Today, on Vocations Sunday, we reflect on Pope Francis’ message for Vocation Sunday 2018 in which he offers three ‘steps’ that can guide us in our vocational discernment:
The Importance of Discernment: Vocation is for All
‘We are not victims of chance’ says Pope Francis in his message. In stressing discernment as he often does, Pope Francis asserts strongly the belief that God calls all of us to a particular vocation, in which we have the choice to respond by uniting our lives and our will with God.
‘Every Christian ought to grow in the ability to ‘read within’ his or her life, and to understand where and to what he or she is being called by the Lord, in order to carry on his mission’.
Today, when we pray for vocations, we are not only asking God to raise up new priests, monks and nuns for the Church. Pope Francis recognises and underlines the uniqueness and diversity of all vocations, distinguishing between ‘personal’ and ‘ecclesial’ vocations. All vocations bear the fruit that contributes to Christ’s mission to bring about God’s kingdom. Today we pray that we all might attune ourselves to the voice of God and act in response to God’s love with generosity and self-giving.
Sometimes in vocation ministry, there are understandable moments of frustration for discerners who want to know for certain what their vocation is. ‘Why can’t God just TELL me what to do?!’ We need to remember to have a more contemplative approach to discernment at times like this. Pope Francis emphasises the need to listen for the ‘silent and discreet’ word of God in our lives because ‘God does not impose on our freedom’. If God lovingly respects our freedom, we have to make a careful and deliberate choice to listen, particularly because we live in a culture ‘bombarded and overstimulated by information’. Choosing a regular time and place to pray and with a single heart is a real challenge and discipline. Yet we can help ourselves to listen better by making choices to simplify our life in order to hear God’s voice, so that our attention isn’t diminished by distractions.
Pope Francis also warns that such distractions can leave us too easily caught up in an ego-centred life; ‘We will never discover the special, personal calling that God as in mind for us if we remain enclosed in ourselves, in our usual way of doing things, in the apathy of those who fritter away their lives in their own little world. We would lose the chance to dream big and to play our part in the unique and original story that God wants to write to us’.
Even though it is important to give discernment enough time before making a major decision with our lives, it’s also a common pitfall to put off responding to God’s call because we don’t feel ‘good enough’, ‘perfect’ or ‘worthy’, or we simply want to put it off because we are afraid of taking a risk. To this Pope Francis challenges:
‘The joy of the Gospel, which makes us open to encountering God and our brothers and sisters, does not abide our slowness and our sloth. It will not fill our hearts if we keep standing by the window with the excuse of waiting for the right time, without accepting this very day the risk of making a decision. Vocation is today! The Christian mission is now! Each one of us is called – whether to the lay life in marriage, to the priestly life in the ordained ministry, or to a life of special consecration – in order to become a witness of the Lord, here and now’.
You can read about the Cistercian vocation here and about our Monastic Experience Weekends here. Better still, why not come and visit Glencairn Abbey and seek guidance in your vocation discernment? Contact Sr Sarah at [email protected]