By Randy Raus, President of Life Teen
The church was packed. The air was thick with excitement and awe as I watched my friend and eight other men lay face down in front of the altar. I was experiencing the ordination of nine men who had answered God’s call to become Catholic priests. My friend, Joe, was answering God’s call to follow the Lord.
Discerning our Vocation
Over the past twenty years, working in youth ministry mostly at St. Ann’s, a La Salette
Parish in Marietta, Georgia, I have experienced graced moments that involve young people saying “yes” and responding to God’s call for their vocation. Some people, when
asked about their vocation, immediately talk about what career or job they want to do. The vocation discernment I am talking about leads to something much deeper and way more fulfilling. Whether it is responding to the call to religious life, marriage or the single life, the graces of obedience to God’s call have helped people I know become wonderful reflections of Christ in the world. Once we know what vocation God is calling us to live, then many of the other pieces of life — like where we will live, what we will do for work, etc.— seem to fall into place.
We live in a time when most people talk about choice as some freedom they have and that to take away someone’s choice somehow limits them. This “me-centered” view fails to connect us with a greater truth –the truth that God has a plan for each and every one of us. God desires our happiness through living holy lives. From the Catholic Catechism we read that, through the Sacrament of Baptism, each person receives a “call” or “vocation” from God to holiness and service. This call is lived
out as a single, married, ordained or consecrated person. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2013, etc.)
Saying “yes” to God
Pope Benedict XVI recently told young people to spend time in silence before the Blessed
Sacrament: “Before the Lord, in the silence of your hearts, some of you may feel called to
follow him in a more radical way in the priesthood or the consecrated life. Do not be fraid to listen to this call and to respond with joy,” the Pontiff encouraged. “As I said at the inauguration of my pontificate, God takes nothing away from those who give themselves to him. On the contrary, he gives them everything. He comes to draw out the best that is in each one of us, so that our lives can truly flourish.”
I have come to realize the truth in the Pope’s words. My discernment led to married life. I have now been married twenty-one years. After Mass one Sunday, I met my wife, Monica, in front of our parish church. We now have eight beautiful children with our oldest daughter, who is seventeen, discerning a vocation to religious life as a sister.
Following God’s will and not my own has been an amazing journey, with my role as a
husband and father being one of the most fulfilling parts of my life. By saying “yes” to
God, my life has truly flourished!
Looking for signs
So how do you discern what vocation God is calling you to?
About Priesthood or Religious Life:
If you are a teen who is discerning the call to the priesthood or religious life, try some of the following before talking to a vocation director.
• Spend some time in daily prayer. • Become involved in a ministry at your parish.
• Meet with a spiritual director.
• Study the Bible everyday.
• Recite the Liturgy of the Hours.
• Talk with your parents.
• Spend an hour a week in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
• Make a list of reasons why you feel God is calling you.
• Ask if you can shadow a priest, sister or brother for a day. Accompany them through the various aspects of their ministry.
• Take an hour and prayerfully write answers to these questions:
Imagine yourself five or ten years from now.
Do you want to continue in life as you are now?
Imagine yourself as a vowed religious or as a priest ten years from now.
Imagine in your mind going through an entire day in your future as a religious brother, sister, or priest. How does your gut react to this exercise?
What is the most satisfying part of your week? What does that say about you?
Imagine Jesus looking you in the eye, calling you by your first name, and saying, “What is it you really want?” Spend time with the question. Tell Jesus all that you hope for in life. Then spend time listening to His response to your dreams. (What is the desire of your heart?)
Make a list of all the reasons it wouldn’t be a good idea for you to become a religious sister, brother, or priest. Then make a list of all the reasons why it would be good! Which one weighs more? Bring the list before God in prayer and listen.
What advice would you give someone in your shoes regarding a vocation as a priest or as a religious?
Reflect on religious sisters and/or brothers / sisters who have been mentors for you. Which qualities would you like to imitate if you were called?
About Married Life:
If you are called to married life, you and your future spouse will commit to a lifetime relationship
of faithfully serving the Lord and one another, like my wife and I did years ago. You will need to be open to children and dedicated to loving and raising them in the Catholic faith. Many young Catholics see themselves becoming married and having a family.
The married life seems like a blissful love-fest. But there’s more to it than you’d think. As Catholics, we firmly live the vows spoken at the altar: “…for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” It’s romantic to say this when everything is perfect at the wedding. But it is much more challenging to live those vows every day. Many people make a habit of dating, dumping, dating, dumping... In the back of their mind, they always have an “exit strategy” for when things don’t work out perfectly. In marriage, you have to break that way of thinking. Although priests and religious, single, and married people also share their common joys, the married life offers unique joys:
• Selflessly giving yourself to another person
• Pouring yourself into the lives of your
• Sharing your children with your brothers
and sisters and your parents
• Watching your children grow up
• Growing older with a friend
About Single Life:
Most young Catholics expect that God will call them to married life or ordained ministry
as a priest, brother, or sister. However, God calls many people to live a single life. There are
many faithful people who, through discernment, follow the call to live a holy single life.
The single life offers some unique joys as well.
• As a single person, you have a unique independence that married people do not. You can
give more easily of your time, money, and attention because married people are called – first and foremost — to serve their family.
• Although you may not have any biological children, you can have “many kids” by staying
involved in your church’s youth ministry, religious education, or in local sports teams.
• As your parents get older, or as a relative becomes ill or needy, you will be able to help
them in ways that married siblings may not be able to do.
Getting it all together
Whatever our call, we are first and foremost called to a life of holiness! Before we were born, God had a plan for each of us. Nothing will make us happier than following this plan that God prepared for us. We live in a society that tells us to live for ourselves, that tells us to seek our own happiness. But selfish ambitions can strangle your life out of you and leave you empty. Only in following God will we truly be happy. Only in seeking God’s will we be able to experience life to the fullest. As Jesus said: “I came that they may have life, and have it
abundantly” (John 10:10).