Dear Brother or Sister in the Lord –
Allow us, the Office of Vocations for the Diocese of Des Moines, to say a few words of encouragement as you either begin or continue to discern God’s call in your life. The very word, discernment, can teach us what God is asking of each of us. The word means “to sift or sort”. I would like to present the image of a prospector, perhaps looking for gold in a river bed. He scoops up all the silt, mud, and sand in his pan, sifting through it for the priceless metal. That is a bit like discerning God’s will; we sift through all the thoughts, desires, and worldly values in our head and heart, looking for the “gold” of God’s will, his desire for our life. We are all constantly called to “prospect”, to sift for God’s will. Oftentimes, discernment reaches beyond the realm of a religious vocation. People will sort through their options, looking for God’s will, when a new job opportunity or the possibly of a promotion becomes available. The process of discernment is needed in order to make a spiritually sound, morally certain decision. The grace of the Holy Spirit is essential to this process, and we look for signs from our Lord which will help guide us in our decision.
Discernment can be thought of as a building project. We don't leap into a project - buying supplies and materials, hiring extra help and beginning work, on the very first day of the project. We must first take measurements, think about different ideas and decide what will work best before we can even begin to think about the actual work that the project entails. When we discern a vocation, to priesthood, consecrated life, permanent diaconate or lay Church ministry, we examine God's call from all perspectives. We do primarily by spending time in prayer with our Lord. This can be before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, with the Word of God in Scripture, while praying with Mary in her Rosary, or a myriad of other ways we speak, and listen, to God. We also consult family members and close friends and invite them to offer feedback, we may talk with our parish priest or a member of a religious community to help us in our “sifting” for the truth.
Discernment is a natural process, and everyone considering a call from our Lord experiences, to some degree, a time of discernment. It's good to ask questions, to observe, to listen, and to dialogue with those whom you love - most importantly, our Lord! If you are considering the possibility of priesthood or consecrated life, please allow us to aid you in your process of discernment - our office would be very happy to answer any questions or concerns that you might have.
We've provided helpful resources within the contents of these pages which will help you in your discernment. As you spend time with this material, remember to also listen to the Lord in quiet prayer, which is most important while actively discerning our Lord's call. Jesus says, "The harvest is plenty; the laborers are few." Is our Lord calling you to help reap a rich and bountiful harvest? YES! It is your job, through discernment, to discover how best to answer the Lord's call.
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