Q. Is there anything in particular a person should be doing to discern if God is calling them to the priesthood or consecrated life?
A. The first thing to do is to assess the life you are currently living. A person who desires to know God’s will for them should make sure they are receptive to His voice. Do you not only go to Mass every Sunday but try to make daily Mass whenever possible? Do you frequent the Sacrament of Reconciliation monthly or even weekly? Is daily prayer a part of your life? What are you reading? Have you contacted the Vocation’s Office in your Diocese or for a particular Community?
Q. I noticed that you only talk about vocations to the clerical and consecrated states. Aren’t there other vocations in the Church?
A. We’re glad you brought that up. Yes, there is another vocation that is recognized by the Church that was raised to the dignity of a sacrament. It is the call to the married state. In addition, although the vocation is not recognized by Church law, a person can privately dedicate his or her life to God by means of a vow and thus have a way of life that is stabilized by this private dedication. For a better understanding of these ways of life, you may find the following information helpful:
The vocation that most people discern is the sacramental union of marriage. In this sacrament, man and woman commit themselves to each other and to God until death parts them. Their two lives become one and in essence reflect both the image of the trinity and the church. During the wedding ceremony, they seek the Churchs blessing upon their love for each other and publicly seal their promise to live together in intimacy, love, and faithfulness.
The embodiment of the married couples love is a child; the fruit of their physical and spiritual unity. A child is Gods gift and blessing to the marriage. It should be cherished and welcomed into a loving environment. Sometimes, although they desire children, couples are unable to have children. This does not mean that God does not bless them or that they werent listening correctly in their discernment of their vocation. God might be calling them to be a witness to the vocation in other ways.
Managing a household; guiding, educating, and providing for their children; and meeting their own spiritual, intellectual, and social needs calls forth the very best in each couple. A deep faith in Gods love for them is the foundation of a married couples life. Their faith is expressed through prayer, devotion, and service to their family, church, and community. Faith gives them greater wisdom, patience, and hope when the inevitable struggles occur and more intense joy when they celebrate the blessings that God has given them.
Universal Call to Holiness: A Reflection on Singleness
All of us are called by baptism to a life of holiness. Many are called to a specific way of living out the call to holiness in a state of life (vocation) characterized by undertaking a lifelong commitment by vow or consecration. Some, however, are called to be living witnesses to Christ without assuming a life long commitment. Others are called to dedicate their lives to Christ in blessed singleness but without changing their state in life.
The beauty and burden of the life of the single person is often overlooked in today’s world. The single person’s life can have a spiritual dimension. While it is sometimes said to be the hardest way of life to live, it is definitely not meant to be a life of loneliness and solitude.
Most of us exist as singles for some transitional amount of time, prior to our discernment and entrance into the married, consecrated, or clerical states. For those who do not enter the more particular states of life by vow, ordination, or consecration, there is an opportunity and a freedom to give themselves completely in service to others. Singleness as a form of life is not an end in itself, but is directed in self-giving and life-giving generosity and activity.
The single person has no bond of commitment to a person or a community of persons. Thus, there is not a built-in support system for them. Living this call thus presents an opportunity to nurture a strong relationship with God. The solitude of being single can be a blessing that allows the individual to discover the incompleteness of life without God being present.
Many singles find spiritual support as lay members of third orders and associations of the faithful. These help the single person in his efforts to respond to the Lords call to holiness. Also, a single person who feels called may choose to live under a private vow of chastity, and by so doing, may find a certain joy in living as a lay person specially dedicated to the Lord. Why would a single person take a vow of chastity? Because, as one theologian put it, “But a man cannot actually give God his whole life, because that life taken as a whole is not simultaneous but successive. Hence a man cannot give his whole life to God otherwise than by the obligation of a vow.” Without a vow then, a single person has the potential of embracing lifelong commitments by means of ordination, vow, or consecration, and this state of potential is not a “vocation” in itself.