Vocation Discernment Blog
By Sister Frances Kelly
Tuesday 21st July
The Christian Vocation
By our Baptism each of us is called, chosen and sent to carry on the mission of Jesus, to use our gifts and talents in the service of God and of one another.
Some are called to the vocation of marriage and family life. The mutual love of husband and wife is the perfect image of Christ’s love for his Church. It is in the home that the love of God is first experienced through the loving care of parents and relatives.
Some are called to the single life in loving service of the wider community and family.
Some are called to the consecrated life, living the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience through a life of contemplative prayer and in service to the needs of the world, especially of the poor.
Some are called to the vocation of priesthood, to serve the community of the parish through the Sacraments, through preaching the Word of God and through pastoral care.
- Who am I?
- What is my life about?
- Where am I going?
These are questions that we ask ourselves at different times in our lives, especially when we are making choices about the path we should follow in life.
People often think that “vocation” is a word that only applies to priests and nuns, or that it means following a particular trade or profession. Christians believe that God has made each of us uniquely different, with our own particular gifts and qualities. We are all called to follow Jesus Christ on our life journey and to use our gifts in the service of others. We are all called to love. This is our Christian vocation.
Over the next few blogs we will look at the different choices through personal testimonies that people may make to follow their Christian calling.
Wednesday 24th June
Discernment itself should not be a stiff, brittle, anxious thing, but since it too is part of God’s will for our lives – loving and joyful and peace-filled, more like a game than a war, more like writing love letters than taking exams. (Peter Kreeft)
There is a difference between wanting to do something and choosing to do it. There’s a difference between having a dream and having a goal. There’s a difference between getting excited by something and actually taking steps to accomplish it. Taking action is necessary. Taking action clarifies; taking action purifies. Taking action becomes a test of whether you really want something or it’s just a nice idea.
I can have a dream, I can have a vision, I can have hope but until I realise that dream or act on that hope, it all remains just a dream and sadly nothing more. This is true whether your dream is to get married or to enter a seminary or convent. It is in saying ‘YES’ that the dream can become a reality. Taking the initial steps is saying ‘YES’, it is saying this is something I want to do but is it something that I will do.
Until we act on pursuing a vocation, our intention is muddy, and our desires are mixed. But when we begin to act, very quickly our intention becomes clearer and our desire, what we are truly looking for, becomes more and more purified. In taking the steps we are beginning the discernment process; we are taking action! A massive part of discernment is recognizing that even when God doesn’t give you the answer you want, he is still present and calls us again and again to prayer. During these days take time to sit quietly and speak with God, recognising that he may not give you the answer that you want, when you want it, but be content knowing he is with you and hearing your words.
- Is there an opportunity in front of you that you might regret not pursuing?
- What small steps can you take today, trusting God for the next one tomorrow?
Tuesday 2nd June
SURRENDER ALL TO MARY
Our Lady said Yes to God’s plan for her life,
and the world was changed forever.
We have a special ally on our side to whom we can run and beg for additional guidance as we journey on our way through life. Mary mother of the church, queen of Heaven, mother of God and our own spiritual mother.
Mary knew well about making a life-changing decision. When the angel came to her to announce her favour with God, she followed up her questions with an emphatic yes, her fiat, “Let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Mary did not understand all that saying yes would mean for her future, but she trusted in the goodness of God and she knew he would not abandon her on the journey ahead.
Reflecting on Mary’s example, where in your life do you need to trust in God? What decision are you agonizing over? How is God calling you to act? Mary is advocating for us in this life and wishes more than anything for us to experience the fullness of life.
As St. John Paul ll said, “This woman of faith, Mary of Nazareth, the Mother of God, has been given to us as a model in our pilgrimage of faith. From Mary, we learn to surrender to God’s will in all things. From Mary, we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone. From Mary we learn to love Christ, her Son and the Son of God.”
As you move towards the next step of your journey, look to Mary as a steadfast guide and inspirational example of radical trust in God’s faithfulness. Mary takes all our offerings and hands them to Christ himself, the fastest road to the heart of Christ is through Mary, his own Mother. I challenge you today to step out as Mary did….and be not afraid!
- Have you ever entrusted Mary with significant parts of your journey?
- If so, what has been the result
Wednesday 20th May
SEARCH YOUR FEELINGS
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
By trying to keep our options open and never committing to one thing, we actually miss out on all things. We do many things poorly instead of throwing ourselves into one thing and doing it well. We can have twenty tabs open in our internet browser yet not be attentive to any of them. We think we can master the skill of looking at a mobile phone, laptop, drinking coffee, studying and listen to a friend all at the same time, but the truth is we fail miserably at being attentive to any one thing. Many of us think that we are great at multitasking, but the reality is, we are not doing any one thing very well at all.
Whenever we decide on something, we are cutting off the other possible options. If we are meant to live life deeply then we must start by examining what is on the table and what is unnecessary, we must learn that not everything is good and that sometimes the good is the enemy of the great. While you might be able to do almost anything you simply cannot do everything, you simply cannot “do it all”. But do not be disheartened by this, it is OK, because in committing to one or two things you can and will find a great freedom which brings happiness and peace of mind.
“Search your feelings”. Our emotions, reactions, decisions, and indecisions usually have an underlying current to them that we are either unaware of or afraid to face. To grow in spiritual maturity and be able to discern the road ahead requires that we slow down and sift through what is going on beneath the surface. We will never know if we are heading in the right direction unless we search out where the Lord is moving. Take comfort in the words of Christ, who counsels us to seek and knock, for he will be with us in the searching.
What am I seeking?
What is weighing on my mind and heart?
What matters most to me?
Thursday 7th May
FOLLOWING THE WILL OF GOD
“God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission.”
(St. John Henry Newman)
Following the will of God in your life is the most fulfilling thing you will ever do; when we fall in love with the Lord, everything changes. We have a desire to truly know, follow and serve Him in all that we do. However, it is indeed true to say that this can be exhausting and very confusing.
Sometimes there are no answers to the questions we ask. There are several paths we can take and there is no clear “right” or “wrong” choice. This is often confusing, difficult, and discouraging. We grow weary and get disheartened and we begin to wonder if the journey to finding God’s will is worth the effort or even truly possible. We expect everything to be delivered or downloaded instantly because we live in a world of instant! Who would have thought that we could ask our phones questions and get instant answers? We live in arguably the most distracting age known to humanity. It is easy to get lost in the shuffle of it all and when we do face serious decisions, we can feel totally adrift.
Listening to the voice of God and discerning His will is a way of life that does not end. You may have chosen right or maybe you chose wrong, but take heart and listen to the voice of God. Remember that God sees our identity first, He is a God who loves us and a Holy Spirit who breathes courage and peace into us. God does not want us to be robots; He wants us to be human persons who freely chose. Assuming that you are taking this process to prayer, collaborating with others, and striving for holiness, you will not choose wrongly. You have a God who is guiding you and loves you unconditionally.
Think of a time when you were not sure you were making the right decision. How was God present with you? How did He guide you?
How is God calling you to exercise the power of choice today?
Friday 1st May
BE AT PEACE KNOWING GOD IS WORKING DEEP WITHIN YOUR HEART
“The Lord has a plan for each one of us, He calls each one of us by name. Our task is to learn how to listen, to perceive His call, to be courageous and faithful in following Him and, when all is said and done, to be found trustworthy servants who have used well the gifts given to us.”
(Pope Benedict XVI)
So far, you have looked inward at your central questions. You have sat with some truths of your own identity as a beloved child of God, and you know the Lord is with you in this process. You have examined your thoughts, emotions and fears. You have spent time in silence to assess what is going on beneath the surface and you have given God the chance to speak. Today we arrive at the subject of discernment: now you must sort through it all and sift out where you think God is directing your steps.
Discernment is a fluid process, one not always set in stone. The process of discernment is a way of life, not a once-in-a-lifetime process. We may choose a decision wisely, but there are always moments when perhaps we must change course and begin the process again. You may not need to quit your job in order to examine the next opportunity. Perhaps you can start researching, making contact, arrange a visit or a meeting, arrange a date with that person you are interested in; this process is to “come and see”. A small step will often give you clarity as to whether this is an option worth pursuing.
But God cannot work if you never make the move, if you never write that email, make that call. Sometimes we have “vocational paralysis”, or we become the “eternal discerner”. That means doing all the right things but never making a decision or commitment, and so we never make a move in any direction. Sadly, we are cutting off every option because we are too scared to pursue any option. Consider this question: What is the cost of not doing this? Will you regret shutting the door on the opportunity before you? Throughout the past weeks we have recognised that we have some time on our hands during these days of lockdown, however, will you take a small step to move forward with the information that God has given you?
In Pope Francis’ letter for Vocations Sunday 2020, we read: Taking the right course is not something we do on our own, nor does it depend solely on the road we choose to travel. How we find fulfilment in life is more than a decision we make as isolated individuals; above all else, it is a response to a call from on high. The Lord points out our destination on the opposite shore and he grants us the courage to board the boat. In calling us, he becomes our helmsman; he accompanies and guides us; he prevents us from running aground on the shoals of indecision and even enables us to walk on surging waters.
Every vocation is born of that gaze of love with which the Lord came to meet us, perhaps even at a time when our boat was being battered by the storm. “Vocation, more than our own choice, is a response to the Lord’s unmerited call” (Letter to Priests, 4 August 2019). We will succeed in discovering and embracing our vocation once we open our hearts in gratitude and perceive the passage of God in our lives. (Pope Francis, Vocations Sunday 2020)
We read in Christus Vivit 143: Do not observe life from a balcony. Do not confuse happiness with an armchair or live your life behind a screen. Whatever you do, do not become the sorry sight of an abandoned vehicle! Do not be parked cars, but dream freely and make good decisions. Take risks even if it means making mistakes.
We are too afraid of making a mistake in our decisions. This choice to not decide is, ironically, a decision. Of course, there will always be problems thrown your way that you cannot plan for. Do not discern your decision to death, with inaction. Be brave and take that step, make one small decision today.
This Sunday 3rd May is Vocations Sunday. I suggest looking at our Vocations Sunday webpage, where you will read some inspirational stories about making decisions, hearing God’s call and answering His call. Take time to read and reflect on these stories and journeys of life. Say quietly to yourself the Vocation Prayer and seriously listen to God “calling YOU by name.”
Pray this Sunday for your own vocation and for the vocation of others, who like you are struggling to make any decision, to take even that one small step that could change the course of life.
Tuesday 28th April
“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you”
(1 Peter 5:7)
In taking time for silence and sitting with the present moment, we may encounter feelings of loneliness. This is OK! Loneliness comes to us all; it is part of the human experience. It is natural for us to want to run from this feeling of being lonely and we find ourselves wanting to escape by any means necessary.
St. John Paul II described loneliness as “original solitude” – the deep sense that we as humans stand alone in the universe as wholly different from the animals, plants and the stars. We share something with creation, and yet we have a very different place in creation. Remember loneliness is just God knocking on your heart asking you to spend time with Him. Do not be afraid if all you seem to hear is silence. Sometimes the “silence” of God that we experience in prayer is a simple affirmation that we are where we need to be, God wants us to simply “be” and not spend time wasting our moments overthinking everything that we are experiencing in these unprecedented times.
What we do with our Loneliness is important; it is important that we recognise it and feel it. Do not run from it, rather face the loneliness and enter it asking the Lord to be with you in this darkness and then listen to what He is saying to you. What is more, you are never really alone; the God of the universe, the God of the present moment, is closer than you realise! When loneliness strikes you during these days of uncertainty, remember that God knows you, loves you and is present with you.
During these days of lockdown, we are all following the current guidelines that everyone should be staying at home wherever possible. Meeting up with friends might not be possible right now, but it is easy to stay in touch with everyone via technology, using our phones to text or WhatsApp, our laptops, iPad to Skype or Zoom, all great ways of connecting with others and keeping in touch. However, many of us forgo picking up the phone in favour of this instant messaging, but now is the time to get in contact the old-fashioned way. Just hearing a friend’s voice can help reduce loneliness and make us feel more connected. As God puts people on your heart, pray for them and reach out to connect with them – this will be a way for you to turn around your loneliness and in some way you will feel connected to others who may also be in a place of loneliness.
Remember God is with you in this process.
Recall a time when you felt lonely. What did you do about it?
Pray with this question: “Is God enough for me?” If everything in your life were to be taken away, would the love of God be enough for you?
Thursday 23rd April
YOUR PRESENT MOMENT IS NOT A WASTE
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope.’”
We all know the phrase, “the grass is greener on the other side.” Well, it should really say, “we think the grass is always greener on the other side; but really the grass is greener where you water it.”
We say things like, “I’ll be happy when so and so happens” or “I’ll be happy if so and so happens.” How about just being happy with today. During these days of uncertainty let’s not spend our time thinking about tomorrow and what that will bring, but rather spend time thinking about the NOW, our present moment. Your time right now is not a waste. Right now, in this very moment, your life is happening. Do not waste the precious moments of this, your present reality; use your NOW moment for the Highest Purpose – the creation and the expressions of WHO YOU REALLY ARE.
You have time right now to develop your skills, read, write, pray and serve. The present moment is a time of training for whatever the Lord has in store ahead. Look at yourself today and be honest with where you are and where you need to grow. The future can provide hope, and the past can provide closure but focusing on either one obsessively, however, quickly becomes deteriorating to your mental and emotional health. During these days of lockdown, it is easy to spend our moment dwelling on many negative thoughts and wishing for something else! Life is not about worrying about the past or the future.
Begin working on areas of your life today. The best gift you can give to your future vocation is to sanctify your present day. We grow in holiness and virtue in the quiet, unnoticed moments of each day. So, get living and leave the rest to God – you are on the journey of life. Stay focused on your current step and make sure it’s the best footing for the next. For today, be right where you are.
Do you struggle to stay in the present moment?
If so, what is pulling at your attention?
How can you be more present in the moment?
Monday 20th April
BE NOT AFRAID!
“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will uphold you with My right hand of righteousness.”
Fear holds us back from acting boldly, it convinces us to play it safe and run away from risk, even risk that is likely to be good for us and bring about good things and a flourishing life. Fear of failure keeps us from attempting anything outside our comfort zone. We fear answering Yes to our calling because we feel we are not good enough; we fear not being successful and we fear not being perfect. Perhaps the reality is we fear the notion that we might succeed in our goals and must experience the changes that will necessarily come. Maybe during this period of lockdown, we should take time to reflect on this notion of fear of change and commitment!
Much has been written about the “fear of missing out” (FOMO), a widespread phenomenon due to the rise of social media platforms. As we scroll through the highlights of other people’s lives, we are tempted to compare ourselves, and we only perceive the places we are not invited, the group chats where we are not the centre of attention. We envy those who have more power, wealth or are more popular than we are. We must snap ourselves out of this scrolling, let us look around and shift the focus to what is happening in our own lives in this present moment. God is inviting us to focus on Him alone, to take time to listen to his voice, to be silent and still, to listen as he echoes in our hearts the words:
“Be not afraid.”
Why is it that we need to hear these words repeatedly? Perhaps because the Lord understands how powerful fear is and how easily we forget the goodness of the Lord’s promises. God will deliver; we need only wait upon him and not give in to fear and anxiety.
Perhaps today take some time to pray with scripture:
Psalm 118:6 – “With the LORD on my side I do not fear”.
John 16:33 – “I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace”.
Joshua 1:9 – Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
Recognise your fear?
Write it down – I experience a fear of…………. It is good to name whatever is holding you back.
Bring this fear to the Lord in prayer. God is ALWAYS our source of protection, strength and peace during unknown times.
Wednesday 15th April
JOY IN THE MIDST OF A STORM!
“So also, you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.”
Over the past few weeks, we’ve all been watching as the world is taken over by Coronavirus, and recently the stark reality of the virus has begun to take hold. The future is uncertain, and we are left feeling fearful.
How are we then able to find joy during this storm? And is joy something that we can choose?
It’s hard not to be troubled by all the thoughts that flood your mind. That’s why it’s even more important at this time to think about the ways in which we can manage our anxieties so we don’t get dragged unexpectedly into the storm, and to also remember others who might be struggling at this time.
Whilst we are facing a lot of restrictions on things that we are allowed to do, there are also many ways to find joy.
You can try:
1) Remembering every day something that has brought you joy and write it down.
2) Telling someone you love what they mean to you (by phone call, text, email, letter…). Love casts out fear. Love inspires confidence and trust; authentic love heals.
3) Reflecting on the wonder of God’s creation.
4) Hoping for the future by writing down future goals. You can write down all the things that you miss during this period of isolation and put them in a jar so that once a sense of normality is returning you can work your way through the jar with a new-found appreciation for the little things.
5) Inviting others to experience joy and be blessed yourself in sharing it.
- It’s ok to also not feel ok at this time…
- It’s ok to feel tired…
- It’s ok to cry…
- It’s ok to feel broken.
Remember a phrase echoed by the prophets, priests and Popes throughout the centuries: “Be not afraid!” Isn’t it interesting that the beloved St. John Paul II reiterated this specific message constantly in his speeches, especially when he spoke to young people?
Think about Mary’s suffering as she stood beneath the cross, watching her son die. The pain must have felt like a knife cutting into her heart, just like Simeon had predicted the day Mary and Joseph presented baby Jesus in the temple. How could she have stood the pain, standing by helplessly, while her son suffered such a horrible death, watching his life slowly slipping away and there was nothing she could do?
There was nothing Jesus could do to ease her pain while she watched him die but give her to John. He gave his mother to John, to love her, and take care of her for him, after he was gone. They needed each other. They would need each other to get through the days ahead of them. Mary needed John, but John also needed Mary.
We need Mary too, in our own moments of weakness. When we suffer, when life gets to be too much, too difficult, too hard to handle by ourselves. We are not always as strong as Mary was, we are weaker than Mary. When our own faith falters and we are not so sure about our own lives anymore, we should try to remember what Jesus said in the last moments of his life on earth, “Behold, your mother”.
Everything we need to know about life, is found in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.
It is precisely in difficult and challenging times that we must look to the witnesses of faith. Mary is the greatest of them all. Through her pilgrimage of faith, she walked into the night of faith. Not everything was clear for Mary, but she continued to trust, and she continued to obey. She abandoned herself entirely into God’s loving and providential care. Full understanding only came to her at Pentecost. It was there that she understood all the things that she had cherished in her heart.
Let us turn to Mary, our Mother most Sorrowful during these days.
Let us allow her to embrace us with her love.
Let us run to her and seek in her the maternal strength and consolation that we all need to walk through the things in our lives that seem absurd and incomprehensible.
Wednesday 8th April / Maundy Thursday
Each of us has some kind of vocation. We are called by God to share in his life and in his Kingdom. Each one of us is called to a special place in the Kingdom. For each one of us, there is only one thing necessary: to fulfil our own destiny, according to God’s will, to be what God wants us to be.
– Thomas Merton
A vocation is not something we rightfully choose for ourselves but some action or way of life that draws us in and gives us life. For a Christian, there is an even deeper understanding of vocation. A central theme that occurs again and again in the Bible is “Called by Name.” Remember we spoke about identity in Blog 2? WHO ARE YOU? God has called you by name, not just randomly, but as an unrepeatable individual with something special to contribute to the world and to the kingdom of God.
The call to every person is to Love, and God who is love has created us out of love and for love. Your vocation is not just about what you do, but in fact more about who you are called to be. Hearing this call is simply uncovering who you already are and remembering that identity. From this identity will flow your eventual mission or task.
However, as shared in Blog 3 one of the crucial points of being able to hear God call us by name is having the ability to listen in silence. We must continue to make the effort to switch off the distractions and noise so we can better know ourselves and allow God to speak to us in the stillness and silence of our heart, the very core of our being.
The more time spent reading the scriptures and in prayer, the more clearly you will hear his voice. Challenge yourself to switch off the noise and have the courage to be still and silent in your own created space.
Do you struggle to stay in the present moment?
If so, what is pulling at your attention?
How can you be more present in the moment?
Tuesday 7th April
DOES SILENCE SCARE YOU?
What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before God, for the language he hears best is silent love.
– St John of the Cross
Many people instinctively fear silence because of the risk of repressed memories or serious questions coming to light, and we go to great lengths to avoid being left alone with our own thoughts. We all have our smartphones and tablets, and the average adult now spends approximately three hours a day on mobile devices. I am sure this information is correct prior to the country going into lockdown and many of us working from home; I think it is safe to say that these hours will certainly have risen. In addition to keeping our memories at bay, this constant use of mobile devices also affects our ability to use our imagination, navigate boredom, and most importantly, spend time in prayer hearing the voice of God.
God is usually subtle, he does not barge into our lives like a bolt of lightning, rather he leads with a “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). Mother Teresa would often say that God speaks the loudest in silence. But if we do not make room for silence, we will never hear the call of the Good Shepherd.
We must eliminate all other competing voices in order to hear the voice of our shepherd, Jesus Christ. Now in these days of lockdown, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, more than ever we must make an effort to switch off the distractions and noise so we can better know ourselves, discern the movements of our souls and recognise the voice of God.
Where or when do you struggle to embrace silence?
What thoughts and memories are stirred up when you are silent
Challenge yourself to sit in silence for at least ten minutes (or longer)
Friday 3rd April
WHO ARE YOU?
You have made us for yourself O Lord, and my heart is restless until it rests in You.
– St Augustine of Hippo
It is a seemingly simple question, who are you? But one we do everything and anything to avoid. For some of us it’s just too difficult to answer. It is the question that spins us around, it is the question that can only be answered if we take time to be silent! If we never shut off the relentless noise and begin to rest in this profound question it will indeed be difficult for us to start the journey of discernment and discovery.
Discernment is ultimately about unearthing the will of the loving Father who has given YOU a profound identity. So, let us go back to the question – who are you? For the follower of Jesus Christ, the root of your identity lies in the gift of your Baptism: You are a beloved child of God.
Take some quiet time to sit with this reality, pray for the grace to let go and receive this truth at a deep level: You are loved, and you are necessary, you are unique and you are called.
Who am I?
What gifts have I received from God?
What is keeping me from seeing myself as a beloved child of God?
Wednesday 1st April
The very first words out of Jesus’ mouth in the Gospel of John, “What are you looking for?” cut to the heart of the question.
Clearly, we are meant to exist at a level deeper than what the world alone can offer us. What purpose has God put on your heart? Do you believe that you have a purpose?
To be fully human is to live for something, to have meaning, to have a purpose. A person without purpose is merely existing. Too many people brimming with potential are adrift because they have not answered the central question: “What are you looking for?”
What am I seeking?
What is weighing on my mind and heart?
What matters most to me?