Faith & Life


By JOAN PATTEN, AO     11/2/2023

For young adults, discerning one’s vocation can seem daunting or even terrifying. Some know what they want to do but are afraid that God wants them to do something else.

When we seek to know and do God’s will, we often find fears competing for our attention and sorting through the confusion in our hearts becomes the primary task of discernment. Whether we are deeply living our particular vocation or are still searching for God’s plan, National Vocation Awareness Week is a time to consider the particular ways God calls us to be with Him.

Putting ourselves in the presence of God allows us to listen to Him. The more we know how we are loved by God, the more we can understand how we are called to love Him in return. Every vocation is a vocation to love. We are made in the image and likeness of God and God is love. In fact, God is a community of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The intimate relationship of the Blessed Trinity is extended to us through God’s goodness, is made accessible to us through Jesus and is our eternal destiny.

Our vocation is to be with God forever and to be like Him, that is, to love and be loved. God’s plan for each of us is good and trustworthy. We are called to live this vocation to love in this life through our particular state in life calling through the priesthood, consecrated life or marriage. Therefore, instead of agonizing over what we are supposed to do, we may find direction by asking God how He is calling us to love. Pedro Arrupe, the former general superior of the Jesuits, once offered this advice:

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

Love is more than a feeling; it starts with an encounter and is a daily choice. When we chose to follow God’s will, we are choosing to be with Him. If you are at the beginning of your discernment journey, pray for the grace to fall in love with God and to trust in His love. Ask for light for the next step instead of seeking the whole plan for your life. God’s will establishes in us in the security of His love and allows us to be fully ourselves. When discerning God’s will, it is crucial to pay attention to the deep desires of our hearts and to relate them to Jesus in prayer. God speaks to us through our great desires and wants us to understand that these desires are not only from Him, but that He has a plan to fulfill our desires beyond our imagination.

If you are already living your vocational call, pray for the grace to stay in love with God and those He has put in your life. Let your decision to love be the motivating factor for all that you do and how you do things. Our state in life vocation is different from a career. Our careers and ministries are something that we do, but they do not define our identity. Careers, ministries and assignments can change or come to an end.

We often hear of people having a “mid-life crisis” because their career or routine was disrupted. Our vocational call to love in the reality of our life will never change, only deepen.

As you take time to pray for vocations during this National Vocation Awareness Week, remember that we are asking God to help us to love. If you are struggling with saying “yes” to God, ask Him for a deeper understanding of His love. If you are struggling to encourage your children to consider a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life, ask God for a deeper understanding of His love for them. “Perfect love drives out all fear!” (cf. 1 Jn. 4:18)