Are Catholics Required to Discern God's Will for their Lives?


#1

One hears many Protestants and Catholics talking about the importance of "discerning God's will for their life" (they may use different phraseology, but it amounts to the same basic idea).

Anyway, as Catholics, are we required to discern God's will for our lives or can we do what we want as long as we are not sinning? Obviously, those who desire the Priesthood, religious life...it is a different story, but I am talking about for a person who has no interest/desire/"calling" to a unique form of ordained/vowed service to the Church.

I am talking about obviously choosing among good/neutral things. Obviously, we should not choose sin and especially not grave sin. For example, someone has an interest in being a doctor or a lawyer (two neutral choices), do they need to 'pray' or ask God for input or can they just make a decision however they want?

In other words, why does a Catholic have to seek God's input in decision-making? As long as they are not choosing a sinful thing, then it falls within their choice.


#2

[quote="nsper7, post:1, topic:178567"]
One hears many Protestants and Catholics talking about the importance of "discerning God's will for their life" (they may use different phraseology, but it amounts to the same basic idea).

Anyway, as Catholics, are we required to discern God's will for our lives or can we do what we want as long as we are not sinning? Obviously, those who desire the Priesthood, religious life...it is a different story, but I am talking about for a person who has no interest/desire/"calling" to a unique form of ordained/vowed service to the Church.

I am talking about obviously choosing among good/neutral things. Obviously, we should not choose sin and especially not grave sin. For example, someone has an interest in being a doctor or a lawyer (two neutral choices), do they need to 'pray' or ask God for input or can they just make a decision however they want?

In other words, why does a Catholic have to seek God's input in decision-making? As long as they are not choosing a sinful thing, then it falls within their choice.

[/quote]

nsper:

God has something for each of us that not only will use the gifts and talents He has given us, and make us useful to the Body of Christ in ways we could never imagine, and help to give us graces and prepare us for our true home in heaven, but will help to make us truly happy, peaceful and joyful while we are doing it. We can only do it if we are doing God's perfect will. This isn't going to be discerned by contemplating our navals, but by acting in Faith.

I can't tell you what yours is or even how best to go about finding it out, but I can tell you that God wants us in His perfect will, and that we will be most happy, peaceful and joyful when we are doing His will.

I would try talking to God about this - Get to know Him, through the Scriptures, the Words of the Deserts Fathers and the lives of the Saints. EWTN has a whole library, and Ignatius Press has all sorts of instructional materials you can use. Talk to a priest or a Deacon or anyone who's really on fire for the Lord - Get a Spiritual Director, and talk to him about all the issues you've raised here plus any others that come to mind.

Our job isn't just to not sin - Our job is to get to know God and to get as close to Him as we can bear. Remember, we're going to spend all eternity going through all of the Universes He created with Him.

I hope this helps.

Your Brother & Servant in Christ, Michael


#3

[quote="nsper7, post:1, topic:178567"]
One hears many Protestants and Catholics talking about the importance of "discerning God's will for their life" (they may use different phraseology, but it amounts to the same basic idea).

Anyway, as Catholics, are we required to discern God's will for our lives or can we do what we want as long as we are not sinning? Obviously, those who desire the Priesthood, religious life...it is a different story, but I am talking about for a person who has no interest/desire/"calling" to a unique form of ordained/vowed service to the Church.

I am talking about obviously choosing among good/neutral things. Obviously, we should not choose sin and especially not grave sin. For example, someone has an interest in being a doctor or a lawyer (two neutral choices), ** do they need to 'pray' or ask God for input or can they just make a decision however they want?**emphasis mine

In other words, why does a Catholic have to seek God's input in decision-making? As long as they are not choosing a sinful thing, then it falls within their choice.

[/quote]

Hiyas:)

I guess it would depend on how one realizes the Holy Spirit within their lives.

My question, to me, would be: Why would I not ask for direction and council?

I have been known to mess-up a simple recipe.:)

I hope this helps


#4

St Ignatius gave us Spiritual Exercises to use daily to discern the Will of God for our lives.
Good reading...I did a bible study on it years ago, it changed the way I look at everything. By practicing Discernment & Consolation I am able to remind myself all the time that in the end, Gods will always wins. I know never to be discouraged.


#5

[quote="nsper7, post:1, topic:178567"]
One hears many Protestants and Catholics talking about the importance of "discerning God's will for their life" (they may use different phraseology, but it amounts to the same basic idea).

Anyway, as Catholics, are we required to discern God's will for our lives or can we do what we want as long as we are not sinning? Obviously, those who desire the Priesthood, religious life...it is a different story, but I am talking about for a person who has no interest/desire/"calling" to a unique form of ordained/vowed service to the Church.

I am talking about obviously choosing among good/neutral things. Obviously, we should not choose sin and especially not grave sin. For example, someone has an interest in being a doctor or a lawyer (two neutral choices), do they need to 'pray' or ask God for input or can they just make a decision however they want?

In other words, why does a Catholic have to seek God's input in decision-making? As long as they are not choosing a sinful thing, then it falls within their choice.

[/quote]

Prayer is a sacrifice and a discipline. I'm one who try to pray before and while I'm doing anything, including when the phone rings before I pick up I pray: "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace" (St Francis of Assisi prayer). I pray before interacting with others first of all because I desire to receive wisdom and to act with charity, and this is not something that I'm good at, but since receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, we are called to be like Christ in words and deeds.

Praying to help you discern to choose a career, selling your house or taking part in such social activity are important to avoid to rush into something that you will later regret. And yes I'm going to say it, God speaks to us through prayer. But are we listening? Meditating on the mysteries of the rosary or a particular aspect of a Bible story can give us new insights about our particular situation.

Are you in a Bible study group? Studying the Bible in a group is an wonderful way to learn how and why to pray, and also to listen to God speaking to us through Scripture and through other participants' insights. Peace&Prayers.

PS: 1 1/2 year ago, I was training for a half marathon and I loved it. I was running with a purpose on a Pro-life team. I was praying: "God if it's your will, let me continue to run for the unborn. If you want me to be pregnant, then I'll stop running". Today I have a very demanding yet adorable baby girl and I don't run anymore. It's a sacrifice because *I love running * but I'm glad I prayed to God and He showed me what His plan was. Guess I'll resume serious training in a couple of years!


#6

I guess what I am asking is do we have to discern God’s particular will for our life? Obviously, we have to obey the precepts of the Church and her commandments (sadly, many Catholics do not do this), but this is a general, not particular, will of God and His Church.

In other words, whether you are a doctor, a lawyer, a Priest, the President of the United States or a bum on the street: murder is sinful, attending Sunday Mass is mandatory unless you have a valid (by the Church’s standards) reason to miss, you must be Baptized and Confirmed, you must receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion and Reconciliation once per year (most should receive Reconciliation much more frequently since we are fallen and sin) and you must obey the other precepts and commandments enumerated by the Church.

Obviously, in any decision, you have to be willing to live with the consequences.

EDIT: This issue seems kind of important since many Protestants (i.e. the Lordship Salvation types) and possibly some Catholics make the old “make Jesus the Lord of your life” claim and act as though if you are not discering God’s particular (for lack of a better word) will for your life, then it is sin.


#7

[quote="nsper7, post:6, topic:178567"]
I guess what I am asking is do we have to discern God's particular will for our life? Obviously, we have to obey the precepts of the Church and her commandments (sadly, many Catholics do not do this), but this is a general, not particular, will of God and His Church.

In other words, whether you are a doctor, a lawyer, a Priest, the President of the United States or a bum on the street: murder is sinful, attending Sunday Mass is mandatory unless you have a valid (by the Church's standards) reason to miss, you must be Baptized and Confirmed, you must receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion and Reconciliation once per year (most should receive Reconciliation much more frequently since we are fallen and sin) and you must obey the other precepts and commandments enumerated by the Church.

Obviously, in any decision, you have to be willing to live with the consequences.

EDIT: This issue seems kind of important since many Protestants (i.e. the Lordship Salvation types) and possibly some Catholics make the old "make Jesus the Lord of your life" claim and act as though if you are not discering God's particular (for lack of a better word) will for your life, then it is sin.

[/quote]

I don't believe it's a sin not to pray to discern God's will. We are all at different stages on our faith journey and depending on what is happening in our lives, we are more or less incline to prayer. I am regularly going through dry spiritual phases where I'm unable to pray. And then you read a book or you hear a homily that inspire you and prayer is back in your life. It may start with 1 Our Father every morning and gradually, you realize that you have so much to pray about (to ask, to be thankful, to seek guidance for) and you learn to let go and to let God be in charge. Life in Christ is a constant conversion of heart. What helped me to be "back on track" with prayer a couple of months ago is watching the old "Song of Bernadette" movie.


#8

How far should we take it?

“Father, is it your will that I eat a PBJ for lunch, or should I make a smoothie?”

… I don’t think so. We should pray often and sincerely, and we will see an increase in the fruits of the Spirit, and therefore we will be better equipped to always make decisions pleasing to God in all aspects of our lives. Do you think God is not capable of changing your path whether you will it or not? If we strive to always be open to His will, He’ll make it known to us when it matters, if we’re listening. If we come up on a serious decision–a big move, job change, a family matter–that will obviously require prayer, and then action. If we never act, we’ll never get anything done. I doubt it’s God’s will for us that we never take a single step unless He’s explicitly said “Knight to D5.” Sometimes we might get a clear message–sometimes we’ll get whacked in the forehead with it. The rest of the time we have to live our lives. He gave them to us to live. If we’re doing the wrong thing but we’re open to suggestions, we will get them.

Meanwhile I think I like PBJs for lunch just fine.


#9

Thank you, that was exactly my point when I shared this story earlier:
“1 1/2 year ago, I was training for a half marathon and I loved it. I was running with a purpose on a Pro-life team. I was praying: “God if it’s your will, let me continue to run for the unborn. If you want me to be pregnant, then I’ll stop running”. Today I have a very demanding yet adorable baby girl and I don’t run anymore.”

I also quit running because I was at risk for a miscarriage. And yes I thought it was an answer to my prayers because I was wanting to put on more miles during my runs and at the same time not doing NFP. Maybe if you’re a runner you can understand the thirst for putting on more miles and a the same time the openness to let go in case of pregnancy. It requires prayer because it’s not natural to let go of something that we enjoy doing and are good at. So to be prepared, I started praying for that intention of “to run or not to run” that might sound foolish at first.

I hate to make this post about me but I wanted to share with you guys a personal experience of prayer.


#10

I realize after that whole thread I made on whether a minimalist faith is sinful or not that the real question I am struggling with is this one: are Catholics required to discern God’s will for their lives?

For me, I am in a time of key decisions: I am running for local political office and if I lose, I have to decide to try again at the next election (in which case, I’ll need a job until then and one that will look good for a politician-to-be) or do I do as I originally intended and leave to join the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land? If I win the election, I have to decide do I want to just serve out a single term and continue to the Priesthood or actually try to make a career out of politics?

So far, I am enjoying campaigning and enjoying the newfound sense of respect people have for me (I assume that is because they feel that I can help them achieve what they want, proof of the old saying that the best friendships are the ones based on mutual benefit) and I like being in the thick of things and feeling that I can truly have an affect on what goes on around me.

Several people whom I trust feel that I could definitely one day go state-level or even national and that would be very interesting. I seem to have the necessary skills to be a politician (i.e. public speaking skills, socializing and I enjoy being around people, I seem to have a good tactical mind) and I think I will enjoy it.

If I am pursuing a non-religious vocation, then isn’t in the end my decision on what course to take and there is no sin issues involved unless you are choosing something that is sinful in its actions (i.e. being an assassin, a criminal, etc.)?

Can one just make decisions based on what they want and what they feel they can succeed at?


#11

Obviously, I realize politics is one of those things where you are not guaranteed success. If no one else around me thought I would do well politically, I would hopefully be realistic enough to recognize that I should probably pick a different interest.

Also, I recognize that a politician must submit themselves to the Church and not support things that are against Catholic teaching.


#12

By submitting to the Church I mean that even the most powerful secular leader (i.e. President or something) must still obey the Church and its teachings. I think it is despicable that many of our politicians disobey Church leadership (look at Patrick Kennedy's conflict with Bishop Tobin or the support of abortion by many politicians who claim to be Catholic).


#13

Have you already begun your discernment with the Franciscans? You are a brand new Catholic with a lot of things to get settled spiritually. It might be better for you to proceed with the secular pursuits in which you are already succeeding while you continue to work out your spiritual issues.

Have you actually prayed about this? You know, just sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament and listening for God? Sometimes God shows His will through your successes and failures, but you should at least submit it to Him and listen for His answer.

Betsy


#14

Isn't being a politician something very Faith-related as well?

OK, most countries try to separate state and church, but somebody's moral still play an important role.

I can relate a bit to what you are saying about how are we allowed to make decisions... I have thought about this quite a bit too.... Like, how do we really know a feeling we have of something we want to do is God speaking to us, or just us wanting it?

More than once it has been suggested to me to offer my idea/hope/dream up to God. Maybe we could say: Do everything FOR HIM. How can it be bad then?

Kathrin


#15

More than once it has been suggested to me to offer my idea/hope/dream up to God. Maybe we could say: Do everything FOR HIM. How can it be bad then?

But what if I don't want to do that? What if I just want to make my own decisions that I think will be the best for me and that I will enjoy? Like I said, this is an issue that has been bugging me for awhile.

After all the psychological messes my faith has caused me (i.e. Scrupulosity, fear, worry, etc.), why should I want to do anything for Him (beyond the required)?


#16

Does that mean you’ve given up on being a priest?


#17

[quote="nsper7, post:15, topic:178567"]
But what if I don't want to do that? What if I just want to make my own decisions that I think will be the best for me and that I will enjoy? Like I said, this is an issue that has been bugging me for awhile.

[/quote]

I have had conversations with a priest about something similar.
Sometimes it seems to me I have this tendency to feel guilty when I enjoy something.
I asked, is it ok to do something because we enjoy it? (Or, because it feels right/good, something like that).
Of course his reply may have been influenced by the fact that he is talking to a very scrupulous person.
I remember something he said: Something like (I don't remember exactly and am probably mixing it up with things somebody else told me,but anyway, the message is about it): If I'm not sure something is from God, like if Ilike to do something, or would like to do something, want to choose a path or something that feels right for me.... if it isn't something sinful then I can just pray about it and offer it up to God and go ahead with it...

Offering it up to God does NOT mean that we can't do something that feels right FOR US.
I think it can simply mean: To do the same thing we would be doing but doing it for God. Or: WITH him. In prayerful union.
Something like that.

So it is not an either-or. So why would somebody not want to do that?
Let's say somebody has a talent, like to play an instrument or something. He really enjoys it. He would like to become a professional artist.
He could offer that dream up to God.
That does not mean he has to give it up! That could mean, maybe all the more, that he will go at it - but WITH, and FOR God.

[quote="nsper7, post:15, topic:178567"]

After all the psychological messes my faith has caused me (i.e. Scrupulosity, fear, worry, etc.), why should I want to do anything for Him (beyond the required)?

[/quote]

That's kind of like saying, "why belong to the church after they did all those violent things during the crusades?". Like it was the Church's fault, and not what some people misunderstandingly did in her name.
Just like that, the psychological mess people like you or me go through - does that make our Faith bad? No I sure wouldn't say so!!!! If something in our brains goes wrong, those are trials, and sometimes we don't know why we have to go through them... this would be a whole other topic... like, why is there suffering in this world, why is there illness?

God loves us and He is waiting for each one of us to return to His love.

Doing things for God, for others, for ourselves... doesn't have to be all that different.

Kathrin

God bless you!


#18

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