As we draw closer to Easter, there will be many men and women who will use this graced time of year to bring to a conclusion their time of discernment of a potential religious vocation. It can be a difficult time and those wondering whether to make the next step and they will often be anxious. It can also be an exciting time for those discerning with the possibilities of saying 'yes' to God in their lives. As a help to those who find themselves in this situation now, here are a few tips that might be of help:
(1) Asking for Help.
All the evidence is clear. No one can discern a vocation on his or her own. Our friends and family members, parishioners and others that we can trust can be helpful sources of support, insight and wisdom. They can often see things in us that we don't readily see in ourselves. As people progress along the path of discernment, a spiritual director can be of benefit too - though this is not always necessary. Another untapped resource is the saints - our brothers and sisters in the church who can be powerful intercessors on our behalf. (For those contemplating the Dominicans - Blessed Jordan of Saxony is the patron of Dominican vocations!)
(2) Expect Difficulties
Again, all the evidence points to the fact that there are very few people whom God has struck with a lightning bolt ant told them what exactly to do with their lives. But we have all learned to appreciate that 'blindness, must in some sense be there. That is true because our vocation(s) must be a gift made in faith. If we knew exactly what God wanted or what would make us most happy, there would be no risk, no cost, and in effect, no love.
(3) Feeling Unworthy
Everyone, no matter what their vocation in life turns out to be will always encounter feelings of unworthiness. It is no different for those discerning a religious vocation. The sacred scriptures remind us that God writes straight with crooked lines! So, it is important to remember that whatever we have done in the past or whoever we have been, God can still use us. We have only to remind ourselves of some of the great saints to be reminded of what God can do with weak human beings.
(4) Discernment is Not your vocation
A wise Dominican friar once told me a profound piece of wisdom - that discernment is not my vocation! In short, there comes a time when in the process of exploring who we are and what we want to do with our lives that we must take a risk and try something. God rewards our efforts, and God can do much more with a mistake than with not making any decision at all.