How do I discern?
The best first step in this sometimes difficult process is to follow the words most spoken in the Holy Scripture, “Be not afraid!” Whether it was an angel announcing good news, or Christ speaking to His disciples, setting aside your fear is the fist step. Once you are open to hearing the Lord speak to your heart, a message that will most likely come as a quiet whisper, you will be able to truly discern, figure out, ‘Lord, where are you calling me to serve you in this life?’
Discernment must involve prayer, the willingness to seek out quiet in an otherwise noisy world, a desire to know God’s will for your life, and a love for the Church and all Her members. Discernment is the first step in coming to know if the Lord is calling you to serve him as a Roman Catholic priest.
Steps for discernment
While there are several methods of discerning God’s calling in your life, the following steps will hopefully assist you with this process:
You must have a personal relationship with Christ
As Pope Benedict states: “The seminarian experiences the beauty of God’s call in a moment of grace which could be defined as ‘falling in love’….It is only when a young man has had a personal experience of Christ that he can truly understand the Lord’s will and consequently his own vocation.” Have you fallen ‘in love’ with Christ?
Pray for guidance from God
God has a plan for everyone and following God’s plan will lead to true happiness. Allow the Lord to lead you and have trust that He will only desire what is best for you. It is then that you will find true happiness and fulfillment in life.
Pay attention to the gifts and talents you’ve been given by God
God has blessed each of us with many gifts and talents, distinct to every person. Have you allowed yourself the ability to consider that these gifts that you have been blessed with from God could be used to serve the Church?
Pray before the Blessed Sacrament for guidance
The Real Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is the ‘source and summit’ of our Catholic faith. What better place to spend time in quiet reflection and adoration then in the presence of our living God? “This is Jesus here. This is God. And priests exist to make him sacramentally present to the faithful.” Seek out a parish that has an adoration chapel and enjoy your time of grace in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.
Seek advice from a priest
While many people are well equipped to assist you in your discernment of a priestly vocation, there is no substitute for a priest. Whether it is one of your parish priests, a spiritual director, or friend, the advice and direction received from a priest will be extremely beneficial in your discernment of a calling to the priesthood of Jesus Christ.
Receive the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation
Regular reception of the Eucharist, definitely every Sunday and preferably every day if your schedule allows, will afford you the opportunity to stay in communion with the ‘Word made Flesh’. Unlike other food, the more you receive the Eucharist, the more you become like that which you consume. The sacrament of Reconciliation reminds you that we are all sinners and always in need of God’s merciful forgiveness. The more we receive forgiveness for our sins, the better we can configure our lives to Christ.
Know God, know true peace
True peace will be felt in your heart when you come to know God as an intimate friend. This peace will also lead to an affirmation that what you are experiencing emotionally in regards to your discernment of the priesthood is from God. Knowing what and where God wants you to be will come with an overwhelming sense of peace.
Look to Jesus as the model for all decision making.
“Father…not my will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) By seeking God’s perfect will, life to the fullest will be experienced. Jesus always followed the will of His Father, are we not called to do the same?
Be involved in the life of your parish
An excellent way to experience the life of a parish priest is to involve yourself in the life of a parish…..which is the life of a priest. Consider being an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, Lector, Catechist or a member of a Committee, Commission or Council. The more you know about the life of a priest, the better you will be able to discern.
Contact your vocation director
While it is always important to consult other people you know and trust, if you are feeling an attraction to the priesthood ‘at some level’, it is in your best interest to contact your vocation director. He will be a priest that will help you to better discern God’s calling in your life. He will also have programs available to assist you in your discernment.
What is a vocation?
The root word for vocation is vocare, which is Latin for “to call.” God has created each one of us for a particular calling or way to follow Him. Through the Sacrament of Baptism we become a child of God and thus called to live in holiness through love of God and neighbor. It is important to also remember that our true vocation does not come from the world, but rather is an invitation directly from God to follow Him.
Our first or primary vocation is to live in holiness, or in other words, to become a saint! While this is a challenge for us all, it should be the goal of every baptized child of God.
Our particular vocation then becomes our state in life: Priesthood, Consecrated Life, Marriage or Single Life.
Learning what our particular vocation will be requires a process we call discernment. It will be utilized at various stages in our lives and God will use others to assist us in that process.
Do you have the courage to ask God the question that is seldom uttered in our busy world, “Lord how are you calling me to follow You?”
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives, and the one who seeks, finds; and the one who knocks the door will be opened.” -Matthew 7:7-8