How do I discern religious life?

Pray, read the bible, spend time before Jesus, entrust yourself to the Maternal Heart of Blessed Virgin Mary, try to live the religious life while you are still in the world, find a holy spiritual director, and come and see.

Pray. Take time out for prayer, no matter how busy you may be, and stick to it. If you want to hear what God has to say to you allow Him to speak in the silence of your heart. Ask Jesus what is His plan for your life and then “Do whatever he tells you” with peace. If you do not get an answer right away be patient, persevere and “be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit who speaks with consistency”. Pray and listen with humility, docility and sincerity.

Read the bible. Saint Ambrose tells us that “prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that a dialogue takes place between God and man. For we speak to him when we pray; we listen to him when we read the divine oracles.” God speaks best through His Living Word. When discerning it helps to reflect upon the call of the patriarchs, the prophets, the apostles, the rich young man (who rejected Jesus´ invitation to follow Him and as a consequence of his “no”, “he went away sad”), and of course, Mary, (who responded to God's generous gift of grace with a loving “yes” and as a consequence went away “rejoicing in God” with a superabundance of joy).

Spend time before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and receive Him often in Holy Communion. Through Eucharistic Adoration and the frequent reception Holy Communion we fall in love with Jesus by uniting our hearts to His. Saint John Vianney tells us that “Every Consecrated Host is made to burn Itself up with love in a human heart”. It is in this intimate union with the Eucharistic Jesus that our hearts become totally captivated, capacitated and conquered by his love, creating in us a sincere desire to follow Him and to serve Him as he wishes.

Entrust yourself to the Maternal Heart of Blessed Virgin Mary. Ask her to guide you along the road which best leads you to holiness. Trust that she will help you to make the right decision concerning your vocation. Knowing the value and beauty of virginity and chastity, she will inspire you with a holy love of it for the sake of a more fervent love of her Son. She will see to it that you to avoid any harmful or distracting relationships. When tempted, go to Mary, she will always help you.  “She [Mary] is the bearer of an indelible youthfulness and beauty that never wanes.  May young people have increasing confidence in her, and may they entrust the life just opening before them to her” (Saint John Paul II).  

“Try to live the religious life while you are still in the world. Wake up early and spend some time in prayer or spiritual reading. Mortify yourself at meals, stop watching TV. Before going to bed, spend time in prayer and make an examination of conscience for your actions for the day. Fast on bread and water on Fridays. Try to remain recollected while you work. All these examples will help be a test of your vocation.”

Spiritual Direction. “Find a holy spiritual director, if possible.  Do not trust your feelings, but allow God to direct you under the direction of a wise and learned priest, preferably one who has experience in religious life”.

“Come and see”. Once enlightened, take action. Visit some religious communities.  Get to know their spirituality, charisms, missions, their way of life. It is necessary to experience how Religious live because to have a romantic notion of the religious life is one thing, to live it is quite another. The cross will come but so will the joy of having carried it for the love of Jesus and His Church. Time spent with a religious community is never time wasted. Spiritual maturity is gained in the exercise of virtue and prayer.

Response given by Fr. Henry Kowalczyk, SHM