“YES, Lord, I want you totally!...NO, don’t make me give that up!...YES, NO, I DON’T KNOW!” Sound familiar? Is the Lord tugging at your heart, but you can’t seem to figure out what part He’s tugging on? How does one discern her vocation well? Fr. Henry Purcell (pictured above) joined us as a guest speaker and confessor for our June vocation discernment retreat and spoke to the topic using the rules of discernment from St. Ignatius of Loyola as a springboard. The following lines are an attempt to share a few of his thoughts for those of you who weren't able to join us!
Maybe you’ve received the following pieces of advice: “Well, just pray about it.” “I guess your confessor can help you.” “Follow your desires.” Helpful, right? More like insufficient. We’re a species with a fallen nature, so our desires sometimes overlap each other if not outright contradict. And a confessor can’t really tell you your future based on a two-minute synopsis of this month’s sins. And praying about it, yes, that’s critical, but not always abundantly and immediately clear. So how do we discern? In addition to frequent prayer, the sacraments, living a moral life, and learning about religious congregations, it’s important to examine ourselves before the Lord.
Perhaps you feel very drawn to the consecrated life, but there’s something (or somethings) holding you back. What is it? Is it a false humility? You’re not holy enough? Well, if I may be so bold, forget yourself and become aware of how much He is in love with you as you are. Is it pressure from your family, friends, or the world around you? Saying yes to God will be the best thing you could ever do for those you love. Is it that you’re worried you’ll mess up? “My grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Cor 12:9) Are you questioning if you could really be happy in religious life? “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Mt 6:33) God only gave the Israelites enough manna for each day, yet they never went hungry. He will always provide for you one day at a time.
There’s a lot for us to ponder before the Lord, but most of all, we need to always remember how much He loves us. He wants our eternal salvation more than we do. And that’s what a vocation is for: it’s a gift to lead us to Heaven. The gift is useless if we choose to just stand in the path. Hence, we need to eventually make and act on a decision. (After all, perpetual discernment is NOT a vocation!) On the other hand, imprudent/hasty discernment is like cutting through the Enchanted Forest of Doom because your blind guide thinks it’s a shortcut. The balance, of course, lies in the middle. We must patiently listen for the Holy Spirit, and then act upon His word when we hear it. We can trust that He will lead us to the right place at the right time.
Below our retreatants pose before the Holy Doors at our Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis...a little pilgrimage during our retreat!