Welcome to our Blessed Chats series! Each month, we will dedicate an entire week of blog posts to a topic that affects many of us. These conversations often come up in our Facebook groups and in our real life friendships. We want to share a variety of perspectives on the topic at hand, so we’ve asked women to share their stories and how the teachings of the Church have guided and comforted them. In this series, we are talking about vocational discernment. We’d love for you to join the conversation!
Growing up, no one ever had a conversation with me about discerning my vocation. And yet here I am, a married woman of nearly 20 years with six beautiful children.
Thankfully, even without much vocational discernment, I ended up in a faith-filled marriage with a wonderful Catholic man. Through God’s grace, I knew as much to seek out the holiest man to marry, someone I could trust to lead me to Heaven. Together, we had excellent marriage preparation by the priest who celebrated our wedding. And over the years, I have learned (sometimes the hard way) just how sanctifying marriage and family life is.
But looking back, it would have been nice to understand more fully what vocation God was—and was not—calling me into.
As a little girl, I did not necessarily dream of being a wife and mother, but in the back of my mind, I assumed that would be my path one day. I saw very few religious sisters as examples of a different direction, and even during my years at a Catholic college with Catholic sisters on campus, only one wore a full habit, and no one invited me to learn more about the vocational option of religious life.
While I could not be happier as a Catholic wife and mother, I would have appreciated intentional time to truly lay the groundwork for what God was calling me into through the Sacrament of Marriage. But also, it would have been nice to learn more about the other vocational possibilities open to women.
Now That I’m a Mom
As my own daughter graduates from high school this year, I contemplate how to encourage her own vocational discernment. What do I want her to know? What do I wish someone would have told me?
Thankfully, my husband and I have talked quite extensively to our children about vocations. So having a conversation with my 18-year-old will not be shocking. Over the years, we have been intentional about the topic of vocations. Some simple things we have done include:
- praying for our children’s vocations
- learning about Saints with various vocations
- having priests over for dinner
- befriending the sisters who teach at school
- encouraging service within the Church
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What I Wish I Would Have Known
But as I prepare to send her off (first to be a missionary for nine months and then to college), what do I want her to be thinking about and doing in her own spiritual life so she can be open to discerning her vocation well? How do I wish someone would have encouraged me?
I have seven simple ideas to help any young woman begin thinking about vocational discernment. Most of these are habits that will take her well into the rest of her adult years—no matter what path God calls her to embrace.
Cultivate a Life of Prayer
The most important part of every Catholic woman’s life—single, married, or religious—is her prayer life. Prayer is how we communicate with God; how we learn to hear His voice. If we cannot hear His voice, how can we know what He is calling us to do?
- Develop a daily prayer habit
- Attend weekly (even daily) Mass
- Read/pray with Scripture (lectio divina)
- Grow in devotion to the Blessed Mother
- Go to monthly Confession
Attend a Retreat
Attending an annual retreat is a good practice, because it gives us extensive set-aside time with the Lord.
Many dioceses and religious communities offer discernment retreats. Some monasteries allow guests to stay with them to get a feel for their way of life.
A silent retreat is excellent, too. The gift of quiet, stillness, and peace found on retreat clears away the noise and distraction of this chaotic world. It opens our hearts to hearing the Lord speaking personally to us.
Seek a Spiritual Director
As you live a deeper prayer life, thoughts will come up that you may need help understanding. You may need guidance in determining what is from God and what is not.
A spiritual director can offer prayer support and wisdom. He or she can also give you Scripture verses to pray and questions to ask God. Then, he or she can lead you in making steps toward your vocational discernment.
Spend Time With People
Seek out like-minded people as you journey toward vocational discernment. Find other women who are intentionally asking similar questions.
If you are beyond college, tap into one of the Blessed is She regional groups and find women in your area interested in gathering for a book study or brunch.
Get to know your parish priest. Spend time with a religious sister. Befriend young (and old) married couples, and hang out with their families.
Read Good Books
Always have a good Catholic book to read! These are treasure troves of wisdom, encouragement, support, and guidance, as they lead us closer to God.
- Prayer for Beginners by Peter Kreeft
- In Sinu Jesu: When Heart Speaks to Heart—The Journal of a Priest at Prayer by Anonymous
- The Rosary: A Path into Prayer by Elizabeth Kelly
On discernment in general:
- Discerning the Will of God: An Ignatian Guide to Spiritual Decision Making by Timothy M. Gallagher, OMV
- Discerning Your Vocation: A Catholic Guide for Young Adults by Anthony Ariniello and Nathanael Pujos
- Making Choices: Practical Wisdom for Everyday Moral Decisions by Peter Kreeft
Keep Asking Questions
In our young adult years, vocational discernment is just as important—if not more important—as career discernment.
So, as you take inventory tests, sharpen your resume, and attend upteen informational interviews, also immerse yourself in everything you can do to discern your vocation.
Bring your discernment to prayer, over and over again. Keep asking God the big questions: Lord, will You show me the way? What are You calling me to? As you grow in prayer, you will know how God speaks to you, and how to distinguish His voice.
Do Not Be Afraid
No matter what vocation God calls you to—marriage, religious life, or even consecrated singlehood—your vocation is your path to holiness, your path to know, love, and serve Him in the best way imaginable, so you can be happy with Him for all of eternity.
As our Lord says in the Bible 365 times, “be not afraid!” He calls you by name, because you are His (Isaiah 43:1), and He calls you for your specific vocation “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).
Be ready for an adventure! God has a plan of sheer goodness for your life.
We want to hear YOUR story. Please share in the comments below!
And if you want more help with finding your own story, our popular Write + Pray course offers 9 topics, nearly an hour of guided video, and almost 50 Scripture verses and questions for you featuring Managing Editor Nell O’Leary. Find your story today.