Saying “yes” to a vocation is one of the most consequential decisions a person can make. That’s because God calls each of us to a particular state of life, whether marriage, the priesthood, religious life, or the lay consecrated life. Our personal fulfillment is closely tied to our vocations.
Many Catholics feel anxious about discerning their vocations. They want to follow God’s will but don’t know how to identify it. They may also feel torn between two vocations, such as marriage and religious life.
Can someone actively discern two vocations at the same time? Maybe you’re already dating someone, yet you also want to explore religious life.
Here are some points to keep in mind if you’re “double-discerning.” (We’ll focus on marriage versus religious life, but the following also applies to the priesthood.)
It’s natural to feel torn between two states of life.
Just because you’re attracted to a certain state of life doesn’t mean you’re called to it. Those called to religious life may still feel the tug of domestic bliss. And if you’re a devout person called to marriage, you may still look at a monk or nun and wish you could share in their way of life.
The bottom line is, don’t feel anxious if you feel your heart pulled in different directions. That’s normal.
You cannot walk two paths at once.
If you do, you will split yourself in two. You can’t discern marriage with a particular person and life with a religious order at the same time.
If you’re dating and feel conflicted, take a break to figure out which path is best for you. But don’t linger! If your significant other promises to wait for your answer, you owe it to them — and yourself — to make a decision soon.
Listen for a “noise” from God.
If you heard a loud bang outside your window at night, you’d feel obligated to find out what it was. Sometimes the Lord makes a big “noise” in our lives to show us which path to take. It could be bumping into a person you’re meant to marry or encountering a religious community that makes you go, “Aha! THIS is what I’ve been looking for!”
It’s not always easy to tell if the “noise” in your life comes from God or your imagination. Consider speaking with a spiritual director to sort it all out.
Examine your fears.
When discerning, you want to pay attention to what draws you to a certain vocation and verify whether fear is keeping you from answering God’s call.
Some people called to religious life are afraid to enter because they’re worried they won’t be happy without married intimacy. Some who are called to marriage shy away from it because they don’t want to reveal their insecurities and weaknesses to their spouse.
But God never calls you to something without giving you everything you need to succeed. Trust in Him!
You’ll sometimes hear spiritual directors talk about “discerning to death.” It’s good to spend time thinking about your future, but there comes a time when you have to act.
Pray, talk to wise spiritual friends, and make your choice. God will take care of the rest.