by Father Daniel A. Lord

How can I know whether I have a religious vocation?

It’s too bad, but the fact is that there are a great many more people called by God to priestly and religious life than have the courage to accept the call.

Sometimes they don’t give themselves a chance to hear the call. Sometimes they regard a vocation as something amazing, startling, thunderstriking. And all the time, if they have a religious or priestly call, it is the greatest good luck of their lives.

The signs of a vocation are clearly before the eyes of anyone who cares to see them. Here, then, are the signs, briefly sketched:

First, the person must have the necessary qualifications.

This means health sufficient for the religious life. It implies enough education to do the work demanded by the particular Order.

The person must be free from habits of sin. If in the past the person had such a habit but has overcome it, that past habit need not be an essential bar. It is wise, however, to talk this over with one’s confessor.

Very importantly it is not necessary to be outstandingly virtuous or to find piety or prayer easy and simple.

Novitiates and seminaries are established as places where young religious can learn the way of the spiritual life. They will study virtue, prayer, and piety there.

The normal qualifications needed today for religious life are those of any good, wholesome young man or woman who enjoys life and has a body made healthy by clean living and wholesome sports and recreation, a mind trained to decent thinking and a fair grasp of truth, and the ability to get along with people.

Naturally, the higher the qualification of mind and body and heart, the finer the material they bring with them to the religious life.

Second, the future priest or religious should have a supernatural motive for wanting to become a priest or a religious.

It is not, of course, sufficient motive to want to rush into seminaries and novitiates in war times in order to dodge the draft. Nor should one enter because there one will be sure of meals, of a roof over one’s head, of an education, of intellectual life, and of pleasant companionship.

Yet a person may have what may seem a low motive – the fear of hell, let’s say – and be said to have a supernatural reason: Many a young man or woman took the first step toward high sanctity when he or she ran into the arms of God through sheer fear of losing his or her soul.

Other supernatural motives are higher in the scale of dignity: the desire to be sure of heaven and eternal salvation, the fear of offending God amid the temptations of the world, an impulse to work for the salvation of others, the desire to become like the saints in love of neighbor and closeness to God, a longing for the companionship of Christ, a pure and unselfish love of God.

The third thing necessary is the aspirant’s acceptance by a religious community, or, in the case of the priesthood, by a Bishop.

In the amazingly rich providence of God there has grown up in the Church the widest variety of priestly and religious work. There are communities suited to almost every type of taste and talent. The many ingenuous schemes for religious perfection are remarkably varied.

Yet, as a rule, a person thinks of religious life because of pleasant association with some definite men or women religious, or of a priestly life because of admiration for some priest. This in itself may be an indication that one would fit well into the kind of life led by the person admired and respected. It is common sense, then, that a first thought be given to that community.

With all the seriousness in the world, I beg of you to think seriously of priestly and religious life. Anyone who has even a slight inclination toward such a life is cheating himself miserably if he doesn’t give the impulse the fullest possible consideration.

There is no other life comparable to religious or priestly life in the happiness offered or the useful work made possible. No cowardice, no difficulties, no diffidence about oneself, no shrewd considerations for the future should be allowed to stand in the way of so glorious an opportunity.

Fortunate, indeed, is the soul who hears, however faintly, the call of Christ. Happy the soul who feels the impulse to enter into such happy association with the Virgin Mother.

Sometimes it takes more courage to accept than one naturally possesses. Often one treads to this high life a road that is like martyrdom. Within the priestly or the religious life there will be hard and laborious living, days dominated by rule, the need to develop high virtue and strong self-mastery.

But I have often told young people that really the hardest part of religious life is the step by which one enters it. From that point on, Christ, given half a chance, takes over. He works day and night with the cooperative and generous soul.

There is no other life comparable to that spent in happy companionship with the Savior, in work for the kingdom of God on earth, in companionship with men and women dedicated to the love of Christ, in constant opportunity for personal worth, Christ-like living, God-like achievement.

“After committing a fault of whatever kind, rather than withdrawing into ourselves indefinitely in discouragement and dwelling on the memory, we must immediately return to God with confidence and even thank Him for the good that His mercy will be able to draw out of this fault!

We must know that one of the weapons that the devil uses most commonly to prevent souls from advancing toward God is precisely to try to make them lose their peace and discourage them by the sight of their faults.”

Searching For and Maintaining Peace, Fr. Jacques Philippe https://amzn.to/2pSwDmQ (afflink)

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This book is the fruit of Fr. Dubay’s many years of study and experience in spiritual direction and in it he synthesizes the teachings on prayer of the two great doctors of the Church on prayer–St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila–and the teaching of Sacred Scripture.

But the teaching that Fr. Dubay synthesized is not collected from Teresa and John for contemplatives alone. It is meant for every Christian and is based on the Gospel imperative of personal prayer and the call to holiness. All the major elements of these great teachers are ordered, commented on and put in the context of their scriptural foundations. Here is an outstanding book on prayer and the spiritual life written by one of the best spiritual directors and retreat masters of our time, and based on the writings of the Church’s two greatest mystical doctors.

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