03 January 2010

Some steps in Discernmet

I have received a couple emails from someone who is taking a fresh look at the possibility of a vocation. I do not want to disclose anything personal about this person, but I would like to share some general points just in case there is any one else in the same position.

Trying to discern your vocation is TOUGH. I think it is tougher for women because there are so very many orders. It is important to remember that a lot of the spiritual life is just you and God in silence. Every human being has issues,and in honest silence they will slowly rise to the surface. For instance, I never realised how judgmental I was being. In distractions from prayer, my judgmental-ness came quickly to the surface. Even though I did not vocalise any of it, I was shocked how bad I was (am). But, like the rest of life,I rely on God's grace for assistance.

So as you look at your vocation, look at its component parts.
  1. I consider the core of any vocation to be responding to God's Love with our love. Whether you are married or single, in religious life or not, God calls us to live a life of love.
  2. You should go to a monastery (of men or women) and experience the Divine Office, also called The Liturgy of the Hours. If you check out a monastery's daily time table it might have: Lauds, Vespers, Compline or Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer listed. I had never known about this until I was in my 20's. BUT I love the Divine Office, and it is a large part of my life. There are different ways of celebrating the Divine Office: In Latin, In Modern Translations (I have even seen politically correct translations), sung or recited.
    • This is part of almost the life every nun or sister.
    • Nuns, like monks, are contemplatives and are enclosed to varying degrees. The purpose of enclosure is to keep the distractions of the world out, not to keep you locked in... though at times it can feel that way.
    • Sisters are active, that is, engage in active apostolates("outside" jobs): teaching, nursing, parish ministry, foreign missions, social work. Some orders are very flexible in how they balance prayer life and active ministry.
    • I sought a monastery that celebrated the entire Divine Office in common: Vigils, Lauds, Sext, Terce, None, Vespers, and Compline. Some active orders might only celebrate Lauds and Vespers in common. You have to decide what you like.
  3. You also have to decide, do you want to live alone, in a small group, in a larger group. Small groups are toughest and require a lot of patience, compassion, and Love. In an order like the Carthusians, you are basically a hermit: most of your days is YOU and GOD in Silence. If that is your calling, it is beautiful. If that is not your calling, it is probably scary. It scares me.
  4. If you are looking at community life, a balance of ages and the presence of other people trying out their vocations is a very good thing. When there are older members you have wisdom on which you can draw; when there are younger members, there is the promise of a future.
On this the Feast of the Epiphany, may we follow our guiding light of Faith to meet our King.

God Bless You all!




  1. And the Divine Office has a call to all Christians, not only the monastic ones. I know you are not saying anything contrary.

    I want those of us who are nonmonastics to read your advice and to know that what you say applies to us too — all Christians are called to seek God in prayer and silence.

    Some people can remove far more of the world’s distractions because they have the gift of monastic life. That is why reading about the monastic life is such an encouragement for the rest of us on the same journey to dwell with God.

  2. John is 100% correct. The Divine Office is the "Prayer of the Church," that is to say the entire Body of Christ. I think it would be beautiful if members of the laity took this up in parishes. Most of the Parish Priest I know prayer the offices every day, but do not have the extra time to lead it publicly.

  3. I was interested in the religious life in my younger days and spent time with religious. Although I never entered one gift that that stayed with me was the divine office. I now have a family and we take elements of the prayer and use them at special times of the year.A wonderful treasure. Lynda