by Sam Alzheimer

How do young Catholics discover their vocations? There’s not an app for that. Often there’s not even an “aha moment.” Just as dating couples have some ups and downs then eventually decide to marry, most twenty-something seminarians will tell you that their discernment was a gradual process. It involves intense prayer, doubt, struggling with sin, learning to love the Church, learning to love members of the Church, and mostly, being open to the gentle tug of the Holy Spirit.

Pope Francis has a suggestion: don’t discern your vocation alone. In his papal message for World Day of Prayer for Vocations (April 17, 2016), the Holy Father uses the term “con-vocation” to explain that a vocation is not an isolated “me-and-God” experience. (Read: you can’t do it on your smartphone.) Instead, people hear God’s call within a real Church community.

The Pope offers four concrete ways for young people to discover their vocations, emphasizing these things should be done together:

1.    Co-teach with a catechist

We learn best by teaching.  Somehow, when we give our faith away, we get more! Ask the DRE in your parish if teens or young adults can co-teach a religious education class.

2.    Visit a convent or monastery

This doesn’t have to be a highly-planned formal visit. Perhaps a group of girls from the youth group can attend a Saturday Mass at the nearest convent, followed by breakfast with the sisters. Even better, why not join in their work for the morning?

3.    Help missionaries

In your city, who are the people on the “front lines” of evangelization? Who is serving the poor? Ask if you can help for a day. Coming up blank on ideas? Maybe you need to be the missionary!

4.    Spend time with parish priests

Again, this doesn’t have to be a formal “meeting.” Keep it simple. How about asking Father to host a cookout for teen boys and their dads at his rectory? Ask him to talk about the priests who influenced his own life, and how he felt called to seminary.

It’s interesting that these four suggestions come from an annual papal letter that typically emphasizes prayer for vocations. It’s as if the Holy Father is telling us that our prayer needs to lead to action.

Pope Francis’ greatest point—one that comes from the heart of a true pastor—is that because every vocation is ordered toward others, it only makes sense that we discover it with others. “In this way, the community becomes the home and the family where vocations are born.”

Read the Pope’s letter and learn more about World Day of Prayer for Vocations