St. Michael Catholic Church

Discerning Religious Life

The Latin word vocare means “to call”.  

Pope Benedict XVI said:  Each of you has a personal vocation which He has given you for your own joy and sanctity.

Our life is to be a gift of love to the world. But what will that look like? We must remember that through our Baptism, everyone is called to holiness. Holiness will look different for each individual person because God works uniquely with each soul. God gives each person a particular mission in their vocation. This mission lives in the soul and is waiting to be discovered.

The Call to Consecrated Life

The vocation to the Consecrated Life is a special call from God to follow Jesus more closely.

Paragraph 916 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

In the Consecrated Life, Christ’s faithful, moved by the Holy Spirit, propose to follow Christ more nearly, to give themselves to God who is loved above all and, pursuing the perfection of charity in the service of the Kingdom, to signify and proclaim in the Church the glory of the world to come.

9 Tips for Discerning Religious Life

All Catholic men and women are invited to take a time of discernment before entering into their vocation. The Latin word discernere means “to separate”.  So, when someone is discerning a vocation to the consecrated life, they are taking extra time apart from their regular duties in order to pray and discover God’s unique plan.  If you are currently open to discerning consecrated life or have a daughter, cousin, or friend who is asking the question, here are a few tips.

1.  Do Not Be Afraid

Ask the Lord to make His desires your desires.

2.  Create a Timeline

Usually a year of serious discernment can provide a lot of clarity. Obviously, we can’t control God’s timing, but we can do the hard work of discernment on our end and then go forth in peace. Some women get sucked into a vortex of perpetual discernment, which can be very confusing and exhausting.

I entrusted my own vocational discernment into the hands of Mary and chose a Marian feast as an ending date.

3.  Pray, Pray, Pray

This is obvious, but there are some specific prayer practices that can be especially helpful.

    • Go to daily Mass. This will be the source and summit of your day and your life.
    • Make frequent Confessions (at least once a month). Many have confession every week and this Sacrament is a source of incredible grace.
    • Create space for solitude and silence every day. Become familiar with the voice of the Good Shepherd, so that when He calls, you will recognize his voice.
    • Learn how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours
    • Pray the Rosary.  Ask Our Lady, Star of the Sea to guide your discernment.
4.  Find a Spiritual Director

Your pastor may be able to provide spiritual direction, a recommendation, or reference for you. Consider contacting the vocation office in your diocese. Trust me, it’s not as scary as it sounds! The vocation director can also provide spiritual direction or give a recommendation.

Some priests are more open to taking a new directee if they know that it is a short term commitment. Say something like, “Would you have time to meet 3 times in the next 6 months as I am discerning my vocation?”

You could also go on a directed silent Ignatian retreat. You can start with a 1 or 2 day retreat and work your way up to an 8 day retreat.

5.  Research and Pray with the Charisms

Look into the various religious orders (Benedictine, Carmelite, Dominican, Franciscan, Ignatian, etc.) and their charisms. Also dive deep into the Evangelical Counsels (chastity, poverty, and obedience).

6.  Learn More About Active vs. Contemplative Life

Religious life can take on many forms: cloistered, monastic, mendicant, contemplative, active, and so on. 

7.  Spend Time with Other Men or Women Who are Discerning

Many dioceses offer Discernment Weekends, Dinners, and discernment houses.

8.  Start Visiting Religious Orders!

Come and See Weekends with religious communities are such incredible opportunities. Receive their hospitality, listen to their vocation stories, ask all your trivial and serious questions, experience their prayer, community life, and Apostolates.

9.  Ask for Intercession

Ask for the intercession of St. Ignatius of Loyola and pray with him the Suscipe:

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,

All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

Vocation Reflection for January

As a long standing Serran, I am here today to offer information to support consideration and entry into a religious vocation or priesthood.   It all begins with helping our young people stay connected with God.  We can do this by letting our own prayer life be seen and shared with them.

We can encourage them to do what we do - pray about everything that is going on in your life.  When you have a moment today, use it to say a prayer.

Recently I was in New York, taking my grandchildren to school and I asked them if they wanted to say a prayer in those few moments of driving to school.  I heard one of my granddaughters say, "Grandma, we never pray on the way to school." I asked them, "Don't you have anything to pray for? A test today? A bully at school? Your teacher? Sister Kathleen? Your mom?"  Our young people need to see us seeking God through prayer.  They need to learn to ask God to be on their side and to thank God for his love and assistance.

As adults, we know there are four kinds of prayer - the Prayer of Adoration and worship of God; the Prayer of Contrition, expressing sorrow for our sins and offenses against God and others; the Prayer of Supplication/Petition/Intercession, expressing the need for God in our lives; the Prayer of Thanksgiving/Gratitude, expressing our gratefulness for God's love and assistance.

We share all of this with our young people when we pray together with them.  Then they will know that God is our strength and our support through all of the joys and difficulties of life.


Elizabeth Chanoine, LPC
Director of Social Outreach

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