It’s quite a rare experience to hear young men say the following words:
- “I think I have the calling.”
- “I want to try to enter the seminary.”
- “I want to be a priest.”
The truth, though, is that it’s quite difficult to own up to the above statements. From personal experience, it’s frightening; it makes one feel like it’s not enough to say “yes” to the vocation of priesthood, or that no amount of zeal and fervor is enough to help a person persevere through that vocation.
Then there are also other circumstances that affect a person’s response to the call of priesthood. It can be a casual, seemingly harmless joke about the vocation, or chiding from friends, peers and even companions in one’s community. Or it can be that the subject of priesthood may either feel like a boon or a bane within one’s family. Or it can even be one’s own sense of worthlessness and confusion, of attachment to sin, of falling prey to the call of the flesh.
Many cannot seem to fully understand the difficulty of discerning the call of priesthood. But I know how difficult it feels to discern that vocation, and I’d like to share the following realizations I’ve gained in the journey I’ve had so far:
1. You are not alone.
The journey to discernment may seem to be a lonesome and solitary road. But be consoled; there are other people like you who go through similar struggles, and who try to find their place in the stars. Aside from that, it’s in the sense of feeling alone, of the restless search of meaning, that one begins to yearn for our great God.
The fact that we are not really alone in the journey of discernment, calls us to live out the next point, which is to be open.
2. Be open.
There are 2 things I learned about openness: a) you are alone only in so far as you allow yourself to be, and b) we ought to be open and just let things transpire. In my own struggle, my own discernment, I’ve had numerous instances of closing myself to the world, of closing off myself to things that could possibly be my path, my direction. But I’ve learned that’s it’s also ok to be open to life, to let things happen to you.
There’s no clear-cut action or response when there’s a need for you to be open. It’s not an exact science, nor a step-by-step procedure that leads to an answer. I’ve learned that the answers that you may receive from God are naturally boundless in number. Hence, it’s important to be open, be open, and be open.
Openness also leads you to listen, and this is by far the best course of action to discernment.
God speaks the loudest and clearest in the midst of silence. It is not so much about being physically still, but rather that our hearts are still.
When our hearts are still, we bask in the presence of God. At the same time, we are also stirred because, in the silence and absence of words, God speaks to us. And when God speaks, our hearts, minds and souls are moved beyond any words that we can utter to Him.
There are lots of things that other people can share about the journey of discernment. Perhaps they may even be able to share more practical things, and I don’t dispute them. What I am telling you, though, are the things that have helped me to be where I am now, in terms of discerning what God wants for me.
It is true that I do not know where I will be, or how things will play out. But what I do know is this, as a quote from a TV movie says, “There is no perfect vocation – only a perfect intention.”
I pray for you who may be discerning. Don’t feel alone, just be open, and listen.
“Rogate, ergo, Dominum messis ut mittat operarios in messem suam.” (Translation: “Go, therefore and ask the Master of the harvest to send labourers for his harvest.” – Matthew 9:38)
About the writer: Jan Richmond Tieng recently launched his book, #MessageToday – Reflections for Your Everyday, and is rearing to share God to people from all walks of life. He is a 2009 graduate of the College of Fine Arts and Design, University of Santo Tomas. He is currently a trainer for a multinational company, and he enjoys giving talks and seminars on the side as well. Part of his busy yet fruitful schedule includes taking up further studies in the Institute of Preaching in Sto. Domingo Church compound, Quezon City. In his free time, he’ll most probably be in front of the Blessed Sacrament, out catching up with friends, or just sipping a cup of coffee and surfing the net.
If you want to get in touch with him, just drop him a message on Facebook, or shoot him an e-mail at [email protected]