What's Next in Your Discernment?
"Be not afraid. I go before you always. Come follow me. And I will give you rest."—From the song "Be Not Afraid"
Recently, while I was talking with men discerning their vocation, the lyrics from the song "Be Not Afraid" by Scott Weiland kept popping into my head. It is a song often sung during funeral masses, but I believe its lyrics also speak to those discerning their vocational call. As the song says, at times discerners feel they are passing "through raging waters" or walking "amid the burning flames." But as the refrain reminds us, no matter what stage of the discernment process an individual is experiencing, God always goes before and reaches out, inviting the person to rest in his loving embrace.
Glenmary's Vocation Office talks with many men about the Glenmary mission ministry, understanding that each is in a different stage of discernment. Some men who have contacted me have been discerning a vocation for a few years, while for others the possibility of religious life is something new. Some are ready to participate in a "Come & See" experience, and others would rather be visited by a vocation team member first. I have read various descriptions that categorize the stages of discernment with labels like "information gathering," "inquiring," "deepening commitment" and "confirmation," but throughout the whole discernment process there are some constants: prayer, questioning and talking with others are ones that come to mind.
First and foremost, the need for prayer exists at each stage of discernment. In order for a person to discern well, he needs to listen to the voice of God. To do so means turning off the computer, silencing the phone and taking out the earbuds. In the silence, that man can ask the questions and begin to listen for the answers.
In the Old Testament's Book of Kings, the prophet Elijah heard the voice of God while on Mount Horeb—not in the wind, earthquake or fire but in the silence. It was in the silence he heard the question "Why are you here, Elijah?" The best example of silent prayer is in the Gospels, specifically Jesus' silent discernment during 40 days in the desert, before beginning his earthly ministry.
Throughout discernment the individual must ask questions, even though waiting for the answers can sometimes be difficult. The questioner has to trust in God that he will find them, sometimes in unexpected places. Some of the key discernment questions include:
• What am I really looking for? If God wants me to be happy, where can I find that happiness with God?
• Does the priestly life attract me? If so, why?
• Does the vocation to brotherhood fit my personality and gifts? How?
• Am I seeking to get something for myself, or do I really want to give of myself in service to others?
• What comments have others made to me that are positive signs I am called to a religious vocation?
Before my discernment led me to join Glenmary Home Missioners, I called vocation directors from three communities to talk with them about their communities and my vocation. At that time there was not as much information available on the Internet, and talking with these directors was the best way to find out about the communities. Even with all the information on the Internet today, I still think that conversations with vocation directors are the best ways to learn about the communities that interest you. And these men will not twist your arm or try to force you to join their communities.
Eventually the discerner reaches the stage of the application process. Whether you are discerning with Glenmary Home Missioners, a diocese or another community, you will need to gather certain documents in order to apply. These items include baptismal and confirmation records; transcripts from all secondary schools and colleges attended; and references from your pastor and others. Another important step in the application is writing a spiritual autobiography, but this task can be done now. The writing will actually help you to clarify where you are being called.
The discernment process is just that—a process. The individual might sometimes feel lost, but with God's help he will not wander off too far. In the comforting words of the song "Be Not Afraid":
You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way.
You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand.
You shall see the face of God and live.
If you would like more information about Glenmary Home Missioners or would like to speak with someone about the stages of discernment you may be experiencing, you can call 513-881-7494, contact us via our Web site, send an e-mail, or get in touch through Facebook.
You can also read previous columns by Brother David on the Glenmary Web site.