Every life journey is unique. Discernment is a process of reflection and prayer which helps people listen to the Spirit and explore their sense of call.
There is only one fundamental Christian vocation – that is, to be a follower, a disciple of Christ. The journey of discipleship begins in baptism. So, there is a radical equality for all those called to follow Christ: no vocation is superior to or better than any other. The Pope, or sister, or brother, or priest isn’t called to be any more holy than the most “ordinary” man or woman or young person.
However, there are different ways of living out our baptismal calling. Most people do so within the sacrament of marriage; some do so as single people – either by choice or through circumstances; some are called to ordained ministry and others to religious life; still others are searching in the gaps.
What each one has to discern is just where/in what context God wants him/her to be Christian. We have to ask: where/doing what can I be the person God is calling me to be? Where/doing what can I be my best, my fullest self? After all, Jesus declared that God sent him “so that we may have life and have it to the full.”
In order to discern God’s will in one’s life, one has to learn how to listen in faith to what God is saying/where God is calling one. That, in turn, presupposes that one is in a living relationship with God/with Jesus.
God speaks to us through the circumstances/events/people in our lives; God speaks to us through our own thoughts/feelings/conscience; God speaks to us deep in our hearts/through our deepest desires; God speaks to us in his word (sacred Scripture) and through the believing community (the Church).
It’s not always easy to hear what God is saying/where God is calling us because there are so many competing voices today – some of them very tempting indeed. So many are seduced by the gospel of consumerism.
Discernment can take place when we cultivate a listening heart in daily, committed prayer. Our discernment can be greatly enriched by seeking out a trained spiritual director or Vocation Director.
“Lord, help me, like Mary, to know your will and to do it – no matter the cost.”
“Lord, teach me to be what you want me to be.”
“Lord, guide me to love. Open my eyes to experience the warmth of resting with, sharing with and holding another so that together we might witness to your promise of love. If it is your dream that I might rest and share and offer all that I have to you, help me to experience in my heart the warmth of your grace, and to hear the whispers of your call and affection. Amen.”
“Lord, I thank you for the gift of life you have given me. I have now reached the stage where I must make a decision how I am going to spend that life. I find myself pulled in so many different directions that I cannot make up my mind. All I know is that whatever path I choose to follow must be one where I use the gifts and talents you have given me to the best of my ability. That is why, Lord, I need guidance and help to direct me in the path I should go.
At times I think I hear your voice echoing the words you spoke to your apostles and disciples long ago, “Come, follow me.” But almost immediately doubts and questions fill my mind. How could I ever be worthy to answer such a call? Where would I get the strength of character, the generosity of spirit, the learning, the intelligence, the dedication required of one who would follow such a lofty vocation? And yet, Lord, those three little words continually arise in my mind and in my thoughts, “Come, follow me.” Lord, are you really calling me? Do you really want me to devote myself completely to your service in the priesthood or religious life? Lord, clear away my doubts and enable me to make a good decision – a decision that will be pleasing to you and equally that will enable me to put my gifts and talents to the best possible use. Hopefully, through the light and guidance of the Holy Spirit, I will make a decision to answer your call “Come, follow me”, and use my life to serve you and your people. Amen.”
“Lord, you made me! Why? I know it is for your glory, but I don’t know what that is about. You yourself prayed that we all may have your life and that your joy be in me, that I be full of your love. Where do I come in? What can I do? Touch me and give me your nudge. You want me to give my whole life to you? You’re not serious, Lord!”
“Lord God, you so loved the world that you sent your only Son to save us. May you be praised forever! Send your Holy Spirit on me that I may discern your plan for me. Do you want me to walk the path of your Son and dedicate my life to the proclamation of your gospel by word and example? Then please make your will known to me and give me the courage to respond positively to your invitation or to find peace and remain faithful to you should you lead me by another path. Not trusting in my own worthiness, I offer this prayer through our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
“Lord, in the many voices calling for my attention and allegiance, may your voice sound loudest and deepest in my heart. I give thanks for the precious gift of human life. During all my years, in whatever profession or position I choose, may the best of my time, energy and resources be always at the service of truth and goodness. May your Spirit guide me so that my life choice may be a genuine following of Christ in doing the Father’s will. Amen.”