This idea of a “call” in our lives is often spoken about amongst those with a priestly or religious vocation. While some people might, as if in a magical moment, feel a deep sense of “call” that is pulling them towards priesthood or religious life, this is quite rare. For the most part, a “call” from God is much subtler than this.
A “call” often starts as a subtle feeling or a seed in the back of your mind that doesn’t quite want to leave, no matter how much you try to push it away. It’s sometimes more obvious, sometimes less so. However, if you’re here with questions in your heart, then you’re on the right path. Allow yourself to be led by the questions that are in your heart, for it is those questions that are the guide to understanding God’s call in our lives.
Prayer and proper guidance are the two keys to further understanding this call. Spiritual direction is very helpful during this process.
Prayer is central to our life. Outside of communal prayer times (morning and evening), where we pray the Daily Office of the Church, we are all encouraged to make time for personal prayer. As this is unique to each individual, there are as many ways to pray as there are humans on earth!
Part of your formation journey will include discerning methods of prayer that work for you. Some examples might include: quiet contemplative prayer; imaginative prayer; “Solitary Walks” through the grounds (something St Paul of the Cross encouraged); Lectio Divina; or devotion-based prayer (such as the rosary, etc.). We are encouraged to find a method of prayer that works best for each of us, and that is something that you will be able to explore with your spiritual director and/or formator.
This all depends on what community you live in. The life of a student is, well, exactly that. Our student community starts every day with meditation, prayer and mass. This is followed by breakfast, and then most days we’re off to classes. Depending on your university timetable, you might have classes either in the morning or the evening, or both. In the time between classes, we’re encouraged to study.
We also participate in various other activities that the community is involved in. You will find students working in the garden, or the Retreat Centre, making sure the grounds and buildings are in good shape. We are also sometimes asked to facilitate retreats or faith-based programs in local parishes or schools, depending on our strengths and areas of interest. We obviously receive the right training and skills that relate to our chosen apostolate (ministry).
We are encouraged to maintain a healthy social life outside of the community. This means maintaining relationships with friends, family and loved ones. This might mean going out in the evening over the weekend to catch up with friends, or even having friends or family over for dinner with the community. Your family are especially welcome to visit or stay. Whatever way you choose to maintain these relationships can be done in consultation with your formator and/or spiritual director.
An important aspect of all community life is balance. Each of us are encouraged to balance our study, work, social, and spiritual commitments in a way that reflects our commitment to holistic human formation.
At the end of the day, it is not us, but God who is directing our vocation. This means that “choosing” a particular religious order is not about a competition to find which is “best,” but about discerning which “fits” you most comfortably. You often won’t be able to know, with 100% certainty, until you take a “leap of faith” into the unknown.
Following your vocational calling isn’t always as easy as we might think. However, while some people “just know,” for others, it takes a lot more time, and sometimes taking a leap into the unknown is the best way for us to truly discover if that is where God is calling us.
Take the leap. Discover for yourself.