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Discerning a Vocation

We often pray for God’s will to be done in our lives, our families, our church and the world. Every time we pray the Our Father, we ask for God’s will to be done on earth is it is in heaven. We pray for it often, but how do we come to know God’s will?

Recognizing the Call

First we must ask and place ourselves in a disposition to listen. If there is someone with a desire for you to know God’s will, it is God himself. We must ask and, as Samuel did after being instructed by Eli, we must listen. “Speak Lord for your servant is listening.” There are countless distractions and modern gadgets that rob our ability to be still and to listen. Elijah found God in the sheer silence; we too must carve silent moments of prayer and meditation. The more you time you spend in prayer before the Lord, especially in Eucharistic Adoration, the greater clarity you will find. The careful and prayerful reading of Scripture is foundational also: Jesus will confirm the path for your life through Scripture.

Every vocation is a gift from God which must be explored by prayer and merited by the witness of a holy life.

Pope St. John Paul II

Frequenting the Church’s sacraments is instrumental in finding the will of God since in participating in the sacraments we do the will of God. Christ has willed the sacraments as a means to receive God’s grace without fail. Every time we participate in the Eucharist we do His will because we are obedient to Jesus’ command “do this in memory of me.” Go to Mass as often as possible, and frequent the sacrament of Reconciliation at least once per month.

Psalm 37 asserts “find your delight in the Lord who will give you your heart’s desire.” God has planted certain desires in every heart and has the power to fulfill every one of those desires. A good place to start seeking God’s will is to consider the deepest desires and longings of your heart. God reveals His will through our natural desires and abilities, building upon them with His supernatural power. God does not work in a vacuum, but rather works within our heart’s deepest desires.

Doing God’s will requires an openness to conform your will to His will. This alignment will always be a challenge even if God’s will is simple. Consider Naaman the Syrian who did not want to wash in the Jordan River seven times to be healed of his leprosy as God had willed through the prophet Elisha. Washing in the Jordan was simple, but it was challenging for Naaman because that was not what he wanted or expected. God’s will may oftentimes be the simplest option placed before you, but just because it’s the simplest does not mean it will be the easiest because it may require the alignment of wills.

Finally, to discover God’s will requires careful and prayerful discernment. According to the great Ignatius of Loyola, what comes from God is always accompanied with courage and strength, consolation, tears, inspirations and grace. Things are made easier and obstacles are removed so that the soul goes forward in doing good. In other words, God’s will brings peace and stability. On the other hand, what does not come from God harasses with anxiety and sadness while raising obstacles backed by fallacious reasoning that disturbs the soul. The soul is prevented from advancing. In other words, what is not God’s will brings turbulence and incertitude.

A leper fell prostrate in front of Jesus and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean,” and Jesus answered, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The man was open to God’s will and his greatest desire (his healing) perfectly aligned with the will of God. He was made clean. God’s will was done in his life.

If God is calling you to the priesthood, diaconate or religious life, He will reveal it. Gather good information by talking to a priest or religious and reading good material, and above all pray for guidance and wisdom. God will reveal to you how He wants you to follow Him.


  • What is a vocation?
    A vocation is a call from God to do something specifically for Him and for His kingdom. The primary vocation of every person is to be holy! It is the divine calling to love and serve God, to obey His commandments, and to cooperate with Christ in the work of redemption by loving and serving others. But we are all called to a secondary vocation as well, a "state in life" in which we are to be holy.
  • What are some of the "secondary" vocations?
    Many people are called to the vocation of marriage, but it is an error to automatically assume that this is your vocation. One may also be called to the vocation of the priesthood, to the religious life as a sister or brother, or to the diaconate. Finally, some are called by Christ to the single state. Remember: It is normal to desire marriage and family. Just because you have this desire does not exclude the possibility that you have a vocation to the priesthood.
  • What is a religious vow?
    A religious vow is a solemn promise made freely by an individual to give his or her Life to God. Many religious communities make vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience. Some communities have other vows as well. Check out VISION Vocation Guide for articles about religious life and other vocation information.
  • Who are Deacons?

    The ministry of the deacon in the Roman Catholic Church is described as one of service in three areas: the Word, the Liturgy and Charity.

    The deacon's ministry of the Word includes proclaiming the Gospel at the Eucharist, preaching and teaching. His ministry of Liturgy is at the Altar, and includes various parts of the Mass proper to the deacon. At Mass, the deacon is the ordinary minister of the proclamation of the Gospel (in fact, a priest, bishop, or even the Pope should not proclaim the Gospel if a deacon is present) and of Holy Communion (primarily, of the Precious Blood). Deacons typically have the faculty to preach the homily at Mass, at a frequency determined by the pastor.

    The ministry of charity involves service to the poor and marginalized and working with parishioners to help them become more involved in such ministry. Deacons are clerics: they can administer the sacrament of Baptism and serve as the church's witness at the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, which the bride and groom administer to each other. Deacons may preside at various services such as a wake service, and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and they may give blessings. They cannot hear confession and give absolution, anoint the sick, or celebrate Mass.

  • How do I know what God is calling me to do?

    You must pray every single day, asking God to reveal His plan for you. Do not ask yourself, "What do I want to do when I grow up?" This is the wrong question! Rather, you should be thinking and asking: "Jesus, what do You want me to do?" And listen for the answer! The primary area of revelation is the heart. Listen with your heart!

    The discernment process in the priesthood must also include the Church. The local bishop is the one who ultimately decides who is and who is not called. He is assisted in this by the vocation office and the seminary. This whole process is called "discerning one's vocation."

  • Can I be happy in my life if I don't follow God's plan for me?
    If you do not follow the vocation for which God made you, you can attain a certain degree of happiness in this world, and still attain salvation (go to heaven), but you can never be as happy as you might have been, had you followed your proper vocation. This is why it is so important that you discern correctly. Of course, there are trials and tribulations in every vocation. To become a priest does not take away all suffering. But there is great joy in laying down one’s life for Jesus!
  • If I am attracted to the priesthood, does it mean God is calling me to be a priest?
    Possibly, but not necessarily. A man must pray a great deal, listening with both heart and soul to know what God wants him to do. But if you feel some attraction at this point, just continue to pray, go to Mass, and live a Christian life. If you are living a Christian life, Jesus will let you know when the time comes. Also, go talk with your parish priest or with the vocation director. Try to come to the diocesan-sponsored retreats and discernment nights. The vocation director can help you determine if God is calling you to the priesthood.
  • Can I still be a priest if I'm not very holy?
    Holiness (to be like Jesus) is a lifetime endeavor for every person in every vocation. Don't worry if you don't see yourself as very holy right now. God will form you slowly, day by day and week by week, so that you will be ready to be His instrument when the time comes. But for now, use the sacrament of Penance at least once a month. Repent of your sins, receive the sacraments, and pray every day. You will be surprised at how Christ-like you can become!
  • What is celibacy?
    Celibacy, in the religious context, is the means by which a man consecrates himself totally to God for the service of humanity. By celibacy, a Christian sets aside the responsibilities and intimate relationships of family life in order to take on the responsibilities of serving the wider family of man. By a personal relationship with God in prayer, by the friendships and associations with married and single men and women, he grows in his love of humanity and becomes capable of serving God's people more effectively. To be authentic, it must be inspired by a love for Jesus who is the man for others.
  • Why can't priests get married? That must be very difficult.
    Catholic priests in the Roman Rite do not get married so as to dedicate themselves completely to Jesus and to His people. Priests generate "spiritual children" by bringing many souls to Christ and helping them to grow in holiness so that they can one day live forever in Heaven. The sacrifice of celibacy (not getting married) is a sign to the world that only Jesus can give us the happiness that we all so crave. Giving up something as important as marriage and family is a powerful sign to the world that Jesus Christ is real! He is worth living for and sacrificing for. No, it is not easy, but neither is marriage. The fact is, every vocation requires great personal sacrifice. And there is great joy in sacrifice when it is done for Jesus and for others! As one priest said: "It is true that no one will ever call me ‘daddy’. But thousands call me ‘Father’."
  • Will priests ever be allowed to get married?
    It is possible that this law of the Church will one day be changed. If the Holy Spirit wants this change, He will effect it through the Pope and bishops of the world. However, it would be a grave mistake to go to the seminary "expecting" this change. That would be setting oneself up for a big disappointment, should it not happen.
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