Discerning a Vocation in a time of Lockdown
The path of finding one’s vocation in life, a path traditionally known as discernment, would usually include a lot of travelling. The one who is wondering if the Capuchin Franciscan life is for them would normally visit the friaries regularly, meet with some of the brothers there, receive regular guidance and attend multiple vocations workshops so as to finally come to a decision about joining. Of course, in this time of Lockdown very little of this is possible and while we may give thanks that there is at least the continued possibility of phone and on-line contact, immersion in the life of the friars and the development of a relationship with the Brothers may seem almost impossible. Added to these difficulties of course are the added stresses around the pandemic itself and the daily strain of living in such reduced circumstances… So how can one continue their journey of vocational discernment at this time? A few suggestions that may help you follow:
Perhaps this seems a suggestion that should go without saying! But it is essential that the path of discernment is above all else a path of prayer. Now the interesting thing about prayer is that it is often the practice we see as most important in our life while things are going well but one of the first practices we become tired of or even drop when things become stressful or exhausting. Using the time of lockdown to develop a good plan or discipline of prayer is essential for developing the ability to hear the call of God in and through the circumstances of our lives. Prayer is above all else a dialogue and this means that we should be doing at least as much listening in our prayer as we are speaking. Taking some time each day to dwell in silence and stillness before the Lord is really important and has the added effect of reminding us that a Vocation is not something I develop for myself but an underlying reality to my life that I discover has always been there when I become quiet enough to discern the presence of God dwelling in my soul. Remember too that if Jesus has called you, then He will give you every grace necessary to fulfil that call, considering this allows a great spirit of peace to be present when before perhaps we were worried or stressed over vocational discernment.
So then, regular times of quiet, presence filled attending on the Lord are important. At first, these may simply be a few minutes here and there, (the early morning and just before we lie down to rest are good places for this), but it is important that they become a regular and essential part of our day. To anchor ourselves in the quiet and to help with the distractions that will inevitably come we can simply and quietly repeat the name of Jesus, or pray with a small verse of scripture or a short one line prayer. This tradition of praying was one that St. Francis himself used and goes back to the very earliest days of monastic life in the Church.
Another way of praying that develops our ability to listen for the presence of God is the practice of Lection Divina (Holy or Divine Reading). There are many websites that can help you with this practice, but in its simplest form it is the slow reading of a short passage of scripture, stopping to consider the echoes of meaning it arouses in our hearts and then sitting in silence with the Word for a little while before finally offering some prayers in response to what we have read. Finally, the Rosary is a wonderful school of prayer that can include both space for silence and for Lectio when we meditate upon the mysteries as we pray them.
Secondly, realising that God is calling me to a definite vocation is very important.
I may not know what it is yet, but if I exist, I am called. That call may be to married, single, religious or priestly life but what is most important is that I live out of the realisation that I (and every other human being) are called into being by God for the building of His kingdom and to care for the whole of creation. St. Francis understood this perfectly and so the Franciscan life may be lived fully in all of the states of life just mentioned, the primary commitment of each being to do the will of God and to treat everyone as a brother or sister, as part of the one great family of God. Even in time of lockdown we can grow in this realisation by practicing compassion and patience with ourselves and with those we are sharing our life with. For those of us who are young enough and healthy enough to do so serving our cocooned and isolated neighbours is a wonderful way to grow in the life of service that St. Francis wanted to be at the heart of his brothers’ way of life. If you are discerning a life as a Capuchin then you are discerning a life of compassionate service of others. So why not test this by minding those closest to you at this time?
Thirdly and finally, get in touch with us!
We may not be able to meet in real life at present but we can always meet over the phone or on line to assist you in tour discernment and to journey with you to a better understanding of your call and your place in the Church and the world. Even in these strange days the life of the Friars goes on as it always has over centuries that were filled with war, famine, and yes even pandemics! We have weathered these storms before and with the help of God we will again… so don’t put it off any longer… write that mail, make that call and see where it will lead you… at the very least you will finally know if it for you or not and either of those outcomes can only bring you peace when discerned correctly… We are praying for you and we are ready to serve.
Blessed Solanus Casey on the practice of Spiritual Communion:
Bl. Solanus would encourage people who couldn’t get to Mass or receive Communion to ask Jesus to come spiritually into our hearts. He himself did this throughout the day, even when he did celebrate Mass and receive Communion. A friend of his asked him one day how he actually did this. Bl. Solanus told him,
This is what I say:
Lord, please come to me in spiritual communion.
Send your Body and Blood gushing through my veins.
Send your love into my heart, my soul and my mind.
Lift me up to your bosom and infuse me with your Divine Love.
(Brother Richard Hendrick OFM Cap is Guardian of Raheny Friary, Vicar Provincial and Vocations Director for the Irish Capuchin Friars. You can make contact with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
During this time of lockdown you can stay connected with Capuchin Parish Ministry through www.halstonstreetparish.ie (Webcam Mass, Podcasts and Meditations) and the Priorswood Parish Page on Facebook (Daily Mass, Rosary and Reflections)