Discerning Begins with Knowing Thyself

Brother David Henley, Glenmary Vocation Director

November 2016

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,before you were born I dedicated you,a prophet to the nations I appointed you.”—1 Jeremiah 1:5

One of the best parts about joining Glenmary or any religious community is the actual application process. It is not quite the same as applying for a job or to a college but there are some elements that are similar such as interviews or filling out forms. But apart from that it is truly an opportunity for you to get to know Glenmary and for Glenmary to get to know you better. And as with the entire discernment process, it is a time for you to get to know yourself better.

I think that one way that the Glenmary application process is unique or different from a job application is that we ask applicants to write a spiritual autobiography. Writing an autobiography is a meaningful way to reflect on their vocation as they write about their experiences that have led them to this point. Putting it on paper can sometimes help make ones thoughts more concrete.

In the spiritual autobiography we ask that men share about their home life, that is where they have lived and are currently living. Write about their relationship with their family, parents and siblings. I believe that we need to have support for our vocation by our family members although our calling may not always be understood in the same way by them.

Another topic to write about is your work experiences, especially during the time you were not going to school. One can also write about any volunteer experiences or mission trips.

Write about your social relationships outside your home. Who are your friends? Who did you date for how long? How did any dating experiences help to affirm your call? What are your hobbies and organizations that you belong? Do those hobbies fit in with the religious lifestyle?

Most importantly is to write about your reasons for desiring to be a Catholic priest or brother. This might include the central people and events that influenced your decision to study for the priesthood or to be a brother. Particularly significant is writing about a priest, brother or sister who has been important to you. This also includes indicating why you want to be a Glenmary missioner.

Questions that might be included are: What attracts you to a missionary vocation? When did you feel you had a calling as a priest/brother? What gifts/talents do you bring to missionary life?

Putting words down on paper help us to clarify a thought, weigh a decision or see connections that have led us to where we are today. The Glenmary students who have written their spiritual autobiography have found it to be a meaningful part of discernment. If you are considering applying to Glenmary you can reflect on these questions now, begin writing and see how God is calling you.

“LORD, you have probed me, you know me:
you know when I sit and stand;
a you understand my thoughts from afar.”
— Psalm 139 1-2

Read previous columns by Brother David.