Discerning a vocation to the Jesuits is an exciting adventure. Sensing where God is calling me to be and what God wants me to do is really twofold:
- absolutely important in becoming a Jesuit, and
- essential as a life-long Jesuit task at major transition points.
In one sense, whenever we look outside ourselves to any future aspirations, we are engaged in a discernment conversation with the Holy Spirit. But, before we can look outside, we need to look inward and see how God is working within us: to use the language of St. Ignatius of Loyola, we need discern the subtle movements and workings of the Spirit.
Believing that the Holy Spirit is deeply involved in my life is the crux of the discernment process. The Holy Spirit is always with us in the joys and tumults of one’s life and this gives us the courage to address vocation questions. For example: begin by seeking to find the Spirit’s influence in your life. Reflect back and see how God has been present in the ordinary and extraordinary events of your life journey. How has God blessed the road you have already traveled and how is God blessing the road you are now traveling? Next, bringing such questions to prayer with Our Lord and thanking God for God’s presence in your life. Nurture your relationship with Our Lord through your prayer as a traveler on the way.
The image of a pilgrim was a familiar one for St. Ignatius. A pilgrim is one on a journey where each day brings its own predicaments and joys, yet the destination is hopefully always in site. Sometimes the road we travel double backs on itself and it is a rare journey that runs in a straight line. Taking the time to appreciate the bumps, the turns, the place where we are right now helps us to continue to make progress and move closer to our goal.
The goal of our journey is not a physical place, but coming to a deeper appreciation of what is God’s calling in my life. In our hectic life where we want instant answers, the pilgrim walk is quite counter-cultural: the slow, deliberate pace of placing one foot in front of the other will eventually bring us to our destination no matter where the road will lead us. Trusting that we walk with the Holy Spirit brings great peace.
A Jesuit believes that every time he makes a decision through discernment, the Spirit is there guiding him. Sometimes, there are obstacles that lead him to a better decision, or simply difficulties he must overcome to make a good discernment.
The key to Ignatian discernment are the signs of peace and consolation that the decision reached is the right one. Both tested in prayer and experience, there is a confidence, serenity and surety that are now confirmed in the heart, mind, affective and spiritual centers of your person.
"Discernment seeks to discover God's presence in the ordinary events of our lives and the responses they evoke in us. Precisely here, through faith, we can discover God's direction and guidance in our lives."
Charles J. Jackson, SJ