When Martha was overworked, stressed out and unhappy with her sister Jesus consoled her by saying: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” Lk 10: 41-42. Jesus was calling Martha to discern her life and subordinate her “many” things to the “one thing” and the “better part.” The many things of our lives find their proper place when we accept the special invitation Jesus awakens in our hearts to follow and serve him. Through discernment we learn to recognize, choose and do the will of the Father in this world. The Holy Spirit mentors us in this process as long as we live.
For Oblates discernment is a way of life. Because our religious life is missionary we are constantly encountering new people, places, situations and challenges. To discover the call of the Lord and the direction we are to take requires constant engagement, evaluation and action within the society and church we serve. The foundation of Oblate discernment is Faith in God, the attitude of Oblate discernment is Hopeful and the goal of Oblate discernment is to responding to people’s need for salvation.
Exploring your vocation is privileged time of discernment where prayer, reflection and accompaniment of a spiritual director will help you to recognize the patterns of vocation in the Scriptures, the lives of Saints and great Christians and the patterns of Spirit in your own life.
By this deeper reflection on the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit in your life you will learn how to lean towards God and away from sin and illusion. Keeping a journal of your experience becomes your “testament” of growth in faith and encourages you when the way does not seem clear.
Contact with the Oblates, listening to their stories and reading the life of St. Eugene and other missionaries will help you to discover how your story resonates with ours. Don’t be surprised by apparent contradictions such as attraction to part of the Oblate life but aversion to another. Exploring the tension in these contradictions can release spiritual energy to lead you forward.
The most important quality of a disciple is willingness. Without willingness of heart you really can’t be led by Jesus. You may do good and wonderful things but you will not be a disciple. Experiencing God’s love softens our heart hardened by fear, shame and anger. Our hearts expand with willingness the more that mercy has its ways with us. Surrender to love and mercy and willingness will grow in your soul. Jesus did not want the suffering of the cross but his surrender to the Father’s love allowed him to say “not what I will but what you will.” Mk 14:36 Willingness born of mercy and love will lead you in the true way.
Willingness is important and so is ability. A vocation to religious life is first felt in the heart and mind through faith. Through willingness the call becomes clearer. For completion of a call there must also be ability. Provided there are no impediments what is also required is a faith that is capable of sustaining personal growth and conversion in the spirit of the gospel. Candidates for Oblate first formation need to be capable of a college education. All Oblates whether priests or brothers need to be able to understand and articulate the Catholic faith at an academic level and to be able to communicate it to the most ordinary of people. The discernment process enables a candidate to see if he is able to begin the process of Oblate formation.
St. Eugene de Mazenod witnessed the demise of religious life and Christian faith due to the French revolution. He wanted the Oblates to preserve the heritage and spirituality of the great religious orders and movements of the church. The Oblates were to pass on these treasures to the poor and the abandoned through their preaching and ministry. We continue to draw life from our ongoing immersion in God’s word, reading the signs of the times and theological reflection. Those considering a call to Oblate religious life will also seek life in ancient and contemporary spirituality.
Oblates are to give and receive spiritual direction to be fruitful in their ministry and religious life. In spiritual direction an inquirer grows to entrust his personal faith journey to another. Spiritual directors are aware of the mix of idealism and ignorance, zeal and doubt and the distractions and enthusiasm that affect young people. They are experienced in affirming, challenging and guiding inquirers to see what gifts they have to serve God and the Church and what areas of their life need healing and discipline. An inquirer must have a good relationship with their spiritual director. Spiritual direction or spiritual accompaniment is completely confidential between the inquirer and director.
Discernment Tips And Steps: From The Simple To The More Thoughtful:
The One Two Three Of Vocational Discernment
One: Do you have a passion for that?
Two: Do you have skills for that?
Three: Does the Church have need for that?
Affirmative response to these questions gives you permission and encouragement to take the next steps and talk to someone who can help you find the way forward.
Four Steps For Making A Faith Decision
- Pray and stay in the presence of God often.
- Give God permission to work in you.
- Try to say to God “Whatever is your will, it’s ok with me.”
- Lift up each possibility to God — e.g. about religious life or priesthood— and notice what your heart feels. Note your thoughts as you consider the long-term consequences of this action.
2. Make Two Columns For Each Possibility
- List the pros and cons (for or against) of each situation. Make two columns on why you would not seek religious life/priesthood— the “for” side (pro) and the (con) “against” side.
- Then explore the opposite: the pros and cons of why you would choose religious life/priesthood.
- Now pray over the list and see which reasons are most moving, most serious and which most affect my relationships with other people.
- You could imagine your own deathbed and interview yourself about which choice you would be glad that you made.
- Make a decision and kneel before the Cross of Christ. What sense does it make there? Will this decision make me more true to Jesus Christ, faithful to the Gospel and engaged in building the kingdom?
God bless you!