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Discernment

How is the Lord calling you to love?

Each person is called by God to make a gift of him/herself for God’s glory and the salvation of souls. Finding your vocation is about discovering how God is calling you to love. Maybe he is inviting you to manifest His love in family life as wife and mother. Or, maybe the Lord is inviting you to be His bride, to be a spiritual mother who will be a constant sign and witness to a life in union with God. Both ways of life are beautiful! Open your heart to what God desires for you, and strive to unite your will to the will of our Heavenly Father.  Remember, your vocation is your path to holiness. God has your best interest in mind, trust Him! If you feel Him tugging your heart toward religious life, don’t be afraid!

Prayer

The first and most important step in discernment is prayer. The prophet Elijah described God as a “still, small voice” (1 Kgs 19:12). Prayer is a conversation: talking to God and listening for his gentle voice. Growth in prayer is lifelong . . . it is really a journey of deepening love between you and the Lord.

Silence is so key for growth in prayer! In an environment of silence, prayer helps us to clear all the distractions out of our minds and hearts, and uncover what God is working deep within us, to hear that “still, small voice.” He plants desires in the deepest parts of our hearts which lead us to our vocation. Often, surface noises (the distractions around us and within us) drown out God’s voice. Make a commitment to set aside quiet time each day for prayer to help move away from the distractions. Trust that God will lead you to a place of peace, joy and freedom where you will discover if indeed He is inviting you to religious life!  

Spiritual Direction

A spiritual director is invaluable when discerning your vocation. This is a holy person–priest, religious sister/brother, or trained lay person–with whom you meet regularly to talk about your prayer life and to trace the movements within your heart. They guide you in your journey and pray for you, too! Spiritual directors can often see things in us which we don’t recognize, and will encourage us in this quest to do God’s will. When seeking spiritual direction, ask people you trust, like your parish priest, for recommendations so you can find an experienced spiritual director to accompany you in this spiritual journey.

Exploration

Another very important part of discernment is learning about religious communities with charisms (ways of life) that you feel attracted to. The Lord always calls a woman to a specific community. Vocation directors can help you learn more about their specific community’s life and work. These sisters are good listeners, helping you discern whether religious life and their community is where God is calling you. Many communities offer come-and-see retreats for young women, which are a great way to discern if a particular community is a good fit. Retreats help you grow in faith, and and learn more about the religious life. Connecting with other young women discerning allows you to build unique friendships of spiritual support along the journey.

What if I don’t feel worthy?

All saints have a past—consider the story of St. Augustine, who fathered a child out of wedlock before he became one of the Church’s greatest theologians or St. Margaret of Cortona who lived with her lover for years before she became a Franciscan, noted for her life of penance and intercession for miraculous healings. God never rejects a truly repentant heart; rather, He runs to it and fills it with grace!

Many young men and women today are very confused about their identity and what love truly is. They may feel ashamed of past choices–especially sexual choices–and feel unworthy of a call to the religious life or priesthood. Don’t let your past prevent you from saying yes to God today! Because of God’s love and mercy there is no ‘unforgivable’ sin. If you are struggling with past choices, take it to prayer, talk to a priest and if you haven’t already, go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and allow the power of this sacrament to heal and restore you.

“To know whether God will have a person become a religious it is not to be expected that God Himself should speak, or send an angel from heaven to signify His will. It is not necessary that ten or twelve confessors should examine whether the vocation is to be followed. But it is necessary to correspond with the first movement of the inspiration, and to cultivate it, and then not to grow weary if disgust or coldness should come on. If a person acts thus, God will not fail to make all succeed to His glory. Nor ought we to care much from what quarter the first movement comes. The Lord has many ways of calling His servants.” – St. Francis De Sales