Taking steps to discern your call to religious life takes thought and prayer. As you discern your call, you may find the following information helpful. Many books on discernment provide outlines for those who want or need a step-by-step process. Women religious are always engaging these steps at deeper levels, even after finding and following our religious vocation. Sometimes these stages are occurring at the same time, and there is always more work we can do at each step. Most of the steps to help you discern your call look something like the ones below.
Stage 1: Prepare with private prayer and reflection
The discernment process begins with private reflection through prayer and study. As you discern your call think from your deepest, truest self and ask yourself, “What is my burning desire in life right now?” Keep it concrete, and be as specific as you can be. Write this desire somewhere and reflect on it.
- What do you notice?
- Does a question for discernment emerge for you?
- Is there a choice facing you that needs to be made?
Develop a discernment question. Keep the focus on what God is inviting you to be or do. The question needs to be relatively concrete and specific. For example:
- Is it time to leave my job for another one?
- Is it God’s desire that I get more education?
- Is God leading me to deepen a current relationship? And if so, in what way
Stage 2: Speak to someone you trust
After a period of reflection, it is important to move on to the second stage of discernment by confiding in someone you trust. This person may be your parish priest, a priest that you know well, or a close friend or family member who practices his/her faith and understands your love for God. This step will help you begin sharing your relationship with God and provide you with healthy feedback and support. During this time continue to pray and get feedback from your trusted ally in order to get in touch with some deep concerns as you discern your call.
- Can you be at peace with whatever God shows you in this discernment, regardless of the outcome? If not, ask God to help with that.
- Do you desire to know what God wants in this situation? If there is a fear or a block, acknowledge it and ask God for help.
Stage 3: Find a spiritual director to help discern your call
It is important to be assisted by a Spiritual Director throughout your discernment to help guide you on your spiritual journey as you contemplate deeply personal issues.
- the facts surrounding your questions
- the practical considerations of what you are discerning
- the options for answering your questions
- the pros and cons for each option you are considering
- the beliefs and values you hold which affect your answers to burning questions
You will meet with your Spiritual Director once or twice a month and, during those meetings, she will help you determine where you are on your spiritual path and identify which areas in your life need growth, improvement and healing. A Spiritual Director will provide you with important steps to strengthen your relationship with God.
If you are seeking a Spiritual Director to discern a religious call to Sisters of the Good Shepherd, then please contact Sr. Jean Marie Fernandez at email@example.com or 415-676-8251.
Stage 4: Discern with others and talk to God
It is helpful to have imagination during the discernment process.
- Imagine standing before God or Jesus to explain the decisions you made on your questions.
- Imagine explaining each option to God. What do you imagine God’s reaction to be? Allow at least 20 minutes for the imagination prayer.
- Imagine your best friend is facing these same questions. What advice do you offer?
- Imagine you are very old and looking back on this discernment. What choice do you imagine you would have wanted to make?
It is also helpful to surround yourself with peers who are also on a spiritual journey and in the process of discernment. Discernment groups, vocation weekends and vocational retreats provide experiences to help strengthen your faith and provide you with a community support system. Praying with others and sharing experiences of God’s work will help bring clarity to your vocation as you discern your call..
If you would like to participate in a Come and See weekend with Apostolic Sisters of the Good Shepherd, then please contact Sr. Jean Marie Fernandez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 415-676-8251.
If you are interested in a Come and See weekend with Contemplative Sisters of the Good Shepherd, then please contact Sr. Elizabeth Garciano at email@example.com or 314-837-5925.
Stage 5: Make a move
Don’t get stuck as a perpetual discerner. You have considered the facts, the intuition, the imagination, and have prayed. Now it’s time to make the choice. At some point, discernment always leads to action, so you have to take the leap of faith. You don’t enter a religious community because you have finished discerning, but because you would like to continue discerning in a more serious way.
Formation for religious life is an intentionally long process. The time spent going through the process will help you understand God’s will for you. The path to better understanding takes time and work. Do not be afraid to take this step. Search for the way that you feel God is leading. Ask yourself which choice feels like the one that God desires. As you choose, sit contemplatively and reflect upon these questions:
- Where do I feel consolation around this choice?
- Where do I feel desolation around this choice?
After taking the leap and making the action, notice the early outcome.
- Does the discernment need revisiting? (discernment is spiritual art and mystery, not science!)
- Keep praying and listening to your deepest greatest desires.
- Keep using principles of discernment for making faithful choices. Tweak the process if necessary to make it yours.
Additional resources provide you with more information about consecrated life.