The search for our vocation is a path of inner discovery of who we are and what we want to be. This is a fascinating process of discernment which we are called to do and where the dream of God will shine for us.
PUBLISHED ONAug 2019
In our first years in life we are led to question everything around us. Far from pretending to know and understand everything, we look to adults as life partners who can help us make sense of the world, guiding us to see what is right and protecting us from harm. During this period – which we usually call the age of “whys” – we question the reason of things to which we really need to respond.
Many of us certainly cannot remember this period. However, we all know that once that stage of childhood has gone, we enter a new era of questioning. From “why?” we move to “what for?” in an eagerness similar to that of childhood, but now, more self-centered.
None of this is alarming if we take into account that, in a world that imposes self-sufficiency as a maxim of life, we are impelled to take on an outlook that makes us feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness, not a sign of maturity. To accept this lifestyle is to accept living a life adrift, a life whose meaning is imposed by others and not by us.
The truth that inhabits us is the truth that comes from God’s dream for us. In this sense, we must discern the purpose of who we are and what we want to be.
We gradually leave the age of questioning as we continue to grow in maturity. In fact, when we do not have a sense of purpose in life, we will always be listening to other people saying “do this,” “do that,” “should be this way,” “you should think so,” and the like, without pausing to ask “what for?”.
Of course, whoever lured us would be able to present his justifications. However, when we seek the path of our life, we are able to choose our fellow travelers for true vocational discernment. As we embark on this path of discernment, we are responsibly responding to “the what for” of our life and reversing the logic of “whys.” In this case, those around us will question the why of our life choices (rather than them deciding for us).
Do not think that taking control of the path is easy! All of the great figures of history lived through crossroads and had to resort for help for true vocational discernment. Take the example of St. Daniel Comboni.
Today, he is a great figure in the Church, especially when speaking of the evangelization of the African peoples. However, at the beginning of his vocational discovery he also had to resort to an accompanied discernment.
He tells of his dilemma: “In this universal contrast of my ideas, I think it is opportune to do the Spiritual Exercises, to consult religion and God; and He, who is just and all-ruling, will know how to purify me from this anxiety, to arrange everything and console my parents, if I am called to give my life under the banner of the cross in Africa; or else, if He does not call me, He will know how to raise such obstacles making it impossible for me to accomplish my plans.” (Writings, 9)
Now, if such a great figure of history dared to discern responsibly, instead of making decisions precipitated by his own head, why don’t we dare do the same? If we want to have answers to our purpose in life, we will have to dare to ask.
No Questions, No Answers
If we want to know, we have to ask! This is the maxim that must be taken into account when we are seeking answers, especially when we are discerning who we are and what our life’s purpose is. However, you have to know how to ask the right questions! Some of us may be able to formulate the questions. However, not everyone can do this, so those who help us discern our vocation play a fundamental role. In fact, they serve not only to help us find answers, but also to help us formulate questions that only the most intimate truth of our being can answer.
For example, we may question whether a certain path will be able to lead us to greater happiness and to true fulfillment as persons. Here, our companion in the journey will help us discern and separate what we are from the illusion of being. Consequently, he or she will help us discover the authenticity of what we desire to be. This is not a simple or easy process. If it were, we would not need help! In doing so, we will be faced with questions about ourselves and our ideals.
In this tangle of questions and answers in the path of inner discovery, God’s dream will shine for us. This will always present itself as aid and will always be conforming to the authenticity of our being. So put away the false ideas of a God who is hindering our dreams. On the contrary, when we doubt, He is (and gives) certainty. When we question, He is (and gives) an answer. And when we only see the impossible for our full realization, He gives (and is) a solution.
St. Paul’s Vocation Story
One of St. Paul’s most disturbing questions is “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). In this question lies the inner truth of St. Paul’s vocational experience. In fact, he also made a journey of discovery and discernment. First, he believed his mission was to persecute Christians. Then, after finding God with Ananias’ guidance, he discerned the greater truth that inhabited him (zeal and love for God) and his true mission (evangelization).
A man like St. Paul was not able to make a vocational discernment by himself. In his vocational experience he discovered in God the certainties, the answers, and a set of possibilities that before were only doubts, questionings and difficulties.
However, it should be borne in mind that the great merit of St. Paul and St. Daniel Comboni is not the path of discernment they made nor the answers they found, but in daring to live consistently with this discernment and these answers, even amidst difficulties. In fact, it is when we live the authenticity of who we are that the authenticity of God shines with all His magnificence.