I once heard a religious sister’s vocation story where she described her discernment process as the feeling that God was holding her vocation hostage… and it was her job to negotiate its release! She eventually discovered the truth that Fr. Mike Schmitz puts so well when he says, “God won’t ask you to answer a question that He hasn’t asked yet.” To stress or not to stress—this seems to be the question. However, almost all young Catholics who are dedicated to their faith seriously wrestle with the notion of, “What is my vocation, and how proactive should I be about figuring it out?”
The answer to this question is one of the most important decisions of your life. In a recent homily, Cardinal Sean O’Malley spoke of this very notion as he explained that God knows you better than you know yourself. Based on the way He created you, He knows the quickest, shortest, fastest, and easiest way for you to get to Heaven. This plan is particular and singular, meant only for you! The Cardinal explained that your joy, happiness, and fulfillment depend on getting your vocation right! However, it doesn’t stop there. The joy, happiness and fulfillment of others also depend on you getting this one right. It’s a big choice, but it isn’t one you should make alone. God wants to speak loud and clear and there are four ways you can help Him to do so while also accepting His timing:
- Purity brings clarity: Jesus promises that the pure of heart will see God (Matthew 5:8). In a unique way, we encounter God through our vocation by way of a pure total gift of self. Impure choices (both on and offline) muffle God’s voice in our life. Whether through pornography, impure thoughts, or physical sexual encounters, your ability to discern depends on your purity. Answering God’s call for purity is the only way to open yourself to answer His call for your future. Seek resources for breaking free from addiction and discovering sexual healing. Most importantly, perfection isn’t a requirement, which is why we must stay close to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
- Realize you aren’t waiting for your life to start: God is already writing your story. Your love story doesn’t begin when you discover the religious order or human spouse you will marry. Your love story is happening right now! God wants to actively and passionately move and work in your life in this very moment! When you become comfortable in your faith, that is when God is calling you to move forward. The journey is just as important as the destination.
- Be Open: Just as you date people to see if they are marriage material, discover what life as a priest or sister is really Let go of expectations and fears and actively give God a chance to surprise you… because His surprises are always the best ones.
- Pray the “Yes Prayer”: Many people confuse discernment with figuring out the answers to life’s questions. In actuality, discernment isn’t as much about us finding answers as it is about us letting go. The champion of purity, self-gift, and discernment is the Blessed Mother. Mary is best known for her “yes” at the Annunciation; however this was only one of billions of yeses that she offered daily in her life. This is the idea behind the “Yes Prayer,” which is a simple repetition of that surrender. Each day before your feet hit the floor, you simply say, “Whatever you have for me today Lord, my answer is ‘yes.'” When this becomes your way of life, and you habitually say yes to God’s daily plan, then surely you will be ready to give an enthusiastic, trustful “YES!” at the moment God delivers your vocation.
Remember, the fact of the matter is, that God is never late and never early, and He knows the name of your vocation at this very minute! Whatever it may be, God has a perfect plan in store for you and all He requires is your faithfulness!
Katie Hartfiel is the author of Woman In Love, a work which chronicles how developing a relationship with the Lord as her First Love allowed Him to mold her for her Second Love (vocation). Katie received her Theology degree from Franciscan University of Steubenville. She served as a youth minister for seven years in Houston, where she now resides with her husband, Mark, and two daughters. For more on Katie and her books, visit www.womaninlove.org.