No matter what stage of life you are in, it is important for every woman in the Church to know some practical tools for vocational discernment.
The Latin word vocare means “to call”. Pope Benedict XVI said:
Each of you has a personal vocation which He has given you for your own joy and sanctity.
Our life is to be a gift of love to the world. But what will that look like? We must remember that through our Baptism, everyone is called to holiness. Holiness will look different for each individual person because God works uniquely with each soul. God gives each person a particular mission in their vocation. This mission lives in the soul and is waiting to be discovered.Each of you has a personal vocation which He has given you for your own joy and sanctity. -Pope BXVI #BISblog // Click To Tweet
The Call to Consecrated Life
The vocation to the Consecrated Life is a special call from God to follow Jesus more closely. Paragraph 916 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:
In the Consecrated Life, Christ’s faithful, moved by the Holy Spirit, propose to follow Christ more nearly, to give themselves to God who is loved above all and, pursuing the perfection of charity in the service of the Kingdom, to signify and proclaim in the Church the glory of the world to come.
9 Tips for Discerning Religious Life
All Catholic women are invited to take a time of discernment before entering into their vocation. The Latin word discernere means “to separate”.
So, when someone is discerning a vocation to the consecrated life, they are taking extra time apart from their regular duties in order to pray and discover God’s unique plan.
If you are currently open to discerning consecrated life or have a daughter, cousin, or friend who is asking the question, here are a few tips.
1. Do Not Be Afraid
Ask the Lord to make His desires your desires.
2. Create a Timeline
Usually a year of serious discernment can provide a lot of clarity. Obviously, we can’t control God’s timing, but we can do the hard work of discernment on our end and then go forth in peace. Some women get sucked into a vortex of perpetual discernment, which can be very confusing and exhausting.
I entrusted my own vocational discernment into the hands of Mary and chose a Marian feast as an ending date.
3. Pray, Pray, Pray
This is obvious, but there are some specific prayer practices that can be especially helpful.
- Go to daily Mass // This will be the source and summit of your day and your life.
- Make frequent Confessions (at least once a month) // Many sisters have confession every week and this Sacrament is a source of incredible grace.
- Create space for solitude and silence every day // Become familiar with the voice of the Good Shepherd, so that when He calls, you will recognize his voice.
- Learn how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours (as this is prayed by most religious communities) // Try starting here if you are not sure how to navigate the four volume breviary.
- Pray the Rosary // Ask Our Lady, Star of the Sea to guide your discernment.
4. Find a Spiritual Director
Your pastor may be able to provide spiritual direction, a recommendation, or reference for you. Consider contacting the vocation office in your diocese. Trust me, it’s not as scary as it sounds! The vocation director can also provide spiritual direction or give a recommendation.
Some priests are more open to taking a new directee if they know that it is a short term commitment. Say something like, “Would you have time to meet 3 times in the next 6 months as I am discerning my vocation?”
You could also go on a directed silent Ignatian retreat. You can start with a 1 or 2 day retreat and work your way up to an 8 day retreat.
5. Research and Pray with the Charisms
Look into the various religious orders (Benedictine, Carmelite, Dominican, Franciscan, Ignatian, etc.) and their charisms. Also dive deep into the Evangelical Counsels (chastity, poverty, and obedience).
6. Learn More About Active Vs. Contemplative Life
Religious life can take on many forms: cloistered, monastic, mendicant, contemplative, active, and so on. The Council of Major Superiors for Women Religious and the Institute on Religious Life are good places to start.
7. Spend Time with Other Women Who are Discerning
Many dioceses offer Women’s Discernment Weekends, Miriam Dinners, and discernment houses.
8. Start Visiting Sisters!
Come and See Weekends with religious communities are such incredible opportunities. Receive the hospitality of sisters, listen to their vocation stories, ask all your trivial and serious questions, experience their prayer, community life, and Apostolates. You can find some retreats here.
9. Ask for Intercession
Ask for the intercession of St. Ignatius of Loyola and pray with him the Suscipe:
Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me. -St. Ignatius of Loyola #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
Resources for Discerning Religious Life
You can’t discern what you don’t know, right?
- Union with God: Letters of Spiritual Direction by Blessed Columba Marmion (St. Teresa of Calcutta’s favorite book!)
- And You Are Christ’s: The Charism of Virginity and the Celibate Life by Thomas Dubay
- A Right to be Merry by Mother Mary Francis, PCC
- Chastity, Poverty and Obedience: Recovering the Vision for the Renewal of Religious Life by Mother Mary Francis, PCC
- Discerning Religious Life by Sister Clare Matthiass, CFR
- The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV
- Discerning the Will of God: An Ignatian Guide to Christian Decision Making by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV
- Vita Consecrata by St. John Paul II
Watch the short film For Love Alone.
To Listen To
Listen to these talks.
Listen to this podcast from Fr. Paul Hoesing.
Are you discerning religious life? What resources have been helpful to you?9 Tips + Resources for Discerning Religious Life #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Rose Coleman is a contemplative in action who delights in all things beautiful. Her adventurous heart has traveled many places—from circumnavigating the globe on a ship during college to some years in the convent as a religious sister. Exuberant from her childhood, she is an elementary school teacher who learns so much from her students. You can find out more about her here.