At any age of your life, you may feel a call toward a particular state in life: Priesthood, Religious Life, Married Life, or Single Life. In fact, most people experience a desire for different states in life--often at the same time.
The word "discern" means "to sift" or "to filter." When we discern, we filter out what is less important so that we can clearly hear what is most important. In this case, we must filter out what is not of God so that we can hear Him clearly. The task of discernment is to identify what we hear or experience, make a judgment about its origin, and then choose the best path. Discernment is meant to prepare us for decision.
There are four voices that are constantly competing for our attention: the voice of the world, the voice of our own will, the voice of the Evil One, and the voice of Our Father. It is difficult to ascertain, because not all things are evil in and of themselves. The esssential point of discernment is to identify what is best, not merely what is possible.
Many things clamor for our attention each day. The constant barrage of information from websites and television; pressures from work, family and school; worries about money; the lure of social media--all of these things fill our attention each day, making it difficult to shut our minds down even for a short time.
Each person has desires, hopes, dreams, passions, and vices which at times inspire us to grandeur, and at other times to misery. In the sanctuary of our minds and hearts, there is a great drama which is being played out each and every day.
St. Ignatius calls Satan, "The enemy of our human nature." The Evil One, jealous of Our Father's love for us, continually entices us with to look away from our supreme good and choose to follow a less glorious path--a path that will lead us to sin, darkness, anger, and despair. In the cacophony of voices, he is always present seeking to harm us and Our Father.
God loves us, and has created us to be perfectly happy with Him. He continually guides us, inviting us to trust in His mercy and His power. Being a good Father, He rarely shouts. In fact, He often whispers, in such a way that silence is essential to hear Him and respond.
This is why prayer is so important. Before making a choice in your vocation we must take a moment to seriously asses our relationship with the Lord. A solid Christian life requires: prayer, hard work, generosity, and sacrifice. These are the keys to hearing God’s call more clearly.
These qualities begin many years earlier while living at home with the family. Christ calls us to be holy, to be conformed more closely to His image and likeness. Growth in holiness is a continuous development, nurtured by the Sacraments, personal prayer and spiritual reading. In the words of Saint John Paul II:
“The call to holiness is a universal call, valid for all human beings without distinction of age, profession, race or language. Just as all are redeemed, so all are called. The vocation to holiness means putting into practice, in one’s own daily life, the example and teachings of Jesus Christ.”
From Holy Scripture we read: “It is God’s will that you grow in holiness; that you abstain from immorality…” (1 Thessalonians 4:3) And again: “In a word, you must be made perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48). The general call to holiness is made concrete and lived in one’s particular state in life: Diocesan Priesthood, Religious Life, Married Life, or Single Life.