The first time I heard this word and understood what it meant was ... let me check my watch ... about 12 months ago. It's a common complaint on this blog (and many) to gripe about the secular view, but the secular world cast a shadow on my perception of "vocation," throughout my life.
I thought that it "just felt right" when you thought you would be married, be a nun/monk, or be a priest, so that's what you decided to do. The idea of "discerning" was entirely foreign and, in fact, sounded like I thought God would send down an angel to answer my "honey do list" of questions.
"To answer your questions, yes, yes, heck no, and not today, but give it a few months. Also, wear the green shirt today, it matches that skirt better than the purple one, mkay?" -Gabriel
For one, I didn't think I deserved clear answers. I deserved to suffer in the gray for a little while, I thought. That's how I know I'm doing the right thing. Secondly, I thought I wouldn't know if an answer came from God or from me even if God was standing right in front of me.
Our resident seminarian (Yay!!) led this class and asked the two married teachers and me to speak on our vocations. Mine is in a pseudo transition as an unmarried woman who could still become a nun, be married, or live the single vocation.
The two married teachers spoke about the relationships that lead to their married vocation and how they determined what was important to them for their futures. While they were dating their spouses, they discussed their expectations, their flexibility, and their nonnegotiable values.
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My married, female co-teacher started dating her husband when she was twenty, so the first conversations of this nature were prefaced with the phrase, "I know I want my future spouse and I to ..." rather than, "When we get married..."
They protected each others hearts while discussing the most important parts of the vocation to which they felt called.
My married, male co-teacher explained the distinction between the fluttery feelings that you have for someone and acknowledging that you can build a life with someone. He said that there are times when he gets frustrated with his wife, but that they both know they committed to one another under God.
He said that on the night his first-born entered this world, he felt the immense pull to pray in thanksgiving, for the relief of anxiety, and for the health and life of his new family. Even though he was not in a time of life where he attended weekly Mass, he felt the call to be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.
A short drive later, he arrived in front of the true presence of Jesus Christ and began the first leg of his reversion. The deep commitment and relationship with his wife and their new family motivated him back to a commitment with God.
Chicken and egg? This is where we can plainly see the importance of a thoroughly examined vocation. Pray! For these moments are easily missed if you're not careful.
Religious life or priesthood
Our seminarian (officially, though not in school yet) explained how he felt the tug toward the priesthood for years, even when he wasn't living his life for God. When he did return to living for God and spreading Jesus' message, the tug was stronger than ever.
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He brushed it off for as long as he could, expecting that it was a result of his newly found love for Christ's message. He expected to start dating again and to get married, you know, like normal people.
In the fall, he took a risk and attended a retreat for young men to discern the priesthood and the Holy Spirit V8-smacked him. He heard God's call to apply for the priesthood, so he did and just learned that he got in!
That's all it is for the moment: an invitation to apply. There is no need to freak out beyond that, just listening to God's call, one step at a time, is what He asks.
I'm in a relationship with a wonderful man (more on that in my next TOB post :) ), but I'm unmarried and living as a single person. I'm constantly asking God to make things clear to me, in His time.
I ask Him to give me the strength to do it willingly and with passion because I know doing His will brings the best results. It will make me a fuller person and it will make the world a more Godly place.
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A few short tips I gave the students:
- Learn from other people's mistakes. In college, I didn't see the value in a kiss. Therefore, I kissed a few people I didn't know well or at all. Recently, I came across a situation where I actually had to push away a guy's face with my hands to prevent him from taking a kiss that I finally began to value.
- Don't watch wedding shows unless you're engaged. Those wedding dress, wedding planning, and wedding competition shows glorify the wedding day. This is dangerous because of how exciting a wedding day can be. The shows strip away the idea that it's the beginning of a marriage rather than the most exciting part of the marriage. It also hinders those who might be called to religious life because they feel like they'd be missing out on something. Keep your heart and mind protected, just avoid those shows, if you can.
- Ask God! Ask Him! He's the one who knows you best. He's given you a million clues throughout your life to show you how you can best serve Him, so ask Him to show you His plan! And be patient.
“Are you capable of giving yourselves, your time, your energy and your talent to the well-being of others? Are you capable of love? If you are, Church and society can expect great things of each one of you.”What tips or guidance would you give to teens about discerning vocation?
(Pope John Paul II, Manilla, Phillipines, 1995)