Road to religious vocation is clear when God’s driving from back seat

| Susan Klemond for The Catholic Spirit | June 6, 2012 | 0 Comments

Tara Smith believes her small “yeses” to God eventually revealed the big “yes” he had for her — confirmation of her call to the religious life.

From her first fleeting thought five years ago as a high school senior about becoming a nun, until now, as she prepares to enter a contemplative monastery, Smith has been on a journey to discover the Lord’s plan for her.

“The more I said yes to the Lord in these little ways, like getting a spiritual director, going on retreat, the more it was confirmed,” said Smith who will enter the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration of Our Lady of Solitude in Tonopah, Ariz., in July. “I had more and more peace.”

Living faith more deeply

While some say the early stages of discerning a vocation to the religious life or priesthood can involve more challenges than peace, learning to say yes through devotion to prayer, receiving the sacraments often and meeting with a spiritual director can help them conform their will to God’s and understand how he is calling them, according to vocation directors.

“If the Lord isn’t part of the equation, you can discern until you’re blue in the face and you’ll be constantly searching,” said Father Troy Przybilla, archdiocesan vocations director. “Just spend that time with our Lord, go to Mass more frequently, go to confession, just basically live your faith more — that would be my first step.”

Spending time with the Blessed Sacrament reading and praying with Scripture or just in silent prayer aids discernment, Father Przybilla said.

Through prayer, discerners will be better able to hear the Lord’s voice, said Sister M. Consolata, FSGM, vocation director for the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George in Alton, Ill., where several Minnesota women have entered in recent years.

“The main thing is prayer and the sacraments because our life is based on a relationship with Jesus, so they have to get to know him,” she said. “As they deepen that relationship with him they will hear his voice and they will know whether he’s calling them to religious life or marriage.”

Along with seeking the Lord’s will in prayer, discerners can find information on religious and priestly vocations, religious orders and other resources online, including the vocations website of the U.S. Conference of Cath­olic Bishops and the Office for Vocations of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Conforming one’s will

Distractions, pressure to explore every option and a fear of commitment are among the challenges discerners face, Father Przybilla said.

“Once we can get over that hurdle or fear or whatever it may be that keeps us wanting to keep all our options open, then we can really get down to making decisions for our life,” he said.

The most difficult challenge for discerners, however, is wrestling with conforming their own will, he said.

“What it really comes down to is getting to the point of, we are Mary: ‘Let it be done unto me according to your Word,’” according to Father Przybilla. Reaching that disposition of heart has to do with factors such as the person’s formation and any baggage they have. Their will ultimately must come into conformity with God’s will, he said.

The same call to prayer and challenges apply whether someone is discerning diocesan priesthood or religious life, but those discerning religious life need to do more research to discover what type of community they’re being called to, Sister Consolata said.

“Where do you feel at home, where can you be yourself?” she asked. “Where does your personality come alive? That’s really what the charism of the community is; it’s already in a person.”

John DeLozier decided while serving a year with NET Ministries that he most wanted to bring others to Christ. Of all the ways to do that, he discerned a call to bring them the sacraments as a priest.

“That’s really the desire of my heart, and I had been feeling this call to the seminary — I have to go check it out,” said DeLozier, of St. Michael in St. Michael, who had been praying about the possibility before he started at St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul last fall. “I can’t not go and just listen.”

After spending this year in seminary, he’s still discerning and has found regular spiritual direction especially helpful.

“I’m just waiting for that more definitive call — just taking it one day, one year at a time of formation and seeing what God wants,” said DeLozier, who starts his sophomore year at SJV this fall.

The Lord doesn’t reveal everything at once, which can be agonizing, Father Przybilla said.

“With regard to all vocations, God doesn’t let us see beyond, to see our lives all the way to the end,” he said. “We discern in a sense what we’re feeling drawn toward, where we feel God is leading us. . . .

The joy is found in knowing God is calling you to something extraordinary, something that is above the mundane daily activities of this world,” he said.

Smith said she’s felt more at peace as she prepares to become a nun.

“My heart and my soul were increasingly more at rest with each step I took toward religious life,” she said. “And now it’s like a joyful resting in the Lord’s will, something I realized I had been seeking for a long time.”

Category: Vocations