Discernment: A Beautiful Life Awaits

Posted: 1/13/2014

Pat McEntee, Associate Vocation DirectorAs I look out my office window today, I notice two things. One is that a giant, majestic, beautiful tree is now gone. The other is that there is snow on the ground. My feet remind me that it is bitterly cold, and the forecast is calling for yet another snowstorm this weekend. That will be followed by the coldest air in this area in more than 20 years.

The tree that once stood outside my window was separated from those in the nearby woods at Glenmary's Cincinnati Headquarters, so its size and beauty really stood out. However, this year, the tree did not produce any leaves. It died and ultimately was cut down a month or two ago.

What do any of these comments have to do with vocations? If you'll indulge me in a metaphor, I'll explain.

That tree began as just a seed. It saw many winters and somehow managed to grow into a large tree with many branches. During its life, it provided shade, beauty and a home for wildlife, but it ultimately died. However, it also produced many seeds during its lifetime, and who knows where those seeds were scattered. Some probably made it into the woods, and perhaps started other trees.

Now, with all this snow on the ground and the extremely cold temperatures we are experiencing this winter, it is difficult to think of any kind of plant life surviving. Yet we know that in the spring, there will be blooms on the trees, the grass will become green again and the cycle of life will continue.

I suppose I still haven't made the real connection with vocations, but there is one there, I assure you. In our own lives, we face a life cycle similar to that of the plants, albeit on a different scale. I often consider my work as a vocation minister to be a planter of seeds.

It's not often that I make a first contact with a person considering a vocation with Glenmary who is ready to "sign on the dotted line" after our first conversation. It takes time and it should. Just as love at first sight is a rare thing, vocation at first sight is, too. In fact, I would be concerned if a person were ready to sign up without having much information about what Glenmary is and does.

As a vocation minister, I know that some men I discern with will prosper and become Glenmarians. Others will go on to discern a call to the married life, single life or perhaps to be a priest or brother outside of Glenmary. It's the same as with the seeds that old tree produced. Some found the right combination to be fertilized and grow here at Glenmary. And some did not.

Still, it's hard to imagine seeds making it through such harsh winter conditions. After all, how many times do you hear of an early autumn frost killing off plants? Now, how many seeds lie beneath that blanket of snow outside my window? Some will not survive, but some will become trees, perhaps as majestic and beautiful as the one I remember.

In the same way, a vocation discernment can survive hardships. Every priest or brother experienced moments of doubt, whether large or small, in his discernment. The cold reality of life's winters can test a vocation, but the gifts of the Spirit can produce growth in the person after the spring thaw. It is all a part of the continuing discernment process.

So think about your own life and discernment as if you are a seed. What are you doing to nurture the growth of your vocation? What difficulties have you faced as you discern God's call in your life? Where do you see your seed taking root and growing into majestic beauty?

Pray about these questions and contact us today if we can help you begin or continue your discernment journey!