[quote="Alterum, post:1, topic:300668"]
So the choice to enter the religious life is just that -- a choice we can elect to make, offered to us in the same way Christ offered the rich man the objectively higher road to perfection (by selling all of his things and following Christ).
If I understand a vocation in this way, it removes all of the futile and confusing search for signs. Does this seem like a reasonable way to think of vocations?
With all due respect... no. ;)
On another thread, I took a young forum participant to task for his statements that, through discussion(s) with a nun, he realized that he was called to the priesthood. I asserted that one cannot unilaterally discern that he has a vocation to the priesthood (I might argue a similar argument with respect to the religious life).
Instead, a vocation -- whether to the married, single, or religious life -- is both a matter of a unilateral willingness (a personal 'election', if you will) to consider that one is being called, and a discernment that one takes on with the 'other'. In the case of married life, the 'other' is the potential spouse; in the case of religious life, it's the order (or in diocesan ministry, it's the bishop (represented by the vocations director and/or rector)). (The consideration of single life as a vocation is more difficult to frame up in these terms, but I would assert that one makes this discernment along with the Church.)
So, in short: no, it's not a unilateral "election". After all, if I walked up to you and informed you that I elected myself your spouse, you'd quite reasonably conclude that I was a few marbles short. In other words, it's always a discernment, and one that must take place alongside the appropriate "other".
(Now, you can reasonably argue that before you undertake discernment, you must first 'elect' to be receptive to the possibility of a call, but that's a whole 'nother assertion, isn't it?)
p.s., don't worry about 'signs'. Some professed religious, and some priests, tell compelling stories about receiving 'signs'. Most will tell you that they received no sort of thing. Looking for a 'sign' as a type of proof of a call is futile, and -- at the very worst -- is an example of putting God to the test or attempting to hold God hostage ("if you mean that You're calling me, then you better give me a sign, God!") ;)