Things I Wish I Knew When I Was Discerning a Religious Vocation

If-Only-Id-Known I actively discerned a vocation to the religious life for five years before finally arriving here at St. Joseph Monastery for my aspirancy. (Actually, it was almost seven, if we count from my first enthusiastic search, which was followed by a year-and-a-half of attempting to run away from God’s relentless invitations.)

Those were excruciatingly long and confusing years, but as I look back, I can see God’s hand at work through all that they entailed, forming and nurturing me until I was ready to know His will. Still, though, I think those years could have been easier and maybe even shorter, if I had known what I know now about discerning a religious vocation. Here is a list of some of the things I wish I knew, back when I was discerning… perhaps they will help some of you who are now traveling that same road:

  1. God speaks to us and leads us through prayer, certainly, but also through other means. He may be revealing His will in your desires, your reason, your gifts, your life circumstances. You need to include all of these areas in your discernment.
  2. God does not normally reveal His will with angelic annunciations, burning bushes, instructions inscribed on golden scrolls, or other such helpfully clear means. Waiting for that kind of clarity will probably result in waiting for the rest of your life.
  3. You don’t have to be perfectly holy and virtuous to enter religious life. You don’t even have to be close. What is needed is a desire to grow in holiness and virtue.
  4. You are not bothering the vocation directress by contacting her. It is her job (and her joy!) to talk or write to you.
  5. It does not violate a law of the spiritual life to seek advice from multiple people. The vocation directress can be a great help to you on your journey of discernment, even if you already have a spiritual director. She can help you sort through confusion, doubts, emotions, inspirations, challenges… and since she is a religious herself, she may be more able to relate to your discernment than a diocesan priest.
  6. The nuns do not want to recruit you. They want you to find and follow God’s will.
  7. You do not need to know 100% for sure that God is calling before you enter serious discernment with a particular community.
  8. Even if God has made it completely clear to you that He calls you to enter a particular community, don’t assume that He has also made it clear to them! They also need to discern His will for you… so talk to them! Share with them!
  9. If God seems to be leading you in another direction, the vocation directress would appreciate your letting her know. She has been praying for you and will be glad to know how God is answering those prayers.