Often when we begin discerning our vocation, we already have an inkling about which vocation we are drawn to or God might be calling us to. But one reader recently raised this question:
What if we are pretty sure we already know how God is calling us—do we still need to discern our vocation?
Many people do not feel the need to discern their vocation. Lots of good Catholics never heard about the spiritual art of discernment or never considered discerning their vocation.
A formal vocational discernment may not always be necessary, but there are compelling reasons and excellent benefits for discerning our vocation, even if we are already strongly inclined in one direction. If we are wondering if we should discern our vocation, we might find it helpful to do so for the following reasons:
1) Committing to our vocation is a huge decision that shapes the rest of our lives. Taking time to consider our vocation gives us the opportunity to look at all the possibilities at least once, even the ones we haven’t considered.
If we haven’t witnessed or been inspired by people striving to live their vocation to holiness in a particular state in life, we may not feel drawn to that state simply because it’s not been part of our experience. While some people want to be priests or sisters from an early age, others are surprised by an insight or experience only after reaching adulthood. Other people may need to consider the full beauty and potential of marriage. Every vocation is beautiful, and there is a special complementarity between married family life and consecrated religious life—a complementarity that can support and strengthen us in our vocations in the future.
Since God gave us the gift of our lives, knows us best, loves us and wants what is best for us, it makes sense to consider his plan in creating us and putting us in this time and this place. If we want to be happy, then it it is fitting to seek God’s will.
2) Discerning our vocation helps us to know and follow God’s will for our lives. Even if we think we already know God’s will, it’s a wonderful opportunity to open ourselves to his loving plan, and to learn and/or grow in the art of discernment—a spiritual art that we want to use throughout the rest of our lives.
3) Knowing that we carefully discerned our vocation can be very reassuring for those times in the future when we are struggling or facing doubts in our vocation. We can rest assured that we sought God’s will, and that, even in the darkness or challenges that we face, we are living God’s call.
If we have already chosen our vocation and are living it, do we need to feel bad if we didn’t discern it? Absolutely not! Most people consider their choice very carefully before making such a commitment, even praying over it. God works with all of us individually and guides us, even when we don’t know we are being guided. We may think we didn’t discern because we didn’t follow certain steps, but most likely the Holy Spirit was at work in us, especially if we were prayerful and seeking God’s will.
We cannot always see how God leads and guides us, but we can be sure that God has led us in the past and will continue to lead and guide us into the future. Discernment simply helps us to be more aware of and attentive to God’s presence and work in our lives.