I spent several years discerning my vocation before I joined the Order. Despite the stress and uncertainty, the process of discernment was incredibly grace-filled. I learned a lot about God and myself, gaining practical wisdom that has proved to be very fruitful. Based on this experience, I would like to share a few tips for anyone discerning a vocation to the priesthood or religious life:
1. Prayer and purification. Discernment is a prayer. One must grow closer to the Lord in prayer in order to perceive with confidence what He might be leading you toward. Reading Sacred Scripture, attending Mass as often as possible, and spending time in front of the Blessed Sacrament are the most essential aspects of discernment. Drawing close to God purifies our desires and intentions making us more docile to the work of the Holy Spirit.
2. Find a good spiritual director. No one discerns his or her vocation alone. You need a wise, holy, and unbiased guide to help you in the discernment process. A good spiritual director is able to help you see things about yourself, and your process of discernment, that you are totally blind to. Spiritual directors can also affirm those moments when you think the Lord has spoken to you about your vocation.
3. Be honest about your desires. Many young men and women from my generation struggle with this part of discernment the most. We are often too distrustful and suspicious of our deepest longings and desires. We tend to think that whatever we desire must be exactly what God does not want us to do. This could not be farther from the truth! God often reveals His will through our desires, provided they are good and holy. Being honest about what you desire for your life (with both yourself and your spiritual director) is an indispensable part of discernment.
4. Don’t let your sins hold you back. Shame is the greatest stumbling block in discernment. Sin naturally obscures our sense of judgment, but shame can lead us into an insidious dark cloud of doubt making us totally blind to the Lord’s work in our lives. Struggling with sin (even grave sin) is common to every person discerning a vocation. What matters is that you acknowledge your sins and are doing something about it. Go to confession and “begin again!”
5. Take action steps. Discernment comes down to taking prudent and courageous action. You have to act in order to know what you are, and are not called to. Allow God’s providence to guide you, and pay attention to the doors that He opens for you. Remember disappointment and rejection is very helpful. Don’t let setbacks stop you from looking at other options. This is how the Lord leads us to the right vocation. You simply need to trust!
These tips are not exhaustive, but they are a great place to start. I pray you find them helpful. Deus providebit!
Br. Diego María Carrasco, O.P. | Meet the Student Brothers in Formation HERE