I am often asked about how to begin discernment. It’s a logical and good question and since most priests and religious were not looking for a vocation when the thought came to mind, we had no idea on how to proceed. Let me make it as easy as possible.
If you are just starting out and you have no idea where to go or what to do, mostly because the thoughts and feelings you have are brand new, these are three simple steps to take that should clarify things for you:
1) Smile and Don’t panic!
No authentic call from God was placed in our hearts by ourselves. This is the work of God and the idea that you are interested in exploring a vocation should be an indicator that the Holy Spirit is active in your life. That is simply a wondrous blessing! Enjoy it!
2) Seek good spiritual counsel as soon as possible.
When I say “good spiritual counsel” I mean it! Find a profoundly faithful and trustworthy priest or religious. Tell this person your feelings and thoughts. He will understand. If he cannot help you discern your calling, he will help you find someone who will. Trust this person!
3) Continue to live the faithful life that got you to this point.
There is no magic formula that will help you discern your calling. No specific number of rosaries and novenas will draw back the mysterious veil on what God wants you to do. If you have a calling, you are most likely living a good Christian life already and God is telling you He wants more. Keep on living your life well. The way you have been living and praying tells me, the vocation director, much of what I need to know about you in helping you make a decision. This is not rocket science. Live a Gospel life. Serve the poor, pray often, go to Mass, confession once a month and talk to your spiritual director candidly (See #2 above).
And finally, know this: God is not pulling your chain or jerking you around. With a little work (vocation retreats, visits, Come and See events, etc.), good spiritual direction, and some quality prayer time, your vocation will most likely become as clear as it possibly can be on this side of eternity. Trust God and be at peace!
And for the love of all that is good and holy…make a decision well before we we place your name in the “Perpetual Discerners Club” file!