I know what you’re thinking, what advice could someone who didn’t discern their vocation have to say about vocations anyway?
While the veracity of the statement is true, keep in mind that discernment is heavy on my heart. It is a regular topic of my prayer life and kinda the reason this blog exists. I wanted to share with anyone else asking this question what comes to mind, what I consider to be helpful, and what leads me closer to the answer of that question.
First: Quiet your heart – Clear the anxiety
Bill Donaghey of the Theology of the Body Institute says it best, “When it comes to discerning your vocation… your heart, your passion, and your personality matter. Again, vocation isn’t always some divine directive that God has preordained without your input that drops down from the cloud into your lap when you’re good enough or ready enough to receive it. Vocation, your calling, is your gift. It is the personal gift of God to crown your heart, and your response to his gift by your self-donation to the world of what’s in you.”
John Paul II inspired us to start with this, “’What is my vocation? This means: in which direction should the development of my personhood proceed in light of what I have in myself, what I can give of myself, and what others – people and God – expect from me?’ Noticed the tiered complexity of this call, which begins with ‘my personhood… what I have in myself.’”
What makes me come alive?
Do I even have what it takes to be X?
What ways do I serve the Lord, bring others to the Lord—in the church, community—that bring me deeper into great charity.
How can I serve others today? How can I grow in holiness today?
What direction is my life going in and who is supporting me along the way?
In terms of relationship discernment keep in mind someone who is faithful, honest, selfless, has a good heart/intentions, keeps promises, and loves God. A person who has the same goals and interests, and knows their priorities in life (and YOU and the relationship should be one of those priorities).
Receiving your vocation is a call to a more religious life. Going off those questions and thoughts, remember that your vocation is a call towards deeper holiness and love that help bring you to God. So receiving status, praise, reputation, a habit, or a tonsure is not going to bring you towards holiness and love. Holiness and love always come through an intimate, soul searching vulnerability of love (through prayer, sacraments, and scripture). Reforming your life and dying to self-love makes a true religious.
“Anyone living in the state of [physical] marriage can surpass someone in perfection in the religious state, simply by possessing more charity.” –John Paul II
If you seek anything other than God and the good of your soul, you will find nothing but trouble and grief in your spiritual life. Peace will be absent and you will never receive the love that comes with the gift of vocation.
Both marriages (the divine or the physical-spousal) are calls to serve and not be served. To suffer, work, and not waste your time in idleness, pleasure, and selfishness. Both marriages have profoundly different ways in which suffering occurs, and work it endures that gets tough, so don’t think one is “easier” than the other. Both also contain community, familial bonds, and a ton of obedience. Yet, this should never be a fear because the whole point of being human-beings who submit to God is knowing that through deep trust in Him, with His grace everyday, opening our hearts to His promises, we can be assured He would NEVER call us to a lifestyle He wouldn’t provide the grace to endure it with.
Your marriage (again; religious or spousal) is going to make the invisible reality of God visible—by the way you love. You will never experience the ecstasy (the suffering and bliss combined) that comes from vocation if you are not ready to humble yourself in the hands of God.
Best Discernment Advice….
in the words of St. Therese of Liseux, “it is better to talk TO God, than to talk ABOUT Him.” So, please, go pray and ask Jesus about your vocation.