This week we celebrate National Vocations Awareness Week promoting vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are discerning these particular vocations.
By: Sr. Clare Hunter, F.S.E.
It won’t go away, will it? That gnawing question in the back, or front, of your mind – “Do I have a religious vocation?” The questions, thoughts and daydreams are unrelenting. Some days, they bring great joy and peace – the other days, great fear and anxiety. I understand. Though the idea of attending a discernment retreat probably seems like a huge life commitment, I can assure you of one thing: you will not be a member of the community by the end of the retreat.
We live in a world full of so many options that making a choice can be paralyzing. Coupled with the lie that we can “have it all,” and that “feeling good” should be our highest goal, the idea of living a life of poverty, chastity and obedience, rooted in the Gospel message of following Christ to the Cross, can easily become something we dread discerning. Yet, deep in our hearts, we know that the riches of the world cannot making us happy, and we long for lives that have meaning and allow us to be our true selves.
Maybe it is time to start listening to that voice inside that is pestering you about a religious vocation. It is very possible that you do not have a vocation to religious life, but that voice is beckoning you to a deeper prayer life and relationship with God. However, if God has chosen you for the unique call of consecrated life, could now be the time to respond to His invitation? Here are a few reasons going on a discernment retreat might be the perfect thing for you to quell that little voice in your mind that won’t stop asking, “Do I have a religious vocation?”
Make a move.
In order to discern, there has to be movement. Whatever your metaphor – path, road, window, or door – as we make life decisions, we need to make a move that allows the Holy Spirit to show us if it is the right or wrong way. Making plans to attend a discernment retreat is a great place to start.
How many times in the Gospels do we hear of Jesus going away from others to a secluded place to pray? Making a retreat is a wonderful opportunity to get away from your world, your thoughts and even your comforts. We all know that leaving familiar surroundings and behaviors gives us new perspectives and time to rest and think. It might just be that getting away from distractions and patterns of behavior is just what the voice of God needs to be heard.
I still remember attending my first discernment retreat and being amazed that there were other people who thought about a religious vocation. It was not only comforting, but strengthening and energizing to be with women who were considering religious life. It not only helps you to not feel alone, but having others who are praying for you during this time of discernment is invaluable.
During a discernment retreat, there are tremendous opportunities to learn more about prayer, discernment, the Catholic faith, spiritualties and the religious order that is hosting the retreat. There will be new and creative experiences that will allow you to learn about yourself, to discover talents, likes and dislikes that will help you to understand which direction the Holy Spirit is leading you.
Yes, the food is often very good on these retreats. But in reality, these weekends are a banquet of spiritual growth and insight. The time in prayer, solitude, service and fellowship will awaken parts of your body and soul that will be exciting to discover, and will help to sustain you after the retreat ends, and your discernment must continue from home.
Do yourself a favor: Take the risk and listen to that voice asking you to go on a discernment retreat. You will not regret taking the steps that will bring you the peace of heart that comes with following the voice of God.
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