What is a vocation?
God has a dream for each one of us. We are uniquely loved and called by God. God only wishes good for us as a human race and as individuals. God’s dream is that we in our own unique way will join Christ in building a better world and so experience ourselves fully. “I know the plan I have in mind for you… plans for peace, not disaster, reserving a future full of hope for you… When you seek me you shall find me, when you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, it is the Lord who speaks” (Jer 29, 11-13).
Some persons experience being called by God as an invitation into the desires (dreams) of God for the human race, for the church, and for ourselves as we live out our lives. Vocation comes from the latin word for call or calling. It implies that there is an action God who is beyond ourselves that is beckoning and calling to us. In a sense, we cannot deny this activity. We respond to it by answering yes or no. To ignore it is to answer no. Our belief is that God calls each one of us to do some good in this world. We are called to be concerned for other human beings, to be instruments of his love, peace and justice.
What is discernment?
Discernment is a seeking of God’s will in my life thru the inner movements of the Spirit of Love. We are all called to discernment because a Christian life (vocation) is precisely a response to God’s will and call to discipleship. “Be it done to me according to your word” (Luke 1, 38). This response to God’s call is the only source of my real happiness in this life and hereafter. It is an act of deep gratitude on my part for all that the Lord has done for me — and how he has loved me.
What are the steps in discernment?
1. Knowing and loving myself. My personality and personal history are part of my call. It is therefore important that I learn to be in touch with myself and get to know myself better.
a) I recall experiences and events in my life history that brought me to where I am now.
b) I write these in a personal journal and reflect on them.
c) I reflect on the things and activities that bring me life, my likes and dislikes, joys and fears, abilities and limitations, etc.
d) I reflect on my work patterns, leadership qualities, and the structures and routines in my life.
e) I reflect on the various relationships I have with people.
In all these, I try to see God’s active presence in my life history, especially how He has loved me. I also consult with a spiritual director to guide me in getting to know myself and to help me experience myself as the Beloved of God.
2. Knowing and loving Jesus Christ. I try to develop a regular life of prayer, devoting 15-30 minutes daily to personal prayer. I pray over the life of Christ, his words and actions as presented to me in the Gospel. I read and ponder the accounts given in the New Testament. My hope is that his spirit will come into my being. I pray, “To see you more clearly, love you more dearly, follow you more nearly.” I seek the help of my spiritual director to find the form of prayer best suited for me. Through this growing personal relationship with Jesus, our Lord, I slowly grow into the Mind and Heart of Jesus Christ.
3. Making a Decision.
a) I gather accurate and adequate information on the point of decision. Perhaps this information is about the congregation or order I am considering, its charism, its apostolates, its way of life, and its requirements for application.
b) I surrender myself to the Gospel value system. The beatitudes in Matthew 5 might be helpful to consider in doing this.
c) I propose the option for myself, the pros and cons of the option. I write these down. I allow all this to sink in prayer. I remain with this in a disposition of complete surrender.
d) Then, I propose the opposite option to myself, following the same process as in the previous paragraph.
e) At a certain point, a gripping conviction comes to me toward one option and I make this my temporary decision.
4. Confirming my decision. After making the temporary decision in step 3, I allow some time for inner confirmation. An experience of inner peace is a sign of God’s will in my decision. I confer with my spiritual director regarding the process and confirmation of my decision.
Adapted from the following sources: “Discerning Your Vocation” by John J. English, S.J., Following God’s Call by Judette A. Gallares, r.c., and “Individual Psycho-Spiritual Discernment” by Ruben M. Tanseco, S.J. Edited by Gabriel Gonzalez S.J.
Thanks to the Vocation Promotions Office for providing me with this copy. Incidentally, there is a Vocation Seminar for college and young professionals on July 11, Sunday. The link to the poster is here.