Discernment/Future Vocation/Marriage/My Life/Priesthood/Religious Life

What I Learned From Discerning My Vocation

The first time I remember wanting to be a mother was when I was 8 years old. It was shortly after my mom had given birth to my little brother. After holding this tiny little baby, this miracle, I knew that I wanted to be a mom. For years I took my love for children as a sign that I was called to motherhood, to married life. It was not until a couple of years ago that I realized this plan had always been my plan, I had never brought God into it, I had never asked Him if this is what He wanted of me, I had not discerned.

When I was 22, during a month long mission trip in Uganda, I realized that the one area of my life which I was still unwilling to surrender to God was my vocation. I so longed to be a mother that I was afraid if I asked God to enter into this area of my life He might ask me to be a nun.

Don’t get me wrong — religious life is a beautiful, holy vocation — I just didn’t think it was for me. On the 19-hour plane ride to Uganda, I prayed… a lot. In the midst of my prayer I offered my whole life to Jesus. I asked Him to show me His will. I prayed for the courage and the grace to go wherever He called me, to be whatever He wanted me to be. I realized, for the first time in my life, I was truly, honestly, and openly discerning my vocation… or so I thought.

After my month in Uganda, my desire to be a mother had only been confirmed, and I was convinced God had answered my prayer. But one night, a few months after my return home, I was caught off guard by my Godfather, Fr. Gregory Semeniuk. I have known Fr. Greg my whole life, so when, at 10pm, he asked if we could talk, I was expecting a typical heart-to-heart in which we caught up on each other’s lives. Instead, what I got was a vocation talk. He asked me if I had ever considered religious life and proceeded to produce several pamphlets on different orders that I might consider joining. Intense, right? Luckily, I wasn’t totally overwhelmed because I had spent all of a month discerning my vocation. As soon as I explained this I thought how naïve I sounded…and selfish. I should be surrendering myself to God every day, instead I had given God one month of my life to be totally open to His will for me. Fr. Greg, lovingly and patiently, challenged me on this. Eventually, we said goodnight. I took a deep breath. And then I went running to my parent’s room.

When your 22-year-old daughter wakes you up at 11:30pm in hysterical tears, you have every right to panic. “What is wrong?” my mother and father gasped. “I. Don’t. Want. To. Be. A. Nun!” I managed to gulp out in between sobs. You can imagine my parents’ reaction. My mother stared at me incredulously, “you don’t want to be a nun?” she repeated; confused, rightly so, as to why this was so upsetting. I explained everything Fr. Greg had said to me and told them of how badly I wanted to be a mother. My mom held my hand and calmly said, “God knows the desires of your heart, He knows what will bring you joy and peace, peace that can only be had when you follow Him. He will lead you to where you can best serve Him. What do you have to be afraid of? Trust in God. Now is not the time to worry.”

Be at peace. How many times has Jesus told us this? And yet, here I was still afraid. I began to pray not for my vocation, but that I would trust God completely. Inch-by-inch God worked on my heart, chiseling away at my insecurities, my doubts, my pride. As He did, I gained confidence and trust in our Lord, and with that confidence came peace.

A year after my trip to Uganda, I was attending an event at my church. I sat watching one of my friends tend to her children. Next to her stood a few sisters. I laughed at the paradox of the image.

My heart ached. All my life I had thought I had wanted to be a mother, but now, more than that, I wanted to serve Jesus in whatever way He wanted. Confused as to what direction God wanted me to take, I walked up and introduced myself to Sr. Mary Rose. I explained my dilemma. “Oh my child,” she smiled, “every vocation has its cross. Go where God calls you, that is where you will love Jesus most.” The words resonated within me. Somewhere along the way I had fallen into a mentality that whichever vocation I was called to would be without trial, without struggle, without strife…it would be ‘perfect.’ Of course nothing is perfect. Every vocation has its cross, but we endure that cross because we know of the joy the cross promises. We will be able to love Jesus most fully when we are being obedient to Him, when we are answering His call.

Today, I am fairly certain that God is calling me to married life. But there’s also a part of me that wouldn’t be surprised if God threw me a curveball and called me to religious life. And you know what? I’m ok with that. I’m ok with the unknown, the uncertainty because I have, through prayer, the sacraments, and the guidance of others, gotten to a point where I trust in God’s plan for my life. Sure, I have days when I question everything, where the perfectionist in me overtakes my brain and I forget to be at peace. Still, every day I do my best to ask Jesus to show me His will, to guide me.

Saint John Paul II said:

It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.

Such words could not be more true. Seek Jesus in all things and God will lead you to your vocation, He will grant you the desires of your heart.

5 Tips on Discernment for Guys and Girls

1. Pray

This might sound obvious, but if you are wondering what God is calling you to do with your life, you need to be in conversation with Him. Prayer is the way our hearts communicate with God. Invite God into all of your decisions, not just the big stuff.

2. Be At Peace

There is no point in worrying over what vocation you are being called too…take it from someone who spent well over a year doing it. Anxiety does not come from God. Rejoice in the fact that God has a wonderful plan for you!

3. Seek Counsel

God often speaks to our hearts through the wisdom of other people. During my discernment period I sought the advice of people I trusted– priests, sisters, married couples, family, etc. God puts people in our lives for a reason!

4. Embrace the Journey

Discovering your vocation is a journey that you must take day by day, step by step. Most people don’t wake up one day and know what they are going to do for the rest of their life. It’s a gradual process. But pay attention to the desires of your heart. Assuming they’re not sinful, more often than not, God will use those longings to direct you to where you should be.

5. Silence

It can be challenging to hear God when we are constantly surrounded by noise and stimulation. Fom school, sports, and friends, to texts, Netflix, and music, we are not used to allowing ourselves to sit in silence, in solitude. Take time to be still, to turn your mind to God, and pay attention to what your heart is desiring. Adoration is a great way to do this!

About the Author

Caitlin Sica

I am a New Hampshire girl who’s [imperfectly] striving for sainthood one day at a time, on this messy, grace-filled journey called life. Mondays guarantee a messy bun, I run on coffee, and am always losing my keys. I’m continuing to learn to see God in the most unusual places and in the most unexpected ways. I teach theology at a Catholic high school and received my MA in Theology from the University of Notre Dame. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @CaitlinSica !