Several years ago, while serving as the head of the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors, I attended an international summit on vocations called by Pope Francis. The conference served as a sort of “state of the union for vocations” in the Church, as well as a renewal of the call to encounter Christ who is the source, means and destination of every vocation. One of the speakers was Cardinal Alberto Suarez Inda. He illuminated various aspects of what accompanying young people on their faith journey looks like and how to assist them in discerning God’s call in their lives. The points illustrated do not just apply to the discernment of vocations, however. They really apply to what the art of accompaniment in the life of a disciple looks like.
Foster a closeness that awakens trust.
Accompaniment requires personally investing in people. Individuals need to know that you care before they will care about what you know.
People will often “test the waters” before jumping into the deep end. Sometimes asking a simple question can launch much deeper conversations.
Give a credible, joyful witness.
“Do as I say, not as I do” is not a Gospel methodology. If the joy of living my faith is not evident to others, why would I expect them to follow suit? And be able to tell your story!
The Holy Spirit may spark moments of encounter at any time, sometimes even the most ridiculous or seemingly inconvenient.
Maintain reverence for the person in front of you.
No matter where a person is in his or her faith journey, God is already presently loving and acting in their life….honor that.
Be clear in the demands of discipleship.
No servant can serve two masters. At the end of the day, Jesus demands that we make a choice, and that comes with sacrifice. Jesus didn’t see a need to sugarcoat this truth, and neither should we.
God plays the long game. There are many instances where we might not see the fruits of our labors, and must be content with sowing the seed.
Provide opportunities for encountering Christ.
True discernment does not take place in isolation, but within the Body of Christ found in the Eucharist and other sacraments, as well as the community of believers.
Offer consolation when trials occur.
When someone makes a decision to follow Jesus, the spiritual battle will intensify. Encourage people to persevere through, not avoid, the spiritual battles that come with discipleship.
Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. Offering prayers for those we are accompanying will provide graces for both them and us that only God can provide.
The National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors’ “Art of Accompaniment” offers resources to help young adults discover the Lord’s call for their lives.