“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.” -St. Thomas Aquinas
Don’t discern alone! Often discerning your Vocation can feel like a great burden – one that is all up to you. But God did not create us as isolated individuals, He created us as a family. He created us for relationship, first and foremost with Himself, but also with others. Think about it…what was your first experience of the world? You were a baby, born into a family and loved just because you existed. That is the way God created us – as part of a family, loved as we are.
Your Vocation is the way that you will give your life back to God in response to His great love for you. This response is also a gift to the Church and for the Church. The beauty of your Vocation is that you are not alone in your journey! God has given us the community of the Church to walk with us as we seek to know Him and follow Him. That is good news! As you discern, you will want to foster the relationships that encourage you in your path to holiness.
First and foremost, you want to foster your relationship with Christ. Pray – especially spend time in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Read the Gospels and ask Christ to reveal Himself to you. The more you know Him, the more you will know how loved you are by Him and your response to Him in your Vocation will flow naturally from this.
Second, Christ has given us a great gift – the gift of His mother – to accompany us and intercede for us. Foster a RELATIONSHIP WITH THE BLESSED MOTHER. She knows the joy of receiving God’s love perfectly, having joyfully responded with her whole life to His love. Mary intercedes on our behalf because, like any loving mother, she desires her children to be truly happy. Consecrating yourself to her and asking for her guidance is a sure way of knowing and following God’s will for your life.
Third, foster a RELATIONSHIP WITH THE SAINTS – those holy men and women who have gone before us and are now with Christ in the glory of heaven. They endured the trials that you are enduring and they understood the confusion, the dark nights, and the temptations that come in life. Yet, in the midst of all of this, they strove to continue to love Christ and to follow Him. Yes, they made mistakes, but the most important thing was that they understood that nothing could separate them from Christ’s love. They repented and received the grace that Christ had for them and they continued to pursue a holy life.
Not sure where to start? Maybe try praying to your patron saint – the one you chose at your Confirmation. St. Joseph is also a good one – the one who was chosen to be the earthly father to Christ. Also a contemporary advocate, Pope St. John Paul. He had a great love for young people and encouraged them not to be afraid to give everything to Christ. There is a myriad of other saints that the Church recognizes. Learn about these men and women and pray to them for your needs – especially for your discernment!
Fourth, find a good SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR. A Spiritual Director is someone who accompanies you on your journey to know and love the Lord. They are an advocate for you and they help you to hear and understand the ways the Lord is speaking to you. Spiritual Direction is a confidential relationship – nothing can be revealed by your director about you to anyone else. This is a great gift and allows you to be free in expressing the deepest parts of your heart and life. Finding a Spiritual Director whom you feel comfortable with is a process that can take some time, but the Vocations Office has resources to help you begin. Contact us if you would like help.
Finally, foster GOOD HEALTHY FRIENDSHIPS WITH MEN AND WOMEN. Friendships are a great gift from God. They are the ones who accompany you as you live your life. They share in your sufferings and in your joys. The Book of Sirach says, “Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter; whoever finds one finds a treasure. Faithful friends are beyond price, no amount can balance their worth. Faithful friends are life-saving medicine; those who fear God will find them.”
When discerning your Vocation, it is important that you surround yourselves with other men and women who are striving to love Christ and live for Him as well. Friendships flourish most when they are grounded in truth and love. Good friends can help you to know yourself better and they are also the ones to help point out areas that you may need to grow. With your friends, you can also help them to discern where God is leading them; you can walk the path of holiness together!
Part of discerning your Vocation and fostering good friendships may involve dating. When a dating relationship is based on friendship and mutual respect of the other, then it can lead to much joy, even if it does not end in marriage. It is good to remember that dating is not first about what meets your needs or what the other person can do to make you feel good about yourself, but rather about loving the other person and seeking to know and love them as Christ does. St. John Paul II said that it is the duty of every man to protect the dignity of every woman. Similarly, women are meant to guard the dignity of men as well. God created the relationship of men and women in marriage to be one of self-gift that brings life and not one of selfishness. As you practice this in your dating relationships, it will aid you in your discernment of whether or not you are called to marriage.