Discernment of any vocation, whether to the married or religious life, begins with a heart and mind open to doing God’s will.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, O.P., states that we can never know God’s will in particular matters with absolute certainty. “The will of God,” he says, “cannot be fully known to us. Hence, neither can we fully conform our will to His. But we can conform it in proportion to the knowledge which we have…” (DV 23.7).
Simply put, our limited human mind cannot fully understand God. But this is not a reason to despair, for God has given us some means to know His will, which is first and foremost for us to know and love Him. Beginning with the knowledge of God’s infinite love and mercy, we can embark on discerning our particular vocation with an honest self-examination. There is no need to wait for a mystical vision of Jesus or Mary in order to possess certainty about a religious vocation.
As you begin, or continue your discernment, consider asking yourself:
–What gifts has God given to me?
–Which religious order’s charism best complements these gifts?
When you humbly consider these questions, you can discover how to best offer yourself as a gift to the Lord and His Church. It is recommended for anyone discerning to frequent the Sacraments (especially the Eucharist and Confession), while deepening one’s own personal prayer life through spiritual reading and meditations on the mysteries of the Rosary. You may also find it helpful to confide in a spiritual director, and to contribute to the apostolic needs of your local parish or community.
If you find yourself thinking about religious life, rejoice! It is quite possible that the Lord desires you to follow in the footsteps of Saint Dominic, Saint Albert the Great, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and all the other canonized saints and blesseds of the Order of Preachers. The Dominican vocation bears great responsibility, for our religious life is ordered not only to our own personal salvation, but to preach the joy of the Gospel to all those in need of Christ.
Our brothers have found that the process of discernment is especially fruitful after entering the Novitiate. The Lord will help you discover, even through the novice year, whether you have rightly discerned. God will generously respond to your faithful answer to His call.
- Vita Consecrata by Saint Pope John Paul II
- Religious Vocation: An Unnecessary Mystery by Fr. Richard Butler, O.P.
- Religious Life by Fr. Brian Mullady, O.P.
- The Theology of Religious Vocation by Fr. Edward Farrell, O.P.
- Thomas Aquinas and Vocational Discernment by Fr. Romanus Cessario, O.P.
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