November 3, 2022
by Father Steven Huber, CSB
One of the questions that is often asked is what a person should do if they feel a calling to religious life. How does one go about discovering if that way of life is truly for them?
While there is no easy “one size fits all” approach to discerning religious life, here are some tips that can help guide you in your discernment and exploration of religious life.
The first is to find yourself a spiritual director. This can be a priest, religious sister, or qualified lay person, who can help you to better understand how the Spirit of God is moving in your life. They can help you to see where God is leading you and give you insight on the ways in which God might be calling you to serve the Church. Having a person that you can meet with regularly to guide your discernment is an indispensable tool and it will make your journey of discovery that much easier!
Deciding which communities to explore can be another challenge, especially because there are so many to choose from. One thing that can help with this decision is to remember that each community has a charism, or a specific gift given by God, which is used for the good of the Church. Religious men and women work in education, hospital ministry, missionary work, migrant and refugee ministry… the list is nearly endless! If you have a passion, chances are you can find a community that is engaged in the work you are passionate about.
Once you have found a community or two that interest you, spending some time getting to know members of the community can be a major help in discernment. Come to them with any questions you may have about religious life and their experience with formation, ministry and community life. See if you can join them for prayers or a meal, to be able to more fully experience what life in that particular community is like. These types of encounters can help a person see if a community is a good fit for them. Remember, at this stage you are just exploring, no one is expecting you to make a firm commitment the first time you walk in the door. If that is the attitude you encounter, chances are that community is not going to be a good fit.
Above all, it is important to continue to take all the experiences that you have over the course of your discernment to prayer. Allow God to guide you and show you the path he has laid out for you. If you are on the right path, you will often feel like the pieces of your journey are effortlessly falling into place, and doors are opening in ways you never thought were possible. This is a sure sign that God is working in your life and guiding you down the right path.
May God continue to bless you as you discern your vocation.
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