Do I feel called to a religious vocation? Am I called to serve the Church in some other way? What does God want from me in my life? These are difficult questions to answer. The discernment process is often a long and difficult road to travel. A candidate discerning a vocation to priesthood can have many questions and few answers.
At times, because of all the options, a candidate may feel it is too difficult to make a decision. Therefore, they make no decision. It is helpful to "process" all the options one may face. We often find it difficult to make a decision because we are too caught up with how we "feel" about our options. One may appear easier. Another may not be considered because it never crossed our mind!
It is often the case that we are more controlled by our feelings than we are by our cognitive thoughts. In other words, our heart gets in the way of our mind. In order to make good decisions, we must involve both our heart and mind. I would like to share a process that has been helpful for me when I had to make difficult decisions in my life.
It is a process that can help us to "think" about our options in an objective way. I believe it is a process that can bring some clarity for a person who may be discerning a Religious Vocation. The first step is to get a piece of paper and write down the decision that has to be made. If we are discerning a call to Priesthood or Religious Life, the decision is to pursue this call. Second, write down the decision not to be made - i.e. Not pursuing Religious Life or Priesthood. Then, make two columns for each decision. Write down the pros and cons for both decisions. Write down as many that you can think that are honest and true.
After this is done, evaluate the weight of those decisions you have written down. Are both decisions about choosing something good? Does one weigh more heavily than the other? Are there more reasons to make one decision than the other?
Next, choose one of the decisions! This is perhaps the most difficult part since we often feel we may be leaving something out. Yet, if we fail to make decisions in our lives, we fail to grow. Once the decision is made, live with it for a week. It is not good to act or make decisions quickly. Talk about your decision with friends. Listen to your feelings, thoughts and dreams.
Then, "wear" the other decision for a week! What are your feelings now? How has your prayer been during the week? Do you feel comfortable with this decision? Always remember that vocations come from God. Therefore it is important throughout the process to pray. Reading scripture, spending time listening to God in prayer are extremely important. Finally, make a choice and live with it. Follow up on your decision by taking whatever steps are necessary to pursue it.
Making decisions is not easy, but when they are made the right way, they can be very liberating. As you go through the discernment process in regards to Religious Life, know that God is with you! Pray for God's guidance and the wisdom that is needed to make the right decision!
A Discernment Process
Write down the decision to be made.
Write down the decision not to be made.
Make two columns for each decision. Write down the pros and cons for both decisions.
Evaluate the weight of those things you have written down. Are both decisions about choosing something good? Does one weigh more heavily than the other?
Choose one of the decisions. Live with it for a week. Talk to friends about it, listen to your own feelings, thoughts, dreams, sleeping and walking patterns.
Wear the other decisions for a week. What are your feelings now? How has your prayer been during this week?
Make a choice. Live with the decision.