“Speak, for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:10
What is a vocation?
The word vocation comes from the Latin word vocare, which means “to call.” Though we tend to think of vocations as jobs we choose like being a teacher, investment banker, or an electrician, a vocation in the Church is not something we choose but rather something God calls us to live. When we decide on careers, we usually make the choice based on our gifts and abilities, likes and dislikes. If God calls us to the vocation of a religious sister, parish priest, or even a parent, God wants us to use our gifts and talents in service to the world in the name of Christ.
How do I know if God might be calling me?
The place to begin is simply to ask God. Prayer is the most important place to begin when discerning any vocation. With prayer, we can also look to signs in our lives that the Lord uses to open our eyes to his will for us. Here are some signs that He might be using in your life:
- A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is important to me
- People have told me I would make a good priest/nun/religious sister or brother
- Participation at Mass and reception of the sacraments is important to me
- The thought of becoming a religious brother/sister or parish priest keeps coming back over and over again
- I’m afraid to tell my friends and family that I’ve been thinking about a vocation
- I feel called to give more of myself to others
- I have a burning desire to help people grow closer to Christ and to know the Gospel
If you find yourself answering “yes” to some of these questions, then it is quite possible the Lord is calling you to a life that is more rewarding than you could ever imagine.
What do I do if I think God is calling me? What is discernment?
When we think God is calling us to the priesthood or religious life, we begin a process called discernment. Using our heart and our head (and the hearts and heads of others), we reach out to God more often in prayer asking for God’s help to confirm our thoughts. We also reach out to others, especially religious and priests to gain their opinion and insight concerning our experiences.
What can I do next?
You can do several things if you feel you might have a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. Of course, these are things all of us can do to grow in holiness but they are especially important for those who are discerning a call to priesthood or religious life. Here is a list of five things to get you started:
1) Continue to pray daily about your God’s call in your life. Consider making a vocation discernment retreat.
2) Contact your local parish priest/pastor and/or the religious community to which you feel drawn.
3) Research the differences between religious orders, communities, dioceses, and apostolates
4) Contact the Office of Vocations for the Archdiocese of San Francisco at sfarch.org