Thursday, February 18, 2010

Discerning Your Vocation

I've been thinking about vocations lately--about the mysterious process of discerning, and how would I feel of one of my children were called to religious life, and how does one really know their choice is the right one, and about how many people there are who would firmly declare themselves t0 be Catholic, but don't even ask themselves the question, and I'm reading a piece of McInerny fiction where a number of people seem to have chosen poorly, and what am I supposed to do as a parent, and gee, those Dominican Sisters sure seemed to be happy (despite the fact that their choice is so very different than the one that has made me happy), and I have a number of young friends who are in the process of discernment right now. So, yes, I've been thinking about vocations lately.

I don't have too many answers, except the Catechism tells me that parents should encourage the vocation that is proper to each of their children, "fostering with special care any religious vocations," but it also emphatically states that adult children have the right and duty to choose for themselves and it then becomes a parent's duty to give advice and then respect their choices (which is a polite way of saying something that could be summed up in two words - butt out).

I also found this recent post with lots of really sound advice about the process of discernment and reminders that God will let you know His plan in His own time, when He thinks you're ready to hear it. Until then, pay attention to what God is calling you to do today.

Anyway, if you have any other great links on the topic, be sure to share them with us.

Thanks for listening, and keep praying for an increase in vocations.


Jerome Vincent said...

A bombshell of a book I happened upon late last spring was 'Priestly Vocation' by Fr. John Blowick (almost certainly out of print now). It applies to all vocations, contrary to the title's suggestion.

Its thesis is that there are two 'theories' of vocation, one the correct position of the Church, and the other a false one that slowly took over in the 17th century and is still the one people believe in today.

If the book sounds a little academic, well, it kind of is -- every other word is footnoted -- but its message would have a big impact on young people's 'discernment', and all for the best, I think. It would be really valuable for someone to write a short pamphlet summarizing the thing.

Basically, the 'new' theory assumes that God calls us directly to a certain state of life from eternity, and it is up to us to introspect and figure out which state we are meant for. Sounds reasonable, right? The only thing is, it easily leads all these poor 20-year-old guys to agonize for months and years, trying to 'feel' whether or not they're called to the priesthood or to marriage, waiting to 'sense' some interior attraction to one or the other. Meanwhile, their poor 20-year-old belles are understandably wondering when, if it all depends upon some interior feeling, their beau's 'discernment' will ever end.

The two things this gets wrong is:

A. Vocation is a COUNSEL, not a PRECEPT -- we're not morally bound to find out THE one state God chose for them and then follow it, under pain of a miserable graceless existence if we choose 'incorrectly.'

B. God calls us (with a possible handful of miraculous expceptions) not directly, but through His Church. A priestly call, e.g., is the call FROM A BISHOP to a man who has the requisite qualities (which are fairly easy to define) and right intention. If you make it through seminary having been honest with your superiors, and your Bishop wants you ordained, then please don't lose sleep wondering whether maybe God DID want you to marry Agnes eight years ago in college.

I'm not very good at summarizing things' it would be better just to read the first few chapters of the book, probably. But while it sounds strange to modern ears, I think the true theory is extremely liberating -- instead of worrying over finding an interior call, people can realize that God leaves it to our free will to decide which path we will try. Every guy is welcome to enter seminary; every girl welcome to try the convent; with their honesty and the judgment of their superiors, they needn't worry about having chosen wrongly or 'missed' a call to marriage. And conversely, if you're head over heels for ol' Agnes, well, maybe you'd have made a good priest, but God will certainly not punish you for getting married. It's up to you. (Do pray about it, though!)

A big kerfuffle over this broke out early last century, which Pius X addressed and decided in favor of the true theory explained in the book. Unfortunately no one listened to him.

Anyway, the lesson is, at some point, we need to not emphasize DISCERNING so much; we simply need to DECIDE. Easier said than done, I know ... but easier done than prolonged.

Jerome Vincent said...

Just to clarify ... by "gets wrong" I meant "doesn't understand" -- that is, A. and B. are the _correct_ statements.

Here's a little link with more backup ... esp. scroll down and read Pius X's decision:

God bless, and keep up the excellent work. This little blog is a great srevice to the Church (and this is coming from someone to whom the posts on recipes and lace etc. make less than no sense, I'm afraid).

Seraphic said...

Thanks for your link! Just so you know, I've taken it down for my usual reason, i.e. it looked like a good topic for a saleable piece.