Facing important decisions about life choices is never easy, and discerning a call that is “the road less taken,” religious life, can be very confusing. God doesn’t inscribe your call across the heavens or deliver a crystal clear invitation. You have to listen to your deeper self, to the quiet movement of your heart.
From my twenty plus years in vocation ministry, I’ve found there are signs to pay attention to or take seriously if you are wondering about a possible call to religious life. Let’s start with some of the little signs--behaviors or choices that might indicate the potential for a call by God to religious life.
- You are seriously interested in a deep friendship with God or Jesus.
- You have been developing that relationship for awhile—possibly attending retreats, workshops, or courses that feed your spiritual hunger
- You find your thoughts frequently turning toward God.
- You like to pray; you like hanging out with God.
- You read Scripture and have a strong desire to be a follower of Jesus, one of his disciples.
- You are active in your parish, youth group, or group that supports your spiritual growth.
- You are drawn to service and are generous with your time and gifts for those in need.
- You seek people with whom you can have deeper and more meaningful conversations.
Hmmm--anything sound familiar? Here are other signs that are a little more telling and might indicate that some deeper knowing in you has already begun to consider religious life:
- You know some religious whom you admire, who are mentors, or who inspire you.
- You hang out with religious--working, socializing, visiting. You like spending time with them.
- Other people (family or friends) may even ask you something like, “Why do you hang out with those nuns (or priests or brothers) so much?”
- You’ve started reading about religious orders and checking out websites, and you are intrigued by their lifestyle.
- You’ve done a “Come and See” retreat or had a live-in experience with a community.
- You've made a discernment retreat, and maybe you have a spiritual director to help you discern your call.
- You find yourself thinking about or imagining religious life as an option for you.
- You may be asking God to please let you know if this is your call.
Still checking items off? Here then are serious signs, which might be scary if the decision about religious life has been a hard one for you. It’s important to remember that these signs are serious indicators of a possible call made by a tender, persistent, respectful God:
- The idea won’t go away…even when you try to put it on a back burner and try other options for your life. It reminds me of the Jeremiah Scripture (called “Jeremiah’s Interior Crisis”) that we recently had at Mass: “I said to myself I will not mention him. I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart…I grow weary holding it in.”
- You may collect lots of reasons why religious life would not be good for you. Your head is busy talking you out of it! But your heart still stirs, feeling a persistent nudge.
- Even the heavy-hitter question, “But how can I know for sure?” doesn’t dissuade you.
- And lastly, other options that you “try on” leave your heart empty, unsatisfied, sad, or restless. You experience what discernment calls “desolation,” a lack of peace or joy.
My dear reader, with God we need not have fear. We can be totally honest in exploring our life call with God, because no one wants our happiness more than God. Ask for clarity. Ask for courage. Seek wise counsel or guidance. And don’t be afraid.
What question in your heart do you bring to God today?