Discernment cannot be reduced to the major life decision of a religious or married vocation. In a certain sense, an authentic vocation (in whatever shape it may take) takes place within a network of interiority and decisions in which one has learned to move away from self and towards the Father’s will.
Grant it, for those who discern their vocation at a young age, such a stream of communion may not be as “front brain” as my writing suggests. While young people may possess a great relationship with the Lord, they may not be readily able to express it in ways that communicate these concepts. We do not necessarily need mastery in concepts related to discernment, but rather a general preference of the Father’s will, a habit of self-forgetting formed through Christian discipleship.
Along these lines, to truly build strong vocations, we need to talk about discernment with consistency. Discernment must rule how we operate as a Catholic Church and within each family. Likewise, discernment is the natural outgrowth of regular prayer. As we internalize the Word of God and we integrate ourselves into a rhythm of prayer, the work of the Holy Spirit wells up within our hearts with a certain regularity and familiarity.
Thus, in time, communities grounded in the Word of God and in the Sacraments become schools in which God’s way of communicating and acting takes flesh. Vocations to the priesthood are born in these kinds of exchanges in which fidelity and tenderness allow for that Sabbath rest which is the work of the Holy Spirit. The more we are centered on Christ, the more we let go of surface illusions, and the more we let go of surface illusions, the more we learn what truly matters in this life.
As always the call to conversion remains an essential element of the discovery of God’s will. By renouncing sin and the enticements of the Devil, we make possible a culture of discernment in which live totally for Christ, and in living for him discover our true selves.