Discernment is Listening

Do you ever feel like you have absolutely no idea how to discern God's will...especially when it comes to the bigger questions like a vocation? You're not alone. Discernment can be hard, but it is also a beautiful adventure. It is an opportunity to listen, to grow, to learn, and above all to discover the depths of God's love for you...as an individual. Maybe we just need bigger ears...

Here are five aids to discernment that have been passed onto me and I pass them onto you!

#1 Prayer

Our primary call in life is to holiness and one of the ways we grow in grace is through our prayer life. Our prayer is about our relationship with God and talking and listening to Him. He communicates to us when we pray and likewise in our prayer, we turn toward Him. Making use of the Sacraments and attending Holy Mass whenever possible will also draw us in union with Christ and help us learn His will for our lives. For that is the purpose of discernment...learning in what capacity we are called to give our lives to Him.

#2 Spiritual Direction

Another great means for discovering the will of God is through spiritual direction. How can we go through life without a guide? Pray that God sends you a holy spiritual director because that will shape a lot of your discernment, and in turn pray daily for your spiritual director for all they do for your spiritual life. The best spiritual directors are ones who (above all have a deep prayer life) and who help you discern God's voice in the midst of so many others (yourself, the world, other people) so that you can more easily pinpoint the desires of your heart. Then they share from their own wealth of knowledge and experience of the best ways for you to serve God.

#3 Reading

"Do not neglect spiritual reading for this has made many saints." Reading fills our mind with holy thoughts and inspirations, as well as giving us examples of those who have gone before us in the Church. We learn about witnesses to the Faith, or virtues to practice, or something entirely new in the spiritual life that we may never have considered....and so we grow. These holy thoughts return to us later as well when we are struggling or frustrated or tempted to turn back. All of a sudden that line we read in a book comes to us, and not just for us, but so we might encourage others as well.

#4 Taking Action

You can't discern in a think tank. You have to pray, receive guidance, read, and then make some decisions. Whether that is dating someone, or visiting a religious community, or attending a retreat for discernment...as long as it is a concrete choice to make a connection to something real. We can't stay in our heads...we have to explore. Every step in discernment is an answer, so have the courage to try new things and meet people who are living out these vocations so they can share their pearls of wisdom with us. "If you never risk anything, you will never do anything great for God."

#5 Patience

The thing about discernment is it requires a lot of patience! Are we willing to wait? So much growth happens in waiting . . . think about nature . . . seeds become plants which produce flowers, but that takes time. I heard once that discernment is not a puzzle, but like a fruit ripening on the tree and when it is ready, God picks it! But while you are waiting, focus on growing in virtue, in prayer, in charity because those things will be the foundation for living out your state in life vocation. Pray also to your guardian angel because he can help you discover God's will every moment of every day!

Finally, don't forget to enjoy the ride...because life is so short and we want to give all without measure to God.