The idea of discerning our vocation can cause a lot of anxiety. Wondering if we are called to be married, enter religious life, who we should date, if we should visit convents or try out seminary can be overshadowed by fear – fear that we’ll do the wrong thing or that God will plant us somewhere that will make us miserable.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to catch up with some friends I hadn’t seen since we were all single, trying to figure out what we would do when college was over. We spent late nights studying together, bonded over fruity alcoholic beverages on our 21st birthdays and had prayed, cried and even fought.
Ann and Sheldon couldn’t be more different. Ann was always level headed and responsible, responding to the most dire crisis in her low, even voice and solving each problem as it arose. Ann is the person you’d pick to be stranded on a desert island with because she’d build a raft with her ball point pen and hair elastic. Sheldon was my partner in crime: my source for hipster music recommendations, fashion advice and always ready for a glass of wine at the end of the day.
Dinorah and Sarah were also very different. Sarah was my perpetual study buddy in college- we’d geek out on our Theology classes and talk to our professors for hours. I met Dinorah my first year as a teacher. An experienced educator, she was always hosting dinner or coffee, offering us newbies wisdom and encouragement.
The Married Life
Anne married Antonio and Sheldon married Ryan. Meeting them for the first time, as wives and mothers, I laughed as Anne remained calm, cool and collected—telling her three year old son in the gentlest way possible that he could not climb on the stove. Sheldon arrived with a one year old clad in skinny jeans and glittery shoes.
Despite the challenges of raising small children (only showering during naptime, changing diapers, and wiping runny noses), I had never seen either of them so happy.
The Religious Life
Dinorah and Sarah are now Sister Buenventura and Sister Mary Teresa. Sister Buenventura welcomed us warmly into her convent, telling us about the pre-school in which she now worked and the parties their community hosted for Christmas. Visiting Sister Mary Teresa at the parish where she is now the Director of Religious Education, we once again swapped ideas about the best ways to teach the Faith.
There was a deep joy in their work and a refinement to them that I had never seen when we were younger.
Love & Discernment
Four very different friends. Yet in each one of them, I saw something new. In becoming wives and mothers or consecrated to Christ, they had found an object for their love and gifts. Over the years, God had revealed to them a definite way for them to show their love for him.
In Pope John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio #11 he reminds us that because we are made in God’s image, “God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility of love and communion.” [emphasis from CCC].
We don’t need to fear the call of God in our lives, because it will satisfy the unique desires He inscribed in our hearts at our creation.
As I spent time with Ann, Sheldon, Sister Buenventura and Sister Mary Teresa, I realized that discernment isn’t about figuring out the future.
Discernment is learning to love and allowing God to direct that love to union with others. It will probably take time for us to discern the particulars, but we can do so fearlessly. God knows us – our strengths, our weaknesses, and what will bring us joy – and He has a plan for what He has created.