Where do I start?

The steps towards vocations here make it seem, perhaps, as if there is one straightforward path for me to follow and “everything will be ok”. If only life were that simple! These steps give a typical journey, but no one is “typical”. Sometimes we might need to re-trace our steps and re-explore an earlier part of the journey. Nonetheless, this model can give us a rough idea of what might be involved and help each of us to reflect upon which stage of our own journey we currently find ourselves.

Steps towards Vocations
Whatever vocation you feel called to, it is not a straight line or an easy journey – with twists and turns and setbacks like snakes and ladders - it requires prayer, reflection.
I am ready now to celebrate God’s calling in a formal way. This is usually marked with a sacramental celebration and is a time of great joy for me and for the whole Church. The path is far from complete and it will take me on many ups and downs, leading towards the cross of Christ. But this same Christ is always alongside me, accompanying me on my journey until we encounter the face of Jesus and He leads deeper into the “past-all-graspness of the pathless God” (Fr Karl Rahner)
Preparing Myself
I need to prepare myself to be ready to undertake this commitment. If I am planning to get married, my fiancé(e) and I will need to speak to our parish priest to make bookings and talk through the practicalities as well as find out about what marriage preparation is available. If the Bishop or Religious Superior accepts me I will begin my studies for the diocesan priesthood, consecrated life or permanent diaconate.
Offering Myself
I'm ready now to offer myself to God through this vocation. In the context of a particular vocation to marriage, this is the “engagement”. In the context of making a commitment to Single Life, we might want to mark this informally in some way. With regard to the other particular vocations, if the vocation director, or other their equivalent, agrees that I am ready, I begin the formal application.
Confirming my Personal Discernment
I want to ask the Church to help me discern my vocation so I speak to a priest or another person of faith whom I know/get on with/trust. They will begin to help me see the Lord’s hand at work in my life and to recognise the way in which He is guiding and calling me. If they think it would be helpful, they might put me in touch with a spiritual director or point me in the direction of resources and gatherings to give me opportunity to explore my vocation further.
Discerning my Particular Vocation
I want to discern what “definite service” God has planned for me. I pray, asking the Lord what He has in mind for me and opening my heart to Him. I begin to speak to friends and/or family and/or other trusted people. Is God calling me to married life? Or consecrated life? Or priesthood? Or the permanent diaconate? Or single life?
Living a Christian Life
I know God loves me and has called me by name. I know God wants me to live out my life in response to that call to holiness and my baptism into God’s “chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation”. (1 Pet 2:9) I want to respond generously to that call.
Called to Baptism
I am not baptised (christened) but deep within me there is a sense that I am being drawn to something beyond myself and my present experience. I would like to explore whether or not this is an invitation from God to share His life with me. In particular, I would like to know more about the Catholic Church.

How do I explore a Vocational Calling?

Once you start thinking that you may have a vocation, you are faced with the obvious question, WHERE? There are two levels to the answer to this question:

General vocation. Usually, but not always, you begin your search with a certain inkling of which general vocation you might be called to. The general headings are: Diocesan priest; priest or brother in active religious life or monastic/contemplative life; lay consecrated life.

Specific Group. This is where we usually run into most of our practical difficulties. There seem to be many possibilities for each of the categories in point above. So how do we narrow it down to one? Since there is such a variety of groups and missions, we may feel overwhelmed and at a loss faced with so many possibilities. Here are some guidelines to help you.

  1. Renew your belief in God’s providence. God is the one calling you, he will make sure you have the opportunity to meet the group he is calling you to.
  2. Therefore you do not have to chase down every possibility, find out about every diocese, investigate every seminary, monastery and ecclesial movement.
  3. What depends on you is not the call but the answer.
  4. Check up on the signs of a possible vocation, to see if you have them.
  5. If you can, get a spiritual director.
  6. In most cases, we already have some contact with or knowledge of the group God is calling us to as we begin our search. Start looking into the ones you are already familiar with.
  7. Your interest is only one ingredient of the vocation. The second is their interest in you…
  8. There is always an element of risk in following a vocation. Rarely will you be 100% of your vocation, but you should be 100% sure that you want to try it.

Practical steps.

  1. Visit the places that interest you.
  2. Spend some time with them to get to know the lifestyle.
  3. See if there is a “click”, if you feel at home there.
  4. Speak with their vocation director.
  5. Stop thinking about yourself
  6. Start thinking about how you can help others
  7. Pray
  8. Receive the Sacraments regularly (Eucharist and Confession)
  9. Talk with your own spiritual director.
  10. Don’t worry if you are a little afraid, it means you have your head on.
  11. Don’t worry what your friends might think. This is between you and Christ.
  12. Remember, you are not alone in this. Most people now living their vocation have been through it, and are more than ready to aid you in your discernment.