Things I Wish I Knew When I Was Discerning a Religious Vocation

If-Only-Id-Known

I actively discerned a vocation to the religious life for five years before finally arriving here at St. Joseph Monastery for my aspirancy. (Actually, it was almost seven, if we count from my first enthusiastic search, which was followed by a year-and-a-half of attempting to run away from God’s relentless invitations.)

Those were excruciatingly long and confusing years, but as I look back, I can see God’s hand at work through all that they entailed, forming and nurturing me until I was ready to know His will. Still, though, I think those years could have been easier and maybe even shorter, if I had known what I know now about discerning a religious vocation. Here is a list of some of the things I wish I knew, back when I was discerning… perhaps they will help some of you who are now traveling that same road:

  1. God speaks to us and leads us through prayer, certainly, but also through other means. He may be revealing His will in your desires, your reason, your gifts, your life circumstances. You need to include all of these areas in your discernment.
  2. God does not normally reveal His will with angelic annunciations, burning bushes, instructions inscribed on golden scrolls, or other such helpfully clear means. Waiting for that kind of clarity will probably result in waiting for the rest of your life.
  3. You don’t have to be perfectly holy and virtuous to enter religious life. You don’t even have to be close. What is needed is a desire to grow in holiness and virtue.
  4. You are not bothering the vocation directress by contacting her. It is her job (and her joy!) to talk or write to you.
  5. It does not violate a law of the spiritual life to seek advice from multiple people. The vocation directress can be a great help to you on your journey of discernment, even if you already have a spiritual director. She can help you sort through confusion, doubts, emotions, inspirations, challenges… and since she is a religious herself, she may be more able to relate to your discernment than a diocesan priest.
  6. The nuns do not want to recruit you. They want you to find and follow God’s will.
  7. You do not need to know 100% for sure that God is calling before you enter serious discernment with a particular community.
  8. Even if God has made it completely clear to you that He calls you to enter a particular community, don’t assume that He has also made it clear to them! They also need to discern His will for you… so talk to them! Share with them!
  9. If God seems to be leading you in another direction, the vocation directress would appreciate your letting her know. She has been praying for you and will be glad to know how God is answering those prayers.

9 thoughts on “Things I Wish I Knew When I Was Discerning a Religious Vocation

  1. Oh Sisters, I looked at this and laughed so much! It gave me tears of joy and also a reassurance reading it over. I’m sure I heard this kind of thing before several years ago when I started discerning – this is now the seventh year of my discernment. Thanks for posting this!
    Also, please send my love to Sr Cecilia Maria Wynn – I am always praying for her!! Tell her Kim from the UK says Hi! And also that I am now studying abroad for my degree before continuing with my formation in the convent in UK. I will write at some point to give her an update and ask for her prayers personally. God bless. x

  2. And what happens when he calls women who are beyond the standard 35 age limit of MOST religious communities?? When volunteering at one’s parish activities etc.. just doesnt quell and satisfy that religious vocation desire?!!
    I mean..it’s pretty apparent by reading all the different communities “come and see’s” wording..aimed at “YOUNG WOMEN” etc, that they dont desire to invest the time, effort and resources and energy (and $?) it takes to REFORM “worldly OLDER WOMEN” discerners; only to have them be really OLD, when the basic 8 year (give or take) formation process has reached and fulfilled (not including continued learning after final vows)
    If one wasnt nudged by God in their youth..one will discern quite quickly, that being nudged in their middle age years (45,50’s) is alittle to late!!
    I can only wish I had known..people who could have mentored me..had parents that would have brought more spirituality etc into our family while growing up..or allowed offers by grandparents to pay for a Catholic education and or youth camps etc..

  3. Thank you for sharing this beautiful list. As I continue to discern, these are reminders (and a lot of new corrections!) that I greatly need.

    Bless you =)

  4. Thank you for sharing this beautifully written list. It’s helpful for even those who are simply wanting to know Gods will for them.

  5. Thank you for posting these very helpful suggestions! I wish I’d had access to them when I was discerning a religious vocation back in the 1970’s! The only communities I looked at back then were ones with active apostolates; never even considered contemplative, nor did anyone suggest that I do so! I truly believe if I’d known about the Passionist Nuns or other contemplative orders–well, who knows. Have to trust that marriage was truly God’s Will for me. Will share this list with several young ladies I know who are discerning God’s Purpose for their lives at present.

  6. Dear Sisters,
    I just love your blog! May I have your permission to share this Discernment story with our Director of Religious Education?
    Thank you.
    Mary Ann

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