When it comes to your vocation, do you find yourself in a land of confusion? What does God want from me? What are His plans for my life? Perhaps you have heard a “still, small voice” in your heart and wonder if you are called to the religious life. Maybe you are experiencing a certain amount of shrinking back — overwhelmed with a sense of fear and a feeling of unworthiness. If so, then take heart and “Be Not Afraid.”
Words from our Holy Father Pope Benedict at his installation, offer us great impetus to discern with peace and enthusiasm.
At this point, my mind goes back to 22 October 1978, when Pope John Paul II began his ministry here in Saint Peter’s Square. His words on that occasion constantly echo in my ears:
“Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ!” The Pope was addressing the mighty, the powerful of this world, who feared that Christ might take away something of their power if they were to let him in, if they were to allow the faith to be free. Yes, he would certainly have taken something away from them: the dominion of corruption, the manipulation of law and the freedom to do as they pleased. But he would not have taken away anything that pertains to human freedom or dignity, or to the building of a just society. The Pope was also speaking to everyone, especially the young. Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? And once again the Pope said: No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life. Amen.
This lengthy quote is worth rereading and referring to when one meets with obstacles in following Christ in a religious vocation.
There are several steps to take when discerning God’s Will regarding your vocation. The first step is to recognize that every vocationis a gift from God. In particular, a calling to the religious life is an unmerited gift from God: A gift that leads the soul to abandon all things and follow Christ. Every one of us are called to respond to God’s choice, to accept His gift.
After recognizing that a vocation is a gift from God, abandonment to Divine Providence is necessary. Through Eucharistic adoration, this trusting abandonment blossoms into a great peace of soul. There, in the Most Blessed Sacrament, you can find your Teacher, your Guide, your Savior — totally given over to the Father’s Will. Humble and hidden, our Omnipotent God waits for you in this Sacrament of His Love. The mystery of the Holy Eucharist houses the very heart of a vocation to the religious life. The Son of Man, we read in the Gospels, came not to be served but to serve. And so Our Eucharistic King is the great Exemplar for every religious — a selfless existence, totally given over to the Father.
After abandoning yourself to Divine Providence, listen to God’s reply. And reply He will. Probably not audibly, but the Word will speak to your heart. Often you may not be able to totally grasp all that He is saying, but still the Spirit moves your heart to seek a better understanding, to seek the fulfillment of this Word. And this leads to the next step of this vocational journey — seeking spiritual direction.
Like Saint Paul on the road to Damascus, you may feel as though you have been thrown off your horse and blinded by God’s Eternal Light. But He will not leave you to languish in confusion. Rather the Lord often uses other people to heal your blindness and lead you to understanding. Ananias was the instrument chosen to aid Saint Paul … who shall it be for you? Competent spiritual direction is absolutely necessary when discerning a vocation.
And then, of course, there is one more step. Through this active discernment, perhaps it was decided that indeed you do have a vocation to the religious life — now what? This next step demands a total reliance on grace, for alone you would never be able to walk on. It is the moment when you must give your consent, your acceptance of this gift of God. Yes, this is the moment of truth: the moment of the great fiat: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.” And though this is the final step for the discernment process, it is but the first step in a great adventure.
If you are interested in our way of life, please write to us!
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Hanceville, AL 35077
We live in the shadow of a very dark age of history, an age that asks with Pilate: “What is truth?” The silent witness of a religious answers this question without speaking a single word. Their very existence in the heart of the Church cries out: Jesus Christ is TRUTH. Those consecrated to God are to be rays of His Light.