For every person vocation means something different. In my opinion vocation is first of all an event in a person’s life. It is the meaning of this life, a call from God.
You’re probably curious how to find this vocation, how to fulfill God’s will in your life. Such questions are asked by people who discover this ‘something’ in their hearts.
For a start I need to tell you that Jesus hasn’t revealed Himself to me and said, ‘Bartholomew, go to Carmel.’ Maybe somebody was given such a grace and God spoke to him. In my life it wasn’t like that. I thought it over, prayed, chose. And nothing more. But I will talk about my vocation later.
Now a few practical tips on how to discern one’s vocation.
It would undoubtedly be great if people called to religious life received a letter signed by God Himself. You wake up in the morning, open your e-mail box and among a lot of messages from friends and banks you see an e-mail from God. However, this is not the case.
It is worth saying a fundamental thing at the start – it is God who calls.
Jesus wants to give Himself to every person. He will not do that until we give ourselves to Him. He directs His call to everybody: ‘follow Me,’ ‘remain in Me,’ ‘accompany Me.’ The way to give oneself to Him is simple – it is Jesus Himself, His life and words. We learn It while we follow It. We become like Him, loving Him. However, everybody has been set their own unique way of loving.
And that is what vocation is: a form – unique for every person – of loving Jesus, keeping Him company, fulfilling His words.
The Gospel is binding on each of Jesus’ disciples. People who don’t want to listen to His word and put it into practice cannot consider themselves Christians. It is not enough to say ‘Lord, Lord,’ we need to live on His word every day. It is often mistakenly believed that only religious are obliged to live the evangelical counsels. And that is not the case.
The evangelical counsels are not pieces of advice, at least not for Christians. They are not because the Gospel is not optional for those who follow Jesus. Also, we cannot treat the words contained in the Gospel selectively – accept some and ignore others. Therefore we cannot ask whether we should live the evangelical counsels but rather how we should live them in our day-to-day life, in the vocation that each of us has been given.
Every Christian is called to realize in their own way evangelical poverty, chastity and obedience in their daily life. We should want to identify this personal way and form to which each of us has been called, in which we are to realize Jesus’ words, in which we are to follow Him, in which we are to love Him.
What is necessary in discerning one’s vocation?
The essential thing in the process of discerning one’s vocation is prayer – the personal bond with Jesus. Without it our human efforts turn out to be ineffective. Sensitivity to His presence, frequent feeding on His Word, everyday concern for the time devoted entirely to being with Him – all that is necessary to recognize His desires and make binding decisions.
Prayer must be supported by the company of another person – a spiritual director, endowed with profound experience of God and knowledge. It is very important. In general, we cannot recognize God’s ways by ourselves, very often they are concealed from us and we seem shrouded in darkness. We need somebody who will lead us along these paths, who will show us the right direction. And often God behaves towards us in this way. He grants us His light through other people. This is where His great humility manifests itself and at the same time it becomes a school of humility for us, as it is much more difficult to take the word of a man and believe him than to act at one’s own discretion.
A good company is a great help in discernment. We need a group of people who live the same values and who share the same aspirations. We need, therefore, a community that will help us overcome our weaknesses and survive moments of discouragement.
These are the three essential resources needed to discern vocation: a bond with Jesus, a spiritual director and a community. They comprise other lesser resources which are an additional help with discernment: spiritual reading, frequent Eucharist and confession, retreat or days of recollection… To this we may add all other practices whose aim is to help us free ourselves from evil inclinations, but they are very concrete actions which I think are not worth mentioning in such a place as a web page. They need particular attention, a talk face to face, because it is only through good understanding of another person that we can discover his/her difficulties and look for the ways of dealing with them together.
In order to recognize God’s desires and the form of loving chosen for each it is necessary to remain with Jesus, listen to His word, ask for sensitivity to His action. He uses other people and events of life to reveal His desires to us. He calls everyone as He Himself wants and He lets Himself be known in many different ways. We need not fear that we will not recognize His desires but we need to trust Him, since He does not abandon those who call Him.