Priests bless ordination candidates at St. Mary Cathedral in 2012.
Jesus, and all of scripture, make it clear: God calls us to love him and love others. Experience tells us that both endeavors go better if we know ourselves first.
Unless we discover our natural gifts, our deep longings and proclivities like whether we are introverted or extroverted, it will be difficult to serve God and God’s people effectively and steadfastly. When we see someone who is extraordinary and admirable, we often say something like, “She knows what she’s about.” On the other hand, if someone is struggling, we may utter, “He’s still trying to find himself.”
For those exploring priesthood and religious life, candid self-knowledge is particularly important. April 21 is World Day of Prayer for Vocations and our prayer will be that young men and women assess themselves honestly so they can discover God’s life-giving presence in them.
None of this is to say that a vocation is doing what we want instead of what God wants. On the contrary. What we are describing is a process of discovering what God created us to be and acting on it. God usually does not send explicit vocation messages, but loves us so much that we are allowed to explore and discover our paths.
Those of us who are middle aged and older can help young Catholics map their vocations. Most priests and nuns we interview say that someone encouraged them early on. We should be unafraid to point out young people’s strengths candidly. Of course, because of the facts of youth, young discerners often grow through trial and error. Sometimes that’s the inscrutable and painful way we find the path God has offered.
The Archdiocese of Portland’s vocations website tells us, “God has created each one of us for a particular calling or way to follow Him.” Discerners must be open to all the possibilities, but at the same time refine the options in the course of gaining self-knowledge. The whole church is praying for you.