Experience over the past few years has shown me that the number of enquiries about vocations fall during the summer months. But not this summer. Enquiries are up on previous years. I wonder has it something to do with our poor summer weather? In any case, many of those who have been in touch over the past few weeks have been asking about 'discernment'. What is it and what does it entail?
There are five essential elements to discernment:
Prayer: Vocational discernment can only take place in the context of prayer. The type of payer here is important - namely wanting to know and desiring the will of God in my life.
Openness to the Holy Spirit: Being genuinely open to the promptings of the Spirit is a pre-requisite. If and when the particular option (religious life or priesthood) gives rise to feelings of contentment, joy or peace - then this is a possible sign that the option one is making is in line with God's plan for me.
Recognise the result of prayer: Having prayed earnestly, look for the feelings that have emerged. If your discernment continues to be positive, then the next stage is the prayer to make a firm decision and to actually choose making a commitment.
Seek confirmation: The process of discernment between yourself and God needs to be confirmed with the help of others. Here a vocations director will assist you in clarifying your decision at other levels e.g. practically, emotionally, spritually. Other professional people assist by helping you understand the decision you are making or have made.
Motivation: At all times through the process of discernment, check what your real motivation is! If you have followed the prayerful route and recognise that it is God who is motivating you in the direction of serving Him, then you are on the right path. If not, seek help and do not lose heart.
To sum up then: discernment is a process which should lead you, through prayer, to understand where God is calling you. It is a difficult journey, but the rewards of genuinely seeking God's will are truly worthwhile.