Nothing done in a huge rush or impulsively is ever done really well
Discernment cannot be done alone or exclusively within ones own mind or heart. To test a sense of being drawn to religious life a searching person needs to engage with others. Some of those may be fellow travellers in the first stages of discernment, some may be friends and family who know you well and some of them may be more experienced guides through the process of discernment.
This section opens up different pathways of discernment and some links that will help you engage with some guides into the future. Their role is not to recruit you to a specific form of religious life but to help you to hear and respond in faith to your deepest gifts, your story and the needs of the world.
Religious life makes up a very small percentage of those living out their baptismal vocation in the church. It is not for everyone and it is a particularly demanding life that requires careful discernment. For that reason most religious orders offer very careful guidance and accompaniment to those thinking about religious life.
After initial contact, which you can make by emailing Fr David O'Malley SDB, our Vocations Director, a pattern of guidance will be suggested for you. Through that pattern a person can begin to ask questions about where they are being called in life and whether the Salesian pathway is one that might bring them to follow the Gospel more faithfully. The guide or spiritual director will help to clarify the options open to a searching person and also help them to recognise the gifts through which they are called to follow. They may also suggest other religious congregations or types of vocation within the church. Part of the guidance process may involve engagement with the Samuel of Compass programmes provided by the National Office for Vocations which is listed in the links below.
Vocational discernment is more than just thinking and reflection. It must go beyond ideas and theory and engage in action. St Francis de Sales spoke about the "ecstasy of action" a way of being caught up in the presence of God through a deep awareness of doing everything in God's presence. That awareness can change every word and act into a prayer. That awareness is the space in which God's will and voice can be heard.
SDB discernment means engaging with life and seeing what happens, engaging in work for young people and reflecting on the impact of that experience. In reflecting on working together for young people much can be clarified in the discernment process; do I feel at home with young people? Do I have skills I need to work safely with them? Am I more alive, more at peace and connected when I am working with them? Most of all, can I be myself with young people and with the community members with whom I work?
Practical experience is essential and opportunities can be found to work alongside Salesians in the news and events, Salesian Youth Ministry and volunteering areas of our website.
Finding your way
There are many routes to discernment of vocation and resources to explore. Some of them are linked below as starting points in your search. As you explore these possibilities it is important to listen to both your head and your heart: to analyse what you are reading and seeing but also to notice what happens to your emotions, what do you warm to? What repels you? What challenges you? Take these thoughts and feelings into prayer and be guided through these pathways by God's presence within you.
Download How to Discover Your Vocation by Fr Stephen Wang from the resources area of our website.