HOW TO DISCERN
God has given a special vocation, a unique mission, to each person.
Dear young people, like the first disciples, follow Jesus! Do not be afraid to draw near to him, to cross the threshold of his dwelling, to speak with him, face to face, as you talk with a friend (cf. Ex 33:11). Do not be afraid of the “new life” he is offering.
– St. John Paul II
What is a Vocation?
Vocation comes from the Latin word ‘vocare’ which means ‘to call.’ God is calling all of us to a relationship with Himselft right now. A vocation is a response to how Jesus is already calling you to be in relationship with Himself. In this relationship, Jesus will show you His plan for your life.
Discernment comes from a Latin word ‘discernere’ which means ‘to separate.’ When one is “discerning a vocation”, it means they are taking time apart to listen to Jesus in order to hear his voice. When one experiences the unique and personal love of Jesus, desires begin to grow within his/her heart. These desires grow over time and begin to direct the individual’s life. To discern then is to ‘separate’ this deep holy desire from the many other desires of life and choose to follow the voice of Jesus, the good shepherd.
Three Foundations for Effective Discernment
Without these three foundation, we cannot properly discern our vocation. If these foundations are in place, then we are rooted and Jesus will make known to us our particular vocation.
Foundation One: Prayer
Since a vocation is a call from God, He calls us to a relationship with himself where we are able to discern, or separate, his voice from the many other voices in our lives vying for our attention. Responding to God’s initiative in your life by frequenting the sacraments (especially mass), silent prayer (especially Eucharistic adoration), lectio divina, the rosary, and spiritual reading are necessary. Without prayer one cannot recognize the gentle tug of Jesus’ voice in your life.
How is my relationship with Jesus?
How often do I attend mass?
How much uninterrupted time do I spend with Jesus daily?
Am I currently reading anything spiritually uplifting?
What more is Jesus calling me to?
Foundation Two: Christian Community
One does not live the Christian life alone. We are made for relationship with God and others. Supportive and faith-filled community is necessary. This comes in many forms, firstly, Christian friendship. Likewise, small groups, Bible studies, retreats, and a variety of other gatherings help us to live as active members of the Church. Furthermore, a trained spiritual director is essential for discerning the movements of one’s heart.
Do I have authentic Christian friendships? Who are they?
What faith-filled groups and activities am I involved in?
Do I have a spiritual director?
What more might Jesus be calling me to get involved in?
Foundation Three: Mission
When one’s life is transformed by the person of Jesus, they are called to be on mission with Him. This mission takes many forms and fits the unique gifts and personalities of each person. Many desire to make Jesus know to others through authentic friendships, small groups, parish involvement such as teaching catechism classes, and liturgical involvement such as lecturing and being an EMHC. Some desire service to the poor. It is good to notice what Jesus is bringing alive within your heart.
How do I long to be on mission with Jesus in his church?
What desires have stirred within me since coming to know Jesus and having my life transformed by him?
How might Jesus be calling me to be on mission with him and others?
Discerning Your Particular Vocation
Marriage ~ Priesthood ~ Consecrated Life
1. Desire: What do I really desire? If my fears and concerns about practical details were put aside, what would I really want for my future with Jesus?
2. Thoughts about priesthood or consecrated life: Have I had thoughts about these vocations? When did I first start thinking about it? How frequently do I think about it?
3. The discerning of spirits: While God calls us closer to himself, there are other voices, or influences, which try to pull us away. To discern well we need to be aware of Jesus’ voice and choose to follow Him. We also need to be aware of the voice of the enemy who tries to discourage us and reject this voice. The process of becoming aware of these different voices is called ‘the discernment of spirits’, which was developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola. It would be very helpful to familiarize yourself with the book ‘The Discernment of Spirits’ by Fr. Timothy M. OMV Gallagher, which makes accessible the teaching of St. Ignatius about discernment.
4. Talk with others: Many who are discerning are afraid of telling others. It is necessary to find someone you trust and share your expereinces with them.
5. Talk with the Vocation Director: The vocation director’s role is to walk with young men and women who are discerning. He can help set up practical next steps.
6. Visit a seminary or monastery: The Office for Vocations has many scheduled visits one can attend. Contact the Vocations Director or visit the events calendar for upcoming tours.
7. Join a discernment group: There are many discernment groups for men and women throughout the Archdiocese of Omaha. These groups provide support to young men and women. These groups are a place to meet others who are also discerning, to pray together, and discuss practicals in discerning one’s vocation.
Scripture for Discernment
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