God has a plan - and He created you to play a particular part in that plan! Discerning God's calling to you is extremely important since your vocation is the way of life in which you will live out your Christian baptism. But where do you begin?
The first thing is that you must have a complete openness to whatever it is that God wants. If you don't have this attitude of surrender to God's greater plan, you may be hoping that your kingdom comes rather than His kingdom.
To help open your heart to God's will, you need to pray! You can only discern what God is calling you to if you are familiar with the voice of the One who calls. We come to know the Lord better through prayer. Through prayer we also come to know ourselves better - the movements of our own hearts and our deepest desires.
A second thing is that you should have some desire for the vocation of priesthood or religious life (God doesn’t call you to something you’re going to loathe for the rest of your life). This doesn’t mean that a vocation is not for you if you find the thought of you being a priest or religious a little daunting. Many – if not all – experience some fear and apprehension at the thought of a vocation, particularly at the beginning of the discernment process. However, it’s extremely important that we let ourselves be guided by God’s grace and not by fear, which seeks to paralyse our efforts to fulfil the Lord’s will. Rather, you should ask yourself if you sense a degree of potential satisfaction, hope, joy and peace when you think of religious life.
A third thing is to discern if you have the proper motivation for becoming a priest/religious. As humans, if we’re very honest with ourselves, we’ll be able to identify a whole lot of different motivations in our hearts – some good and some a little selfish, but the selfish motivations can’t be the one for which we make such a decision. During the discernment process, we should make an effort to purify our motivations. One should be more focussed on giving than receiving, and be typified by surrender to God, by service and an attitude of sacrifice – for the sake of the kingdom.
A fourth thing to consider is one’s general disposition and suitability – are you reasonably healthy in both mind and body? Are you emotionally stable, socially at ease, a spiritual man? Can you, with God’s grace, chastely live the celibate life? Can you live simply? Can you live in fraternity?
There are many other things, too, that could be indicators that God is calling you to the priesthood or religious life. See our Vocation Indicators page for more details.