Discerning a vocation?


#1

The first step of any vocational discernment should be getting a spiritual director and meeting with them on a regular basis to work though the discernment.

This should happen before you solicit advice from an anonymous source such as an internet forum such as this.


#2

I would agree with that. Nothing beats face-to-face meetings for people in discernment


#3

It’s interesting that you should begin this thread today, Brother David, because I was considering something similar over the last few days (that Carmelite telepathy must be working overtime). I have concerns about the amount and intricacy of information that people sometimes seek here at the forum, and also worry that the hoped-for level of expertise on the part of respondents may be lacking on occasion.

For what it’s worth, I don’t claim to be an expert on vocations: I’m just someone who has experienced and responded to a call to religious life, but I would be very hesitant in answering some of the questions asked here at CAF because they require a knowledge of the person asking that I simply don’t have.

As we’ve remarked before, the way in which particular religious communites and institutes are recommended and/or condemned here also troubles me, because those kinds of value judgements assume a level of experience and discrimination that I really don’t think many people have - even some time spent with a particular community isn’t definitive, and anything less than that is simply insufficient for meaningful comment. And when the questions asked are at the level of ‘does anyone know of enclosed communities in California?’ - well, I kind of think that the person asking should spend a few minutes with Google finding the answers for themselves. The discernment process will require much greater efforts from people than that before it’s through, so get to work. :o

No doubt I’m coming across as very critical and unhelpful here (sorry :() but I actually do** want to help. I’m wondering if we need some more stickies here to address these basic questions and explain why your advice regarding direction is so important? Or whether extending this thread to explain the benefits of spiritual direction more generally, or some thoughts on the nature of discernment, might be useful? I think CAF is a good resource in these matters, and many people here have very useful information to give, but I’m concerned about the unrealistic expectations that some people might have in coming here, and the way in which respondents (including me) can in all good faith mislead them with their answers.

Hope I’m not out of line or simply expounding upon difficulties that aren’t there. I think this is an important matter and worth some thought.


#4

Brother Mike,
I must say that I also think the Carmelite telepathy is working over time as what you have said here is exactly what prompted me to post this today.

That and one of our vocations directors is speading a couple of days at our house speaking on vocations here at the school. It has gotten me thinking.


#5

Great advice! I agree that it’s not a good idea to start and depend a lot on the anonymous advice offered here or online in general. There are a lot of good things about it, like sharing information, etc. meeting others discerning. But there’s the potential for a lot of problems and confusion … like for one thing, comparing yourself with others when everyone’s vocation/story is so totally unique in God’s mysterious plans. And also, wasting a lot of time online, when the time could be used for prayer.

By the way, just wondering, but what do you guys mean by “Carmelite telepathy?” lol

http://i52.tinypic.com/vcyrfs.gif


#6

Brother David and I belong to (different provinces of) the Order of Carmelites of the Ancient Observance (O. Carm). Although he lives in the US and I live in the UK, we both seem to have had similar ideas at the same time. There isn’t a known or recognised telepathy amongst religious from the same charism, but who knows?

The truth is out there! :eek:


#7

I have to disagree…sometimes one runs into a close minded spiritual director whereas online you can meet others that are also discerning and share ideas with one another. Online vocational discernment certainly helped me out a lot and now i’m on my way to priesthood (God willingly) :smiley:


#8

I tend to agree. I do not think there is anything wrong with posting on this forum and the advice here can be quite helpful, interesting and encouraging. It is not a substitute for the process of spiritually working through things with a good spiritual director.

One thing I like about that idea is that this person is not wedded to trying to get you into a particular order or some of the other things that may come up. A solid spiritual director can be a source of honest feedback and even encouragement (eg giving a sense of affirmative direction even though you have been turned down by an order OR helping you to discern other paths God may have for you).

Some of the best advice I got was from a spiritually wise person who had no say so in whether I embarked upon a specific vocation (he was a priest and theologian). His advice to wait and experience more turned out to be spot on. Not what I may have wanted at the time BUT spot on. I am far better at living out my vocation because of that spiritual direction.


#9

What about those who are unable to find a good spiritual director? I have had one in the past, but he was not trained and I was not learning anything, so I ended it. I have been searching for at least a year since and no one is available in my diocese. I’ve called the vocation office, spoken to my parish priest, spoken to priests at other Churches, but no one can give me direction. I keep getting the name of a Sister in our diocese who is the delegate for religious, but she is retired is never available to take phone calls or answer email because she is ill a lot. Unfortunately, we only have one order of habited religious in our diocese and my priest told me not to deal with them as he and I both know of some problems within the order that I would rather not deal with. I don’t know what to do… :shrug:


#10

You raise a very significant problem, DoM, to which there is no obvious answer. But I still think it’s worth saying that direction is the best first option that should be pursued by people in discernment, and saying this - or even saying it loudly, as Brother David and I have done on this thread - is not to imply it’s easy or even possible, just that it’s the preferred path to take.

My concern is that some of the threads in this forum seem to assume that sharing ideas is all that’s needed to help determine a course of action. (‘I think the xxxx sisters are great! Apply to join them!’). This might be helpful - I don’t want to place limits on Divine Providence - but it’s more likely to be confusing and inappropriate for the needs of someone known only as a username on an anonymous forum.

I think there’s a qualitative difference between making an undirected discernment by choice as opposed to making it by necessity because there are limited options available to you. Even spiritual direction at a distance or by someone of limited ability can sometimes be preferable to none at all. For myself I accepted direction for a year before making an application, and for the full 18 months of the application procedure. I would never have got through it without the help - and challenges - that I received from my director.

Perhaps you might consider direction from someone belonging to a non-habited institute? As we’ve discussed on these forums many times, not all religious are mandated or permitted to wear habits (canon law implies otherwise but actually refers the matter to the proper law of each institute). In and of itself religious garb does not grant particular skills in direction, nor does it actually tell you much about the wearer’s mindset, contrary to popular belief - some of the most conservative religious I know don’t wear the habit, and some of the habited religious I’ve met are actually very liberal in their ecclesiology and practice. You might be missing out on someone who’s very skilled but for sound reasons doesn’t wear a habit.

The priest who instructed me when I entered the church was perhaps the most orthodox tell-it-like-the church-teaches cleric I ever met, but he didn’t wear religious dress because of his personal austerity - he wore the same shirt and trousers every day, washing them nearly every evening as necessary! - and because he was a Jesuit, and they adapt to the culture in which they work rather than having a prescribed way of dressing. Similarly my first real exposure to Catholicism was through the Missionaries of Charity, whose female members wear the sari, not a traditionally styled habit, and whose male equivalents don’t wear any recognisable form of religious dress. And Mother Teresa didn’t raise no heretics.:wink:

I’m pretty sure you know all of that, and I’m not trying to patronise you here; I’m also trying to address the broader readership who might encounter this thread. Discernment is a long and often painful process, as you know from your own personal experience. I don’t think it’s wise to limit the available options for support without concrete (as opposed to aesthetic or binary) reasons. But of course it remains entirely your choice. :shrug:

Last point: some of the best spiritual directors I’ve encountered were secular people, neither religious or priests. Likewise there are courses in spiritual direction offered at some institutions, and students may be able to take on some clients under supervision. It pays to ask around and see who’s available. But perhaps these options aren’t available to you.

Best wishes and prayers to you and people seeking but not finding support in your discernment.


#11

As a person who feels uncomfortable approaching the Religious orders because I feel unworthy, though I feel called to join, I have found that first investigating online what order you are interested in is helpful to start off with. Then the next step for me was contacting by phone and organising to meet.


#12

Hi there - i am at a place in my life where i believe something is happening to me and i am not sure if i am ready to take the next step. Every since i was a kid i always wanted to become a priest - i served at mass for years , when i was a kid i would always go to mass every evening for the months of november and all of lent. I always had a closeness to the mass and enjoyed going. Then my life changed i started to grow up and left this side of me behind , i wandered through life up to about a year ago - i got the chance to go to westminister cathedral in london and i have to say the feelings about the priesthood that i put to one side has now returned. I hadent been to confession in years and about a month ago and i think i got a sign through him - he told me that god wanted me to do a job for him and to start this every morning i needed to think about what good i was going to do today , place my day in gods hand and every evening reflect back again. So foward onto this week - i spent most of the week in this cathedral thinking about my life - on holy thursday i spent from 11am til midnight there - but i am really nervous to decide what to do next..... any help would be great.
Laughlin


#13

[quote="ByzCath, post:1, topic:236244"]
The first step of any vocational discernment should be getting a spiritual director and meeting with them on a regular basis to work though the discernment.

This should happen before you solicit advice from an anonymous source such as an internet forum such as this.

[/quote]

Good spiritual directors can be hard to find. It can be even harder for a person to find one that works well for them. It took eight years for me to find the right one for me.


#14

definitely talk to your parish priest about it. Then see if you can talk to the vocation director of your diocese. maybe between the two of them they can come up with a siritual director for you. Another thing that I myself found helpful is a weekend silent retreat. just my ideas.


#15

[quote="Trilor, post:14, topic:236244"]
definitely talk to your parish priest about it. Then see if you can talk to the vocation director of your diocese. maybe between the two of them they can come up with a siritual director for you. Another thing that I myself found helpful is a weekend silent retreat. just my ideas.

[/quote]

thanks for that ,, i really mean it


#16

[quote="ByzCath, post:1, topic:236244"]
The first step of any vocational discernment should be getting a spiritual director and meeting with them on a regular basis to work though the discernment.

This should happen before you solicit advice from an anonymous source such as an internet forum such as this.

[/quote]

How do I find one?


#17

The best options are -

Asking at your parish - either the parish priest or other clergy or religious may know who can offer you direction

The vocations office at the diocese

Religious communities nearby - maybe you can also consider travelling to communities that are further away

Local chaplaincies

Lay people who offer counselling and direction (if they have the proper training)

Some countries have national associations of spiritual direction - they should be able to tell you if anyone near to you can help

Best wishes in your search.


#18

I have to agree with Br. David here. For years I solicited advice on vocations on this forum, albeit when I was in the early portion and middle of my teen years. The info I got from folks was great but nothing was substitute for last year in my first year at college when I was actually able to meet with a vocation director and spiritual director face to face.

On a side note, only 2-3 years until I can hopefully gain that Carmelite telepathy lol!


#19

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