How does one understand the concept of discernment? Etymologically, discernment means to "separate apart" so we might distinguish something in order for it to be perceived clearly. It is the way in which we identify God's will within the context in which we live. Most of us do know God's will because it has been revealed through the teachings and life of Jesus Christ. However, there are times when God's will is not so clear and we realize that we need to search for what God is asking of us.
Discernment is an art and it is learned by doing, not just reading about it. It is a function of an individual's personal relationship with the Lord. When we desire to do God's will, are willing to be open to God and have a solid knowledge of God, then discernment is possible. Therefore, prayer is an essential component to the process of discernment. To be a truly discerning person, we need to be humble, charitable and courageous. As we become more familiar with the Lord in prayer, we will come to know that the "small still voices" speak in peace - never in turmoil, anxiety or restlessness.
Some practical suggestions which will help a young woman discern a call to the religious life are:
1) Daily Mass - one who is discerning a call to religious life is encouraged to participate in the daily celebration of Mass so that she can grow in her relationship with the Lord.
2) Sacrament of Penance - The celebration of the Sacrament of Penance is the way in which a woman attempts to live a holy life - through the frequent confession of sins and by the grace of God.
3) Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament - this is a powerful way to grow in love with the Eucharistic Lord and to grow in the spiritual life.
4) Daily Prayer - this is time set aside for God alone, usually in a quiet place at a specific time each day. This prayer time might consist of talking to the Lord in one's own words or praying the Sacred Scriptures, especially the Gospels. Developing a daily habit and pattern of prayer will help the young woman to hear more clearly the call of the Lord.
5) Spiritual Direction - speaking with a priest or qualified individual trained in direction about one's prayer life and seeking advice from this person on a regular basis is very helpful as one discerns a vocation to the religious life.
6) Discernment programs - attending a weekend retreat at a religious community, vocation evenings or joining a discussion group of other young women discerning a vocation are invaluable in helping one to come to greater clarity about God's call to religious life.
7) Devotion to the Blessed Mother - praying the rosary daily and seeking the powerful intercession of the Blessed Mother is especially recommended in the discernment process.
8) Get involved - in some form of service with the Church. For example, outreach to the poor, teaching religious education, lecturing at Mass, taking Holy Communion to the sick, working with the young of a parish, etc. are ways to give one a taste of religious life and may also increase one's desire for religious life and service.
9) Talk to a Vocation Director - in order to obtain further information about religious life. The vocation director may also help through regular meetings so as to help in discerning with the young woman the authenticity of the call.
Everyone has a vocation! Everyone is called to holiness!
By virtue of Baptism, each and every Christian has a call to holiness through a life in Christ. All too often, people, for whatever reason, remain unaware of the gifts and talents that might lead them to consider a call to religious life or consecrated life.
Now that you are here and no one is watching or listening, read these statements to yourself, take them to prayer, then act on what you know is right. God knows, you may be called to the religious life!
A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is important to me.
People have told me I would be suited to religious life.
I have studied vocation materials but not told anyone.
Going to Mass and Adoration is very a very important part of my faith life.
The thought of living a religious life keeps coming back over and over again.
I’m afraid to tell my friends and family that I’ve been thinking about the religious life.
I feel called to give more of myself to others.
I have a burning desire to help people get closer to Christ and to know the Truth.
I have a strong sense that what I have planned for the future is not what God has planned for me.
If some of these statements reflect how you feel, if your heart is pounding even harder, if you sense a greater desire to find out if God is calling you to live in black and white, get in touch with Fr. Jason Kern. Have no fear, the Lord wants only what is best for you and so do we.
My Lord and my God, you are Love itself, the source of all love and goodness. Out of love you created me to know you, to love you, and to serve you in a unique way, as no one else can. I believe that you have a plan for my life, that you have a mission in your Kingdom reserved for me alone. Your plan and your mission are far better than any other I might choose: they will glorify you, fulfill the desires of my heart, and bring salvation to those souls who are depending on my generous response.
Lord grant me the light of grace I need to see the next step in Your plan; grant me the generosity necessary to follow your call; and grant me the courage required to take up my cross and to follow you.
Show me your will, O gentle and eternal God, and help me to say with Mary, "I am the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word." Let me say with Jesus, "Let not my will be done, but yours." Amen