DISCERNMENT ARTICLES

Discerning with a screen

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You can’t discern totally online — you need to talk to a person!

The internet has made it really easy to find all kinds of information about discerning a vocation, and that’s great! Information about religious orders, seminaries, and discernment in general, is available with just a quick search. This can be really helpful to get a start with actual discernment.

However, at some point, a discerner has to make contact with a living person. A vocation cannot be discerned in a vacuum, for many reasons! Here are a few:

  • A vocation requires the assent of two: you and the “other.” Just because you like a particular vocation doesn’t mean you’re called to it in the way you imagine. The only way to find that out is to have a relationship with the “other”, whether that is a potential spouse, a bishop and diocese, or a religious order.
  • A vocation requires preparation. Unless you know everything about the spiritual life and the Church, you probably need to talk to people who are more knowledgeable. They can provide you with personal guidance about these things.
  • The Church is about relationships. The primary relationship is union with God, but it’s also about union with the members of the Church. To be an active member of the Church, you can’t be afraid of relationships. A great way to really move forward in your discernment is to work at getting over any fear of interacting with people.

There are many other reasons, of course. The point is, “cyber-discernment” is not enough. It’s a good place to start, to get initial information, but then it’s necessary to take a step out into the world of real people.

You’re probably not a total cyber-discerner. Most likely you’ve talked to someone about your vocation. But it’s also likely that there’s something of the cyber-discerner in everyone, because it’s easy to “keep looking for info” rather than making a move. But a vocation is never fulfilled by just looking for info. It’s fulfilled by taking action.

So take action! If you haven’t yet, make a specific plan to talk to someone, whether it’s your pastor, a potential spiritual director, or the vocation director of the religious order you’ve been looking at. And remember that I’m always available to help you discern well, whatever your vocation is. All I ask is that you take the next step!