Discernment, an age-old practice in the Christian tradition, is a decision-making process that honors the place of God’s will in our lives. It aligns our own will with the will of God and helps us hear God’s calling. When one is considering vocation, discernment is essential.
Wouldn’t it be nice if our vocation stories were as clear-cut as the stories we hear in the Bible? God used a burning bush to get the attention of Moses. Jonah got a whale. Countless people were visited by angels. The Apostles received their call straight from Jesus’ lips. Paul and Barnabas got their instructions whispered to them directly from the Holy Spirit. But for most of us, our call can seem mysterious and unclear. How do we know where the spirit is leading us? How do we hear God’s call? How do we discern our vocation, our purpose?
Vocational discernment is not like baking a cake. Although there are helpful steps to follow, there is no fool-proof recipe. It is not neat and tidy or something you do once and are done. We are always engaged in discernment. The steps flow into one another. Sometimes they are going on at the same time. We may even return to a step and work through it further. As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin says we must “trust in the slow work of God.”
There are countless books written about discernment and you can find a myriad of websites dedicated to the practice. The steps to discernment found below come from vocationnetwork.org.
Step One: Pray Listen to God’s voice. Invite God into your decision-making process. Try different prayer styles. Attend Mass. Read, meditate, and become aware of God’s presence.
“Ask and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be open to you.” (Matthew 7:7)
Step Two: Know Yourself Listen to your voice. What are your fears and motivations? What makes you feel most whole, holy, and true to yourself? What brings you the most joy?
“Let us search and examine our ways and return to the Lord’s. Let us lift up our hearts as well as our hands toward God in heaven!” (Lamentations 3:40-41)
Step Three: Seek Counsel Listen to other voices. Gather honest input from people who know and love you. Friends, family, parish staff, and spiritual and vocation directors can all help you assess a path you are considering.
“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” (Proverbs 19:20)
Step Four: Act and Confirm Follow your heart. Once you make your decision, you should be at peace and feel satisfied and confident in your choice. Continue to listen with your heart.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27)
To learn about discernment as a Benedictine Sister at St. Scholastica, go to www.duluthbenedictines.org/vocations or
call Sister Lisa Maurer at 218-723-7011.