What is A Vocation?
Vocation in a religious context is how God calls you to serve Him in the world.
God calls you through Baptism and Confirmation to serve Him in a specific way of life. You can follow God's call as a single person, married person, ordained priest or a vowed religious. It is important to first determine which way of life God is calling you to. This process of determining God's call for your life is known as discernment.
How do I know what my vocation is?
The best way to discern your vocation is in prayer.
Prayer, simply put, is having a real conversation with God. Spend quiet time with God reflecting on His call for your life. Don't look for an earth-shattering message that says "This is what you are to do!" God generally does not communicate like that.
Set aside time each day to speak with God about His plan for you. You can pray in your parish church or in a private place. You may choose to read the Scriptures or write in a journal as an aid to this process. God wants to speak to you, but you have to take time to listen for His quiet voice.
Don't be afraid to ask. God will answer.
Another aspect of discernment is to talk to others who are living the life you feel called to. If you think you are being called to married life, speak to a couple you respect about their vocation and how they live that vocation every day. If you are being called to the single life, ask a single person about that state in life. The same holds true if you think God may be calling you to the priesthood or vowed religious life.
Speaking to God and speaking to those who have been living a particular vocation are ways to understand how God might be calling you.
I'm concerned about how my family and friends will react if I tell them I'm interested in the priesthood.
Often times when a person has a call to the priesthood other people recognize and support that call. Parents, family and friends may surprise you and react positively. In some situations, however, they may be disappointed or even angry. If someone responds in this way, be patient - with a bit of time they may come to see the positive value of your calling. If people are upset, remember, accepting God's invitation is very rewarding even if other people do not understand.
I think God is calling me to the priesthood, but I am also attracted to married life.
Great! That's exactly how a healthy priestly vocation manifests itself. An attraction to marriage and the desire for a family is a normal, healthy part of every young man's life. A true calling to the priesthood should always come in addition to a desire for family life, not instead of it.
It is a common misconception that men become priests because they don't want to get married or because they don't like women. This is absolutely untrue! All good priests would also make good husbands and fathers. And more importantly, all good priests have some level of desire for married life. If they didn't, then the promise to live an unmarried, celibate life would be meaningless, because it would involve no sacrifice.
How can I find out more about the priesthood without being obligated to join?
Once you have discerned that God may be inviting you to be an ordained priest or vowed religious, speak to a vocation director from either the diocesan vocation office or the Religious Community you may be interested in. Contacting these individuals is all part of the discernment process.
You do not need to be absolutely certain of God's call before you speak with a vocation director. They are aware of the struggles and questions you may be experiencing at this point in your discernment. They will be patient and help you prayerfully consider what the next step may be for your life.
After contacting the vocation director the next step may be to spend time at a House of Formation, attend a seminary or enter a religious community. These are more formal types of discernment and many people will help you along the way to hear and follow God's call.
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Fr. James Fleming
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