But, to summarize, it is essentially the path of discerning my own vocation, which I claimed, is shared by many.
We mentioned a few key things about it last time. One, it’s dark; two, one might shift back and forth between walking slowly, running, and not moving at all; and three, there is light on the horizon.
We’ve established that oftentimes it’s hard to discern one’s vocation. This darkness takes the real-life form of confusion, uncertainty, and frustration, which I’m sure many of us have felt. They seem to cloud one’s thoughts and envelop one’s prayer life when things get intense in the struggle of the discernment process. This is when questions come out: “Am I really on the right path?” “Will that day ever come?”
But what do we do about it? At times, for one reason or another. it seems to us that we’ve found clarity of some kind, so we jump forward at the opportunity we’ve just found. I’m not implying that clarity never comes, but that sometimes, because of our own will, or stubbornness, we create for ourselves the illusion of clarity, and fall head-first into it.
But God reveals to us whether or not we were truly trying to follow His will. Once a situation is made present, or when it passes, and this fully depends on His grace, and partially on our disposition to listen to Him, we may see more clearly. Maybe Andrea really is right for John, or maybe John’s just shoving away the fact that he really wants to be a priest, or vice versa. Maybe Andrea really wants to be a nun or religious sister, but she’s too afraid of what her friends and family will think of her. The point is, sometimes we run forward successfully, and sometimes we crash into things.
Other times, we’re so desperate to catch every little sign, every detail that could possibly be interpreted as an indication of what to do, that we barely move forward, trying to make out the contours of the path, hoping the floor doesn’t collapse under our feet at our next step. There’s no room for mistake here, and if we aren’t absolutely sure of something, a step will not be taken!
So even if Andrea has every possible quality John could ever like in a girl, until God gives him a surefire sign that she’s the one, asking her on a date is only a fleeting possibility over which John will obsess until someone else asks her out. Then at other times, out of frustration, weariness, or dryness, one might stop walking altogether. Those are moments when, as in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower, where some of the sower’s seeds fell along the path (Matthew 13: 1-23), worries or pleasures suffocate one’s desire to continue searching for God’s will. John gets tired of waiting and not knowing, and he just doesn’t want to do it anymore. However, even this is not insuperable, and by God’s love and mercy, one can come to regain and surpass all the will and strength that had been lost, because as we have said, there is light on the horizon.
It’s important not to forget whose will we are trying to follow. As a person who’s gone through many of these moments of frustration, I can say that one thing that becomes really helpful is a sheer, unrelenting persistence in the face of all confusion and darkness. But this is impossible without the Sacraments, and the life in the Spirit which will guide us to the truth, and will give us all the strength we need. God has already given us everything we will ever need along the journey. Concretely, one needs to frequent Holy Communion and Reconciliation, to be constant in prayer, and to make sure to spend good quality time with the community of the Church—yes the community! Don’t forget that we are not made to be alone in this, and that God gave us a family with which to journey. So it’s important not to isolate oneself, and become so absorbed in thought that one forgets to live in the world, and that it’s not about my will, but God’s will, and that everything good I am given is not only for myself, but for the good of everyone.
In doing these things, one is filled to the brim with the grace to move forward. Finally, trust in God’s mercy. Remember that the sun on the horizon will rise whether or not you move, and day will come. But it will only be to the benefit of those who will have persevered to the very end.
I’ll catch you in March, on the next edition of Up and Coming!
Jesus Puentes is a third year philosophy student at the University of California, Riverside and Volunteer Coordinator of young Adult Ministry at St. Mary Parish, Fontana.