Vocational discernment requires deep personal reflection. Those who find vocational discernment confusing should seek out a person with strong knowledge of the Faith. For Christians, discernment requires prayer and a deep relationship with God. Each person is called by God (in Latin, “vocare”) to a life of happiness and fulfillment.
“Vocation”, at its most fundamental level, can be defined as a “call”. It is a call to a certain state in life, but more importantly, it is a call from God to live out that state in personal holiness.
The understanding that a vocation is a call from God should lead one to think of this calling not only as a gift, but also as a commitment and a mission, given to each person before birth.
A vocation should not be confused with a person’s qualities or skills. One’s qualities might define and mold a person’s career, but the vocation is defined on a deeper existential level. It permeates our whole being on every level: physical, psychological and spiritual.
Today, people find it difficult to discover their vocation, such as to marriage or religious life. This is usually due to a lack of both deep self-reflection and time alone in quiet prayer. For example, a person who is discerning a call to celibacy must come to have an understanding of the needs of his physical nature.
One should also be aware of his psychological and emotional needs – for instance, is there a desire to live an exclusive relationship with someone? If so, discernment is necessary to see whether one is truly called and prepared to share his inner life with someone exclusively.
Conversely, does one find affective fulfillment in loving all people in the consecrated life? Matthew 19 offers a reflection on this matter on a more spiritual level: “others are freely eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven.” In the deepest sense, spiritual consecrated life is to live a unique intimacy in the love and service of God, and for the sake of his Kingdom. This is realized both by way of prayer and service for God’s people.
Authentic vocational discernment is validated in times of trial. Man comes to a fuller and more perfect understanding of self when he is tested. For this reason, a vocational decision that is not tested can be very deceiving. For the Christian, prayer is an essential part of this process.