about my Vocation. I promise, it is because I am so incredibly dense, not because I am special.
I’m still not sure how I feel about websites like Vision vocation network. To me that just invites grasping and initiation. I used to go on there and just get frustrated. I met the TOR’s sisters on a retreat and established a personal connection with one of them – and it wasn’t even a discernment retreat! All my searching was fruitless, because I had a list of criteria for “my” order – like I was looking at colleges!
I didn’t look at orders like a platter of desserts and “choose” the most attractive one! I know I can’t be trusted with a decision like that – not when every nun I see brings tears to my eyes and I secretly want to be a Sister of Life (or a Dominican, or a Carmelite…) No, God knows my heart and He knew exactly which order would help me be most myself.
Living out your “vocation” simply means be yourself – who are you called to be? I am a sister – this informs how I relate to other people. Becoming Sister whatever-the-Holy-Spirit-provides (I’m betting on Sr. Mary Constance of the Sacred Heart or something equally pretentious) is simply the fulfillment of that vocation – signed, sealed, and delivered as it were. My Vocation is the state of life in which I am called to live out my vocation.
We speak of a discernment “process” – what does that even mean?? I am firmly convinced that “young” adulthood is extending well into our 40’s because people are stuck in this so called “discernment.” God calls, you go. God is the worst hide and seek player in the history of ever. Our entire lives should be a perpetual asking of what is God’s will? If we only learn how to listen, He will answer, and fulfill our deepest desires. Just wait till the day God turns around and asks what you want. When that happens, we begin to understand that we are truly His children and how much he longs for our cooperation.
And we need to stop worrying so stinking much about the future. I used to make plans. I was the high school freshman already looking at colleges and had all the answers to “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” This is one of those horrid questions we need to be rid of. Why in the world does it matter where I see myself? God is outside of time – he knows what I’ll be doing in 5 years. So instead of wasting sleep worrying about it, I will just place it in His hands.
So, I don’t make plans anymore. This sometimes makes me look irresponsible, and yet, God always takes care of me. He reveals His plan one step at a time, asking for my “yes” over and over. Without fail, when I throw up my hands and admit that I have no idea where I am going next – when I sacrifice my need to plan – that is when He works wonders.
In one week, my nannying job will end. Besides having much more time for prayer and spending time with loved ones, who knows what the Lord will have me do…
“All the good that you will do will come not from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself to be used by God’s love. Think of this more and gradually you will be free from the need to prove yourself and you can be more open to the power that will work through you without your knowing it.” Thomas Merton
As I wrote this I realized it may only apply to females. Males, of course, have a different relationship with God and He speaks to them in a unique way. This way is mysterious to me however…any brothers are welcome to shed light on the subject.