Recently, I saw an excellent, two-part, YouTube video of Fr. Jaques Philippe of the Community of the Beatitudes on discerning one’s vocation. Fr. Philippe is a well-known and well-respected priest, author and spiritual guide with several books to his credit and many years of pastoral experience. The video is only twenty minutes long, but chalk-full of practical and spiritual wisdom. I highly recommend it to anyone at any stage of discernment. However, don’t view it expecting to find some secret method or magical technique. Fr. Philippe offers nothing of the kind! Rather, he emphasizes the time-honored truth that discernment is ultimately about slowly and steadily learning to recognize a Voice, God’s voice calling to us in the depths of our hearts.
He offers several keys to hearing God’s call. Again these are not necessarily sequential steps.
- The Desire to give one’s life to God. We actually want to know what he wants and to do it.
- Ongoing surrender to the Lord in a loving relationship with Him. We actually put #1 in practice.
- Daily prayer. Desire and Surrender grow here, especially in the practice of Lectio Divina.
- Daily, ongoing reading of Scripture, especially the gospels. He says that this practice, in particular, has a way of gradually making us attentive to the heart and mind of God, and therefore, capable of hearing his voice.
- Speaking to someone we trust about our vocation, especially a spiritual guide.
Fr. Philippe lists other keys in the video, which again, I encourage all of you to check out if you haven’t already. But let me offer one more from his book, Called to Life. He writes, “God’s call can concern important life choices and be a vocation in the classic sense (a vocation to the consecrated life, to marriage, to a particular mission in the Church or in society). Often, though, the calls we receive from God bear upon smaller, everyday things: an invitation to pardon, an act of confidence in a difficult situation, a service to render to someone, a moment of prayer…. It is as important to detect these calls and consent to them, for, small as they may seem, they mark out the path that leads to a far richer and more abundant life than we would otherwise know. Every yes to God’s call, even in the least matter, brings an increase of life and strength and encouragement, for God gives himself to those who are open to his calls and confers more freedom upon them” (Philippe, 10-11).
With each “yes” to these small calls comes more strength, more encouragement, more freedom, all of which are needed for ultimately saying, “yes” to the great call that God puts on our life. Our first vocation is a vocation to life itself, to living “in a more intense and beautiful way, engaging human life as it is with more confidence “ (Philippe, 4). Those who live this first vocation well will not fail to know and choose their ultimate vocation and, therefore, will not fail to be the happy and fruitful people God created them to be.
Have courage, God is calling you!
Fr. Isaac Spinharney, CFR
St. Joseph Friary