Are you aware of your vocation?

Blog Published: January 10, 2011
By Sister Julie

Everyone has a calling – maybe to religious life, married life, parenthood, or to a particular ministry or way of being in the world. Sometimes we clearly choose a vocation and other times we realize we’ve been living it all along. Giving oneself to God through any life vocation means that you are open to wherever God leads you, even to places that you might never have imagined.

As you think about how God is calling you … how God may be calling you … what questions surface for you? What do you begin to wonder about? How do you take that next step in following your call?

Let’s start bringing some of those questions to light by writing them in the comment box. I think it’d be really cool to get a number of these questions going because they can help spark our imaginations and maybe even articulate something that has been percolating within us! So bring ‘em on … no matter how simple or odd they may seem!

Archived Comments

Kim January 10, 2011 at 10:20 am

Hi: I am now 55 and still feel a calling to religious vocation. I was educated by Caldwell Dominican sisters in NJ, used to dress like them when I was little. I did a year of volunteer work in Bayou La Batre, AL and lived in the convent with them. It was the most joyous year of my life. Unfortunately, I went down engaged. I almost called it off; but my grandmother told me to “always have two heads on the pillow.” Without a lack of support or mentor (and not revealing my thoughts to anyone but her) I made the choice to marry. That was the worst 10 years of my life, turns out he was gay. The best to come of the marriage are three great children. But the longing is still there. To this day, I still struggle with my discontent with the Church vs a calling.

marla January 10, 2011 at 8:00 pm

I hear you, Kim. I swear I was supposed to be a nun, but I just feared it. I was instilled with a great deal of fear from my family of origin and I carried it with me forever. Now I know: You cannot live in fear and live well. I would give anything to go back 25 years and make better choices, choices in spite of the fear instead of in reaction to it. I have done many other things I felt called to do, quite successfully, but it never erased that longing to be a sister I had from a very early age.

Another Sister Julie, CSSF January 10, 2011 at 12:20 pm

As I read this post I remember what Blessed “Mother” Teresa called her “call within a call.” I thought I was called to be a teacher as a Felician Franciscan sister. I was called to be Felician. I have done much more than teach. The lesson I’ve learned it to listen to God’s daily call, be open to whatever changes that daily may bring, and to hang on for the greatest adventure ever!

An January 10, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Hi. I’m 35-years old and single. I just came from a retreat over the weekend during my birthday. I think I have a vocation crisis. When I was about 12, I used to secretly put a towel over my head after shower and pretend to be a nun. When I was 17, I met a lay spirituality group and I got involved with them for 2 1/2 years until my family moved to the U.S. When in the U.S., I still tried to get involved with the same lay spirtuality, did volunteer work, go to retreats, recollections and several outreach programs. Unfortunately, I got so busy with work that I barely had time to do my norms of piety. In 2008, I quit that job and went to the WYD in Sydney and started bringing my nephews to CCD class. I later found myself teaching CCD class in 2009 and also met a guy. Then in 2010, as I was preparing to go to Fatima in Nov, I happened to meet the vice-postulator of the cause of canonization of Bl. Jacinta and Franciso. They are sisters living in Fatima and my longing to discover what God is calling me for is once again renewed. I am still involved in the lay spirituality for 18 yrs now and I also like this one guy very much. What should I do? I think I’m trying to be open to God’s call but it’s not very clear what God is calling me for.

Dorothy January 10, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Hi, in my mind there’s always that desire to be a nun and I feel that days are going by n am yet to make up my mind and I know this feeling has made me not desire to be in a relationship. The nature of work I do doesn’t allow me to participate actively in church coz it involves alot of traveling n moving. Am 30yrs and yet to start religion classes. Is it still worthy n satisfying? It’s like my life is not moving @ all coz @ times the desire is so strong.

Eileen January 10, 2011 at 3:18 pm

I personally have loads of questions concerning my path in life and what I’m meant to do and who to be. The overasked question of “what do u want to be when u grow up” that is often asked of us as children I have been asking of myself lately as a 33 year old grown woman. Some questions I have are:
1. How do u know it’s a calling vs a re-occurring dream?
2. If one has re-occurring dream that doesn’t change much and it is of one being a religious sister, may this be a sign from God?
3. Is it recommended to attend retreats and/or reflection weekends to try to sort things out and make sense of things or is there another recommendation that can be ask effective? I, for example, is strongly considering going to a religious retreat.
4. Are there books and/or other media outlets that you can recommend that may provide effective, reliable, and concrete information into religious life and vocation? I’m currently reading a wonderful book called “Unveiled: The hidden lives of nuns” by Cheryl L Reed and it really has my wheels turning in a good way.
5. As a woman in my early 30s, is this something that is common and seen in religious life?
6. Is there a huge disconnect from ones family when a woman enters religious life? I understand it varies pending the order, but what if one enters a non-cloistered community?
7. Are items like pc/laptops n phones something of a privellage or are women able to hold onto such resources?

These are merely some questions I have off the top that I’d love getting some insights on. I love listening to your weekly “Ask Sister” podcast. I listen to it during the weekends since I’m at work when u r live. Oh speaking of, one last question….. If a woman takes the steps toward religious life, how soon or later does it occur from the moment they begin speaking to a vocation director? Many thanks for reading my post and may you have a wonderful day!! ~E 

Marg January 10, 2011 at 3:24 pm

I love AnotherSisterJulie’s post! Reminds me of the variously attributed: “Life is what happens while we’re making other plans.”

The question has increasing relevance for me as I contemplate eventual retirement. What is my next calling? It’s scary to give up my power base and the companionship of work. But I’m aware of so much more to do; it’s hard to focus. I’ve trusted that there will be a good landing other times I’ve jumped off a cliff, and here I am, approaching the edge again, hoping to leap of my own volition and not get pushed off unawares. It’s really hard!

joyce January 10, 2011 at 3:40 pm

The big question that pops into my head is “What are your written-in-stone reasons for considering your vocation to ___?” Wherever you go, you must continually be able, without a doubt, to say “This is home for me. I have no gnawing in my gut that isn’t healthy, and I know this is where I’m meant to hone into. I know God wants me here, at least for a moment, and that I will grow from this experience.”

KCMayrie January 10, 2011 at 4:51 pm

The comment I have is related to courage to follow your call, once you’ve discovered where God wants to lead you. Do I really have the courage to ‘step into the boat’? as it were, to follow the call? Will it really BE alright? Can I relinquish control to God and trust that He won’t let me fall? Can I stand up to those around me who question or deny my call or who challenge and oppose me? Is this really what God is asking of me or something else? How do I know?… There are always so many questions! My friend Grace, adds to joyce’s comment: And do you go CRAZY not being there?

Miria Rose January 10, 2011 at 6:44 pm

My biggest question is how do I live the vocation to consecrated life as a young college student in the world. I spent the week before last living in a cloistered Dominican monastery and I loved the prayer life but realized that my vocation right now is to the world. I’ve been having a hard time readjusting because I miss the rhythm of prayer and silence etc. I feel so full of contradictions and I know at some point I’ll have my home and my place but I can’t seem to find it right now. I feel like when I’m with people I want to be in silent prayer but when I’m in silent prayer I want to be reaching out to people. Sorry for the ramble. KC I feel the exact same way as you do!!

Christine January 10, 2011 at 9:24 pm

I am a 47 year old single women, and I feel called to the religious life. When I was a teenager I wanted to become a nun, but I knew I would be joining for the wrong reason (I wont go into here). I am blessed to have a wonderful Sister as my spiritual director but I have not talked to her about this yet. I am worried that my physical limitations may disqualify me as a candidate. I guess I am wondering if there is any point in pursing this any further. I know that God can use me as I am now, and I can have a relationship with Him now as I am. But I feel the need for more. Am I way off base on this? I guess my question is how can I be of service? How can I contribute? But then again.

Suze January 10, 2011 at 10:02 pm

Reading through the replies, I can say I’ve felt all of these emotions (and perhaps more!) and asked both tons of questions of myself and to others. Marg comments about “jumping off a cliff”. That is how I felt when first realizing I could answer God’s call (amazing really He still called since I’d pushed Him aside for many years!). Jumping head first not only into His hands but into an abyss of sorts, an abyss of my own creation full of doubt and yet full of wonder. After a time the doubts were gone but the wonder of it all still grows, pulsates even like a glow within that spills to surround me.

Each day is a mission, a gift from God, no matter what we do or who we are, no matter what questions we have and no matter that some of those questions don’t yet have an answer. Questions and doubts (light and darkness) are part of God’s gift to us. Thomas Merton said “Just as we can never separate asceticism from mysticism, so in St. John of the Cross we find darkness and light, suffering and joy, sacrifice and love united together so closely that they seem at times to be identified.”

Another Sister Julie, CSSF January 11, 2011 at 11:25 am

Hey, Marg! At our assembly last year I heard SM Elizabeth Imler, OSF say, “Religious don’t retire. They just change ministries.” She tells her sisters in the ministry of suffering that when they are “on the clock” with their ministry they can’t complain of their aches and pains. They save it up for when their 8 hrs of ministry is over. She, as minister general of her order, once asked a sick sister, “How are you feeling?” The sister replied, “I can’t tell you know. Ask me again at supper”!!!!!

Marg January 11, 2011 at 5:10 pm

I like that, Ster Julie! Now to determine the direction of the change!

Sister Julie January 11, 2011 at 3:56 pm

We got a bunch of comments on discovering one’s vocation, but not so much with moving forward. So … is moving forward with one’s calling more challenging than the process of discovering one’s calling in life?

Bronwyn January 11, 2011 at 4:15 pm

For me, the hardest thing is moving from admitting that God might be calling me to the religious life, to asking for advice on how to proceed. It completely fits, but I’m still working to overcome my own doubts that I’m not “good enough”, or that others will laugh at me if I tell them. (When it finally hit home, my first response was to go “Seriously? You’ve got to be kidding. Me?”). Right now I’m praying for courage to talk to my priest, because although I know what what God’s calling me to do, I’m afraid he won’t take me seriously.

Marsha West January 11, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Good question, Sr. Julie. I think it’s a much harder place to be. It’s one thing to hear God’s call and to say yes. Sometimes you aren’t even sure what it is you’ve said yes to, although (hopefully) you’ve said yes to following Jesus and committing yourself to him.

It’s a whole other thing to try to figure out where to go from there. Sometimes the choices seem clear and well-defined. Get married. Or not. Look for a religious order and apply. Or not. But sometimes the path ahead seems very obscure. What are the implications of this YES – how do you implement the commitment? Does it mean a different kind of work or ministry? Moving to a different living situation? Do you do it alone or with a group?

Sometimes there’s just a substantial time of groping about, wondering what it is you need to do, how you need to change, how will those changes come about. That is where the “waiting upon the Lord” part kicks in. That’s where you may not be borne up on eagle’s wings – instead you may find yourself walking and wondering about the “not fainting” promise.

Suze January 11, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Actually I feel it is easier as one has moved forward. The ups and downs, the OMG! factor (no pun intended), all these feelings are gone. What remains is a wondrous sense of peace. Expectation as well, the knowledge of what is to come and the joy in both knowing and waiting. And yes, wanting the “waiting” to be done with and the next step realized. The plans, the sisterhood, the absolute joy of being closer than ever to Mary and her Son.

Zeke January 11, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Thanks for talking about this and helping me think thru it. I continue to be puzzled (and frustrated) that I only seem to hear the word “vocation” relative to vowed religious life. Perhaps vocation is not the simplest of words to drop in everyday conversation; but any idea why this word isn’t more widely used as you did in your opening sentence?

I recently read “Religious life is not about ministry; it is about developing a heart and mind that come to see life as it is and so rouse us to live differently ourselves because of it” (excerpt from The Fire In These Ashes p95). This line has been haunting me on many levels: Isn’t this a statement about life as a non-vowed religious too? Or why call it religious life (vowed religious life) and not spiritual life or just simply call it life (“actually” living)?

As always thanks for having the opportunity to share, learn and grow!

Eileen January 11, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Perhaps people who may feel have a calling or have feeling of being drawn to something more than they have known are not aware or know how to move forward. The unknown can undoubtedly pose fear in each and every one of us and perhaps that is why it is so essential to have strong, reliable, and credible resources available to know when and where to turn to when questions arise and one wants to seek the answers to those questions!

KCMayrie January 11, 2011 at 10:22 pm

Moving forward to me is hard. What are the next steps? If the call is religious life, then what community? How does one actually “discern”? There are many many communities out there, but which one is right for me? How do I know when I have found THE one? Many have told me that you will know you have found the right community when it feels like home…

Making that initial contact is also scary for many people…from the discerner’s point of view, in most cases, you’re being asked to contact a complete stranger and initiate a conversation about something you aren’t really sure about, have no clue what you’re doing, or what you should ask…it can be terrifying!

Visiting communities can also prove challenging…geography, time, costs, etc all play a part…and it is such an important step, but knowing what communities to visit and expectations while you are there is a difficult road to navigate…

Then the application process! And what an extensive process it is…but it needs to be…as one Vocation Director said to me, “you aren’t applying for college – this is for LIFE!” and she’s right…but looking at it from the other side can be daunting. So much information! But it’s good too, because it acts as yet another challenge to test the vocation…the resolve to complete it, to submit it…

There is so much uncertainty involved too…if/once the application is accepted, then comes the time prior to entrance, preparing the transition – wrapping up one life to begin another. This can involve many different steps, but with each one, the applicant is one step closer to where she is being called…

Entrance doesn’t end the journey either…there is still a lot of discernment to occur. Now that I’m here, is this really where God wants me to be? Does the community feel the same way? Can I really DO this…forever? Is this really right for me? It is a constant discernment process…I would even venture to say that discernment continues not only through formation, but continues long after…even after final vows have been professed…we are always, constantly searching for the will of God…

Personally, the worst part the uncertainty. I am comfortable where I am. I have an apartment, a cat, a job I enjoy – where I am appreciated and respected, I am not wealthy but have a comfortable standard of living…am I really being asked to ‘give it all up’ for something else? And, what happens if I’m not accepted? or if I am accepted and I get there, I discover or the community discovers it really isn’t a good fit? What will happen then? But, that is also where trust and abandonmnet comes into play. I have to trust that God won’t lead me anyplace that isn’t His will and I have to abandon myself and my concerns to Him, trusting that He, my loving Father, will always take care of me…

Marg January 12, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Powerful, Zeke! I totally agree with your second paragraph…spiritual life, mindful life, “real” life.

A. Sue February 8, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Sister Julie asked: What questions surface? I wanted to share a question that comes from a Called & Gifted workshop, Fr. Mike asked, “What is the next obvious step? Then do that thing.” For discernment, this keeps my feet on the ground as my heart is filled to overflowing — and it gets me outta my head. The question gets answered and acted on — this has taken me to wonderful people and new places (some old places, experienced in new ways), and showered blessings that I could never imagine! True: not always COMFORTABLE, but I accept the discomfort when it’s part of the experience … As you can tell, it’s not so much the logical — “Spock” — step, but what’s come up during prayers? Who’s shown up that needs special care, in a way that I can give? Why not add daily Mass, as work allows? It’s been part of the exploration, prompted by the Good Lord; part of trusting, following, listening, loving, and rejoicing. Blessings to all to people posting here ~~ thank you for sharing with us.

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