One of the privileges we have as seminarians is going to school visits with either high school or grade school students. It is always a lot of fun to answer their questions about life at seminary and why we want to be priests. But the purpose of our visit is typically to talk about the thing we are currently living and discerning: vocations.
The whole idea of vocations is a buzzword in the world of many young adult Catholics. In many cases, I have met folks who realize God is calling them to a particular way of life, and they become like actor Nicolas Cage going on some mysterious treasure hunt. While the call of God is indeed mysterious, it does not need to be something that causes distress and anxiety. In fact, these things are not from God. Instead, the reality is that you and I are an eternally loved son or daughter of a Father who desires nothing but the most unimaginable joy for our lives. Quite simply, He delights in us!
And, the good news is, I also have a gift of being able to infallibly tell you your vocation in life. So, here it goes: Your vocation in life is …
To be a saint. Nothing more, nothing less.
The reality of God’s calling in our life is fundamentally to bring us into the eternal beatitude of heaven – to be saints. This is the base and foundation of our entire Christian life. Every one of us is called to holiness, plain and simple.
So, how do we become holy?
Unfortunately, holiness is not a self-help project. In fact, if you try all by yourself, I can guarantee you will fail.
On the positive side, though, the Father has given His Son to be with you every moment of your life, and even allowed Him to experience death so that even in the grave you are not alone. In other words, Jesus wants to walk with you from your conception all the way to heaven. He wants you to be His saint.
What does this all have to do with discerning a state in life such as priesthood, marriage, or religious life?
The call to holiness is primarily a call to friendship with Jesus – to walk with Him every step of our lives. In the most fundamental way, Jesus is our vocation. He is the goal itself. It is out of this relationship with Jesus that we are led to a particular state in life. It cannot be otherwise. Our vocation is not a means to finding Jesus. Rather, Jesus is the source and destiny of our vocation. Only in Him can we find lasting peace, and only in Him can we be led to our vocation.
In sum, God has called us to extraordinary freedom as His sons and daughters – not to a spirit of fear and timidity. So do not become discouraged with the process called discernment. Even if things seem cloudy and uncertain, you have a loving Father who sent His Son to guide you back home.
Brian Isenbarger is a seminarian of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. He is studying at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.
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