We all must discover God’s call, His plan for our lives. It is a great responsibility. We all go through this discovery in one way or another.
Each of us has a unique call — one only we can answer. Discovering our primary call from God isn’t easy. Unfortunately no one can do it for us. It takes hard work to find out the best way to live out our Christian lives. It takes prayer and reflection that includes serious discernment.
When I did campus and vocation ministry, often I was asked how a person gets to know God’s will for his or her life. There are no easy answers, but there are some things that can help us discover where God might be leading us.
First and foremost, it is important to remember that God calls everyone. You have a vocation. You received your most important call at Baptism. In that primary sacrament of our faith, you became members of Christ’s body, the Church and were called to help bring about the reign of God in this world. It is not just a role reserved for religious brothers and sisters or ordained ministers. Through Baptism each Christian shares in the priesthood of Jesus Christ and in His mission to reveal God’s love to the world. The challenge is to discern, or to figure out, how God wants you to help carry out His mission and to best use the gifts He has given you.
The majority of Christians have a vocation to the sacrament of Marriage. They have a call to marriage and parenthood. Others are called by God to live the single, ordained or consecrated life as a religious brother or sister.
One of the best ways to discover what God asks of you is for you to listen to the deepest desire of your heart. For instance, most persons have a deep longing to share their lives with one special person and to raise a family. Others have a passion to give their entire lives to the Lord through prayer, community and service. Some are conflicted. They feel a pull between Marriage and a Church vocation. (Actually many of the same qualities are needed in both vocations.)
There are many ways God’s call is revealed. One primary way is through prayer, taking quality time to actively listen to God. Another way is to seriously take notice of what other significant people say to you. For example, maybe several people have asked you if you have ever considered priesthood or religious life, or observed that you would make a wonderful mother or father. Very often those comments plant seeds or confirm what you might already have been thinking and you should take them seriously.
In high school one of the teachers asked me what my plans were after graduation. She suggested I consider religious life. At first it was a shock, but then I began to seriously reflect and pray about that possibility. And here I am many years later. I often wonder what my life would be like today had I just ignored her or didn’t really believe it was a possibility for me.
There are some things you can do to make the good choice. One way to start is to list the pros and cons of each option, pray about them and listen to the ones that speak to you the most and give you a clear sense of peace. During a class in graduate school at Boston College I remember one of my professors saying that the deepest desire of our hearts is usually God’s will for our lives. Listen to what your heart tells you.
Finally, once I saw a videotape about community life that I have always remembered. The presenter offered this advice: She said the key to discovering your vocation in life is to discern which lifestyle will make you happy, healthy and holy. To be happy really means having inner joy and peace. A spiritually healthy life is one that enables you to use your gifts and gives you the desire to grow into the person God wants you to be. A holy life is one that gives God a primary place in your life.
My prayer for each of us is that we will discover our best way to live happy, healthy and holy Christian lives as we strive to live the Gospel.