Each of us is called by God to become a saint. At our baptisms we begin to share in the priestly, prophetic and kingly offices of Christ. As a priestly people, we offer prayer and sacrifice; as prophets, we proclaim the Gospel to the world; as kings, we have dominion over our passions and the created world in order to build the Kingdom of God. Ultimately God leads us to marriage, ordained ministry, consecrated life or the dedicated single life. But how do we know the path to which God calls us?
Spirit of openness
The first key to coming to know our vocation is rather obvious; we have to be open to receive/discover it. God calls us to follow Him in a way that He knows will fulfill the desires of our hearts, spread the kingdom of God and give Him glory. So often we are afraid that God will make us miserable, because we equate holiness with being boring, lacking passion or having to say “no” to things we enjoy. Saints are on fire with the love of God; there’s nothing boring about that. Society, not God, numbs the human soul. Passion overflows in the lives of the saints, not because they said “no” to something but because they said “yes” to God. So step one is to let go of our fears and listen to God’s will in our lives.
To receive and discover our vocation, we have to be a people of prayer. Sharing our hearts with God in a real and honest way is crucial in growing in deeper relationship with Him. We should spend a generous portion of our prayer life listening to God in silence. Individuals discerning their vocations mostly discover that vocations are revealed and strengthened gently over time rather than in a “lightning-bolt moment.” God speaks to us through the desires of our hearts, so daily offering those desires to Him and allowing Him to show us how they can and will be fulfilled is the anchor on which we stay grounded.
Gift of counsel
Another important aspect of discerning one’s vocation is to listen to the counsel of others. Just make sure that they are also people of prayer who are seeking God’s will in their lives as well. Sometimes things are seen more clearly from the outside than from within. Often when we're soul searching, seeking the advice of married couples, priests or religious can be very helpful in answering questions that we have, putting concerns to rest, and maybe even making us aware of things we weren’t aware of before. Good discernment rarely happens in isolation, if ever. Seek the counsel of respected and admired people.
Charisms come alive
God also gives us gifts, or charisms, to help us live out our missionary mandate in the world. St. Paul speaks at length about the many different gifts God provides and how they work in harmony for the good of the body. Very often when we find ourselves pursuing the vocation that God has planned for us, our charisms come alive in a new way. People who interact with us will walk away feeling renewed, comforted or inspired because God has used us as His instruments. If a charism is obviously present in one vocational track that we're pursuing but not in another, there’s a good chance that the former, not the latter, is where we should be.
Fruits of the Holy Spirit
Jesus says “by their fruits you shall know them.” The fruits of the Holy Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. When a young person is discerning a call to religious life, there is often an interior wrestling match that. He or she can see the good in both marriage and religious life. Wherever there is the most abundant fruit of the Holy Spirit, especially peace, there most likely is thevocational path.