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How should I go about considering a vocation to religious life?

© Philippe LISSAC / GODONG

Monks praying Liturgy of the Hours

Caitlin Bootsma - published on 03/21/13

If one pursues prayer and a relationship with the Lord, He will make clear your path to holiness

Blessed Pope John Paul II posed the question, “What will you do with your life? What are your plans? Have you ever thought of committing your existence totally to Christ? Do you think that there can be anything greater than to bring Jesus to people and people to Jesus?” (Manchester, England, 1982). It is often a question like this, either from someone else or within the silence of prayer, that prompts men and women to begin to discern religious life.

In discerning a vocation to religious life, perhaps the question is best phrased, “Is this the path to holiness to which the Lord is calling me? Am I willing to respond to this call?” The first step in discernment is prayer and regular reception of the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. Through prayer, you place all of your decisions in the hands of God and open yourself to understanding His will for your life. Recommended practices include praying the Rosary, taking retreats and entering into silent prayer and time spent before the Blessed Sacrament. By receiving the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, you remain in a state of grace and are better equipped to discern with freedom, unfettered by sin.

Second, if you continue to discern God’s call in your life, you should consider talking to someone you trust, whether it be your parents, a parish priest or a religious brother or sister. You may also choose to receive spiritual direction from a parish priest or a diocesan vocation director.

While living a life of prayer and discernment, you may wish to begin to discover more about various religious orders. There is a wealth of reading material about religious orders from popes, saints and theologians. You can also find testimonies from religious brothers and sisters, often on websites of various congregations.

Third, most religious congregations are open to having discerners visit, either on an individual basis or for a discernment retreat. With the guidance of your spiritual director, choosing congregations to visit may help you discern to which charism you may be called (e.g. to a teaching, missionary or contemplative order).

Discerning whether religious life is the vocation to which God has called you is just one portion of our journey as earthly pilgrims seeking Heaven. Ultimately, if your goal is truly to live the life that God wills for you, then He will make clear the best path for your life.

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