As part of the Year of Consecrated Life, I asked a Religious Sister to write a reflection on Vocation Discernment. Here it is. Please read it and reflect on what she has written. God bless - Kim Lee :)
Vocation discernment is a process that is different for everyone. Sometimes your family is supportive, and sometimes they resist your decision. Some people may have financial struggles. Some are “late bloomers” and some enter right out of high school. Despite all the variables, I have reached the conclusion that there are basic elements in the discernment process. Using my own experiences I worked these “stages” into a catchy acronym: Call, Hear, Respond, Investigate, Select, Try, or C.H.R.I.S.T.
It all starts with a Call of some sort. The question I receive most often is “How do you know if God is calling you?” The answer differs from person to person. For some, a friend or family member may suggest that you look into a religious vocation. For me, it was kind of an intuition that God was calling me to something higher and that feeling was developed by prayer. Since God is the only one who knows what vocation He has planned for each person, the only way to find out is to listen to Him, and to talk to Him. Give Him your time in prayer and He’ll let you know what to do with your life.
The next two stages, Hear and Respond, are very similar but they are not the same. Hear is the point in our discernment when we think that God is calling us. Respond is the stage where we actually take steps to find out what He’s calling us to. Often, people stay on the Hear level and don’t move on to Respond. This is the category that I like to refer to as “Perpetual Discerners.” One of our Sisters who entered the convent in her late 20’s tells us how she told a priest that she was considering a religious vocation. Upon learning that she was 27, he said, “Stop sitting on the fence and make up your mind!” If you think God’s calling you, get up and do something about it!
Investigate and Select are also closely related. Now, it is time to Investigate the possibilities open to you. Learn about religious life, or the priesthood if you are a young man. Visit a convent or seminary. Go and talk to Sisters, Brothers, and Priests. This involves taking concrete steps to further your vocation. Eventually the time will come when you are ready to Select a path to follow and you will choose a seminary or convent or monastery. This all takes time and commitment, but it’s the only way to find your true calling.
Finally, we have Try. Try to live the life you have chosen. I use the word Try because we’re still talking about discernment. Discernment continues throughout initial formation in religious life and seminary life. There are people in religious houses and seminaries whose sole job is to help you decide if you are really called to that life. The discernment is over when you are not just Trying, but Living! When you have completely fallen in love with Christ and His Church, then, and only then, is the discernment process complete.
So there you have it: Discernment 101 from someone who has been there and is still Trying. My prayer for each of you is that you will open your hearts to God’s call, and grow closer to Him as you discern your vocation in life. Remember, it’s all for CHRIST!