Q 19 – How important is it for a Catholic to discern his/her vocation? How does one start discerning?
Rahul George, Gujarat
How important is it for a Catholic to discern his/her vocation?
The word ‘vocation’ comes from the Latin word ‘vocare’ – which means ‘call’. It is a call from God, who made us, loves us and has a plan for us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that the universal call of every human being is ‘to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him’ (#1). It is a call to a concrete state of life. All Catholics are called to live holy lives and to be saints, but God calls us to be saints in different ways: some to be husbands/wives, others to be nuns/priests, still others to be consecrated and so on. The Catholic Church teaches that there are three paths for one’s primary vocation: marriage, holy orders or consecrated life. It is in this backdrop we understand the importance of discerning one’s vocation (call). “The discernment of a vocation is above all the fruit of an intimate dialogue between the Lord and His disciples. Young people, if they know how to pray, can be trusted to know what to do with God’s call”, says Pope Benedict XVI. So, it is very significant for anyone who wishes to follow God’s call, design or plan for him/her, to discern it through an intimate dialogue with Him.
How does one start discerning?
Faith is the starting point of discernment, where we acknowledge God as the source of our vocation. Through prayer we involve God in the decision-making process, and actively listen for God’s will.
Secondly, the Vatican II Council teaches that it is through self-giving that we are fulfilled as human beings. Vocation is not only something given to us, it is also something we freely give to God and others. Therefore, it is important that we have the freedom to make this offering. If we are in a situation in life where we are not free to commit to a vocation, then we must increase in our freedom before we can make a vocational choice.
Thirdly, as many saints have highlighted, spiritual growth begins with self-knowledge. An awareness of our personal gifts and weaknesses, dreams and desires, can help us greatly in gaining a sense of which vocation might be possible for us, and which, probably not so wise to follow.
Fourthly, seek the help of friends, ministers and family members who can be helpful sources of support and insight. They would be able to see things in us that we don’t often see. As one progresses in the discernment process, a spiritual director/mentor, is often necessary.
Finally, another source of help is the saints, who are our brothers and sisters in the Church and their intercession can be of great help. There are a number of saints designated as patrons of particular vocations, so it would be a good idea to seek the intercession of that particular patron saint.
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