My youngest daughter has often asked if I will ever be a priest.
Possibly she forgets the answer, or is challenging me to explain in it in a different way, I’m not sure. My answers vary, from the short form – “No, I’ll never be a priest” – to the longer – “Well, every one of us has a job in church. We can’t all be priests, and right now my job is to be your dad, among other things.”
That, at least, she understands. Her aunt is a Dominican Sister of Mary Mother of the Eucharist. Sometimes, though, I get the feeling she’s created three groups: priest (and other clergy), sister (and other consecrated religious) and something perhaps best described as “regular” — in her mind, the lay people she sees weekly at Mass, school, etc. It seems those groupings cover a wide range, though, with some overlap in how they live their belief in Jesus in their everyday lives.
The cover story in this issue looks at secular religious orders and institutes. Laypeople who discern a call to these groups are often married, with jobs, parishes, volunteer opportunities, friends and more. But they are drawn to a specific charism, learning how to live it out through their lives. St. Therese of Lisieux, who we read about in the Pray column in this issue, discerned how to see every small assignment as a way of manifesting her love for God and for others.
God calls each of us to live out our faith in our lives, but this call takes various forms. Figuring out how we act on that call comes through the process of discernment.
Discernment is not the same as when I ask my daughters what they want to be when they grow up. It’s a little insulting when they ask me the same question, but it’s fair. (Side note, I wanted to be a priest when I was much younger, simply because I had memorized many of the words the priest said celebrating Mass.) Our discernment doesn’t end, well, it shouldn’t at least. We should always be discerning God’s plan for us, regardless of our stage in life.