A Test That You Don't Have to Study for

Brother David Henley, Glenmary Vocation Director

October 2016

“Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God…”—1 John 4:1a

Recently a young man asked me, “Is it okay to be afraid of your vocation?” I said yes, it truly can be frightening when you start to discern your vocation. Pursuing our callings can be scary for all of us for a number of reasons. Fear of what people might say, fear of failure, or simply fear of the unknown are just a few examples.

In Matthew’s Gospel, you can read the account of Jesus walking on the sea towards the boat carrying the disciples. Although they were not necessarily discerning their vocations at that moment, you can interpret that scene from the Gospel as it applies to your life today. You can begin to recognize your own calling as you recognize Jesus moving more closely to you in your own life. You might be like the disciples, feeling afraid or paralyzed because you do not fully recognize Jesus yet.

Or you might be like many of the other figures in the Bible who were fearful when they began to recognize their calling. Moses’ initial response to God was, “Suppose they do not believe me or listen to me? For they may say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.’”  Moses even suggested, “If you please, my Lord, send someone else!”

Prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah had their share of fears and doubts as well. When Isaiah was called, he replied, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips…” Jeremiah initially responded to his calling by saying, “I do not know how to speak. I am too young!”

As Jesus neared the boat with the terrified disciples, he said to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” He says those same words to each one of us today.

And so how should you respond? You certainly don’t have to sign up to get ordained tomorrow. But you can find ways to test your vocation just as Peter tested the water: “Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.”

We too can test the waters. I think a good method is to ask someone you trust, “Do you think I would be a good priest?”  Or, “Do you think it is okay to become a religious brother?” Listen to how they respond.

When we go shopping for clothes, we often ask people who are with us, “Does this look good on me?” Most of my friends who have asked people out on dates usually first ask others what they think of the idea. I have heard them testing the waters in this way: “I think I might ask Kate out on a date.” They say it in hopes of hearing affirmations like, “Yes, you two would make a good couple.”

Find a good person with whom to talk. Mention your vocation question to your parents or siblings. Ask a friend who is rooted in his or her Catholic faith. Ask the priest the next time you are at confession, or schedule a time to meet with him one on one. Ask a teacher or counselor in your school.

Or call the Glenmary Vocation Office (513-881-7411) and ask to speak with me or Wilmar Zabala. We love getting phone calls and talking with men who are trying to figure out if they have a mission vocation. It is okay to be afraid in the beginning, but do not let that fear stop you from testing the waters.

Jesus is already on the water saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Read previous columns by Brother David.