Licensed to Discern

It was a few weeks ago that I was assigned to give the ‘Vocation Talk’ to the eighth-graders in my Confirmation class. As I am only but twenty years of age as I write this, I knew had to get an expert opinion on my speech draft. And so I did, when I met with the Vocations Director, Fr. Scott Wallisch of the Archdiocese of Kansas City.  But Fr. Scott and I had one more thing in common, besides being Catholics of course and having lived in Kansas. He was an alum of the Architecture School at my University, and before he became a seminarian, he was that design-thinking, master-planning leader of an architect (what I tell myself that I will one day become).

So how does one go from promising architectural engineer to seminarian? How does one go from star footballer to nun? Yep, just like Fr. Scott, my dear college mentor Sister Rafaella from Italy, knew her way around the goalpost back in the day. And that’s when it hit me. Vocation isn’t the same as employment choices. It’s more of a personal invitation to join a specific way of life, the best path. It’s purposeful, not random.

Thus even if you tell yourself now that you’re never going to become a Sister or plan on joining the seminary, the subjects of vocation and discernment are so relevant to us, in these times, as they’re applicable to us outside the religious sphere. When God created us, he knew what to give us. Clearly, all our five fingers aren’t the same. Similarly, God calls each person differently. The purpose of vocation hence lies in the uniqueness of creation. Some people realise their call from God early, some do not. Likewise, parenthood is for some, and not for others.

If realising our vocation is so important, how can we get there as soon as possible? Finding our vocation is a process that results in happiness- and that’s what discernment is! The holy Sacraments we receive through the first decades of our life are a requisite to this. God gives us his Call at Baptism. When you were born, he knew what to give you and what not to.  At Confirmation, we receive the Holy Spirit just like the apostles did at Pentecost. While tongues of flame hovered around their heads, they discerned their vocation of priesthood. In the same way, Confirmation is our license to discern what we want to do with our most beautiful gift of the Spirit- human life itself.

So why aren’t young people responding, Fr. Scott asks the big question. Indeed, the statistics of the low priest to parish ratio is alarming! We clearly need more vocations to the consecrated life! The answer? We clearly don’t know enough and I’ll admit I’m at fault too. While I researched for my Vocation talk, I learnt that there are indeed various types of vocations. First off, there’s the vocation of single life. Singlehood may seem lonely but it actually allows people to afford their time to serving the community. On the other hand, the vocation of married life (which your parents and grandparents have) allows folks to live out the gift of matrimonial union and raising children in the faith. Then there’s the vocation of priesthood where priests engage in discipleship and leadership of their parishes. Last of all, there’s the vocation of religious communities who take up vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Whichever vocation we end up choosing, we all owe ourselves at one point in our lives to take out the time and effort to discern. I mean we’re young as we’ll ever be, and we have the energy to do so now! First, let’s conform to more than just worldly things (Romans 12:2), stay bold while we pray in silence. This should allow us to adopt an investigative spirit as we research the vocations we’re interested in, with an open mind and ready-as-ever heart. Pray and think, do you want to be a dad or do you want to be a priest? Do you want to be a Franciscan Sister or would you just love motherhood? It’s not just an either-or situation too, so the best thing to do, would be to look into what it is that you think would put your God-given talents to the best use.

Such an attitude towards marriage and consecrated life should also affect our attitudes towards career decisions and dating choices. You don’t go on a date and decide whether you want to marry that person or not right away. Dating is a process that helps you determine what you want to see in a future spouse. Likewise, discernment is a process that requires some serious thought and your course of action!

So, is this servant of God listening (1 Samuel 3:1-18)? And are you saying “Yes” yet? Discernment is a fun ride, alright.