A regional seminarian’s statement of doing some discernment away from seminary got me thinking about the discernment process. This is a fairly quick collection of thoughts about vocations discernment, all in the rather obvious or “well, duh” category.
The process takes into account human factors and discernment by a spiritual director and/or vocations director who is rooted in orthodoxy. Human factors include physical or psychological status and also previous commitments. The odds of a parent of five school-aged children being admitted to a cloistered order are probably non-existent. A spiritual and/or vocations director, someone who knows what the vocation calls for, is essential. The director ot only has the experience to weigh the candidates qualities against the challenges of the vocation, but a director rooted in orthodoxy has a spiritual authority, in which one trusts the Holy Spirit is speaking through the director’s decisions. It’s a good idea for the rest of us to keep both candidates and directors in prayer.
Everyone has, if they dig deep enough, an idea of what they see themselves doing and that also becomes a factor. I remember a story of a young woman who was torn by her love of languages and desire to travel on one hand and her wanting to enter religious life. She opted for religious life. As it turned out, her assignments in her order gave her all the traveling she could have asked for and more. Some get a vocation exactly opposite of what they’d envisioned. Maria von Trapp is an example. If you’ve read the book on which the play and movie were based on, you know that the choice between religious life and marriage was not simply a dramatic device. In real life, she went to the sisters, waited while they prayed about it, and entered into marriage solely out of obedience to their discernment.
In the movie of The Sound of Music, the character Maria says that “when a door closes, God opens a window,” which is an adage well worth remembering whenever someone in the discernment process, or in any situation, gets an unexpected and/or unwelcome decision. Another example to remember is that Mother Angelica and her nuns tried several business ventures (selling fish bait, peanuts, publishing booklets) before EWTN launched. Mother Angelica said that all those detours taught lessons they needed once in the broadcast business.
Finally, there is the selection from the autobiography of St. Therese of Liseux, excerpted on her feast day, October 1. She describes a restlessness as she weighed various vocations. Then she saw the answer: “my call is love.”