Perhaps you’ve always felt different. It’s a small feeling, one that only arises here and there. It shows up when you’re out with friends, or maybe it’s when you’re alone at night, lying in bed, your mind racing.
You survey your life — your attachments, your relationships, your job — and you say to yourself: “There seems to be something missing. But what?”
Don’t silence this question. Don’t brush it aside. Embrace it, for it could lead to beautiful things.
Often, this question is the beginning of a journey called vocational discernment, where people begin to earnestly seek what God wants of them.
A vocation is not merely your career. It has another meaning. In terms of faith, it is your being, and it refers to your total purpose, what God has called you to do. There are all sorts of vocations: religious life, diocesan priesthood, married life, single life. And within religious life, there are more still: monasticism, for instance, which can encompass the priesthood, too.
Trying to figure this out can often involve looking backward, sifting through memories and interests. At age 5, you think, your parents always caught you playing Mass. You couldn’t explain it, but you felt drawn to it somehow, like you were fulfilling a primordial urge — even then, even before you could count beyond 10.
Maybe you have always imagined yourself married. You cannot think of a time where you didn’t want to own a house and raise a family and stay lovingly married until death did you part.
Or maybe those don’t describe you at all. Maybe there was an unexpected moment, one that pulled your life off the road and into a ditch, one that pushed you in a certain direction. You said to yourself: I need to do something about this.
But wait. These inclinations, although helpful, do not necessarily mean you are suited for those particular vocations. Hence we have the discernment process, which involves meeting with a spiritual director, the vocation director of a diocese or of a religious order, and speaking with family and friends.
In this also is prayer. You should ask God daily what he wants of you. You should try to attend Mass as often as possible — meaning more than once per week — and you should take advantage of such things as adoration and confession.
Starting this adventure is not easy. Most people don’t even consider it. Sadly, they float into certain vocations without much thinking or preparation, and when they encounter any sort of difficulty, they leave. That’s not how this works.
Finding your vocation will likely take years. And once you find it, once you make a decision, you must commit to it. You must ask God for the grace to continue. If it is meant to be, then He will provide.
And He will fill you with joy.
Jonathan Bishop is vocation coordinator for The Assumptionists.