Ian Gaston

Discernment Confusion: Misconceptions and Clarity about My Vocation

In March of 2013, as I was packing bags up for a retreat I was leading, one of my parish priests asked me a fairly simple question.

“Have you ever thought about being a priest?”

It was totally random and out of the blue, yet quite coincidental as I had joked with my friends about being a priest a couple of days before. On retreat that weekend, I asked God what He thought, and after an hour of adoration, I knew that being a priest was a possibility. I have been praying, sometimes begging God to show me what my vocation is ever since that day.

To be honest, I felt lost. Some days I would think that being a priest was my calling, others that having a giant family (thirteen kids to be exact) was. In my life I would see signals everywhere — a bible verse that told me to be a priest and a baby that told me to be a dad. It distressed me; I was frustrated a lot of the time, and it began to wear on me. I was asking God why he didn’t just tell me what was up.

But then God showed me an opportunity — a discernment retreat run by the Archdiocese of Boston. Naturally, being so confused about what I should do with my life, I decided to attend.

I did not go into the retreat with high expectations — I expected to find some clarity, yes, but I did not think that I would leave the retreat any more sure of my decision than when I arrived.

I was right. Sort of. I still have no idea whether I want to be a priest, a dad, a single man, or a religious person. But I did discover two huge misconceptions I had about the discernment process.

1. Your Vocation is Not a Problem to Solve

I was so worried about what the answer to this “problem” was that I wasn’t letting God work naturally in my life. The thing is, a vocation is not a problem to be solved. It’s a call from God to be loving, joyful, and holy. In other words, it is our true path to sainthood. I may still not know where God is calling me, but for the first time that doesn’t distress me.

I used to want God to just tell me the answer — now I want to experience the journey of finding out. It is odd, but I have never been happier about not knowing where God is calling me. For the first time I’ve truly realized that I don’t need to worry because God is not going to let me take the wrong path.

2. Going to a seminary does not mean you have to be a priest

A seminary is just another step in the discernment process, and entering does not mean that your decision is final. The seminary is the best place to go if you really want to know God’s call for you, because it is there that you will discover whether priesthood is or isn’t for you. With this knowledge I now have a great desire in me to enter a seminary. I don’t want to go because I am totally sure I want to be a priest, but because I want to discover if I do.

For now I will continue to pray about my vocation and ask God to help me find it, but I will no longer ask Him to write the answer on the ground in front of me with lightning bolts. Instead I will wait patiently and know that God has plans for me and will not let me choose the wrong vocation.

Ian Gaston

About the Author

I'm a freshman in college just trying to stay joyfully holy and get to heaven while singing very badly and loudly, calling my best friends "fool," and writing fantastical stories.